Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

July 6, 2014

Cleaning in Character: Housekeeping happiness from a TC professional

TRAVERSE CITY — It’s five o’clock and you walk in the door from work. Guests will arrive momentarily. You scan the landscape: toys jumble the carpet, dog hair blows across the floor like tumbleweed and, lo, yesterday’s dishes declared trench warfare in the sink.

Presto! Flo appears, waving her magic whisk over the whole affair.

“Relax, darling,” she says. “A clean house holds no joy.”

Do this, she says: Set aside a room in the house (with a door) for emergency stuff-hiding. Get some movies and an activity ready in a kid-proof room. If guests are staying overnight, set up a charging station for their devices and fill a bowl full of granola bars, fruit and bottled water. People appreciate these touches — happy kids, charged phones and embarrassment-free snacking — far more than immaculate housekeeping.

“When someone passes away, you never say ‘He/she was the perfect housekeeper,’” said Faith Free, Traverse City cleaning expert and creator of “Flo,” her alter-ego advice columnist. “You talk about — and cherish — the flaws and the mishaps. That’s what we love about people.”

Free’s time-saving, life-affirming approach to housework wins her clients, friends and a following in her creative pursuit to teach cleaning as a Zen way to happiness. Free co-owns a commercial cleaning company, Abracadabra Cleaning and Maintenance, with her husband, Rocky Marcotte. The couple uses nothing but word-of-mouth advertising and turns away customers.

“I want to make life better for people, not more complicated,” Free said. “If you’re screaming at your kids before entertaining, something’s wrong. We need to go easy on each other.”

Flo — a gender-neutral, “kiss my grits,” no-nonsense homemaking columnist— emerged last year as a creative outlet for Free and a vehicle that combines her housekeeping wizardry with her happiness-first philosophy.

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