I think I may have finally resolved one of the major issues in my life: how to keep my house clean enough to enjoy it without undue stress.
Solution: I hired a housecleaning service to come just once a month.
Even with our improved financial situation, I still can't bring myself to hire someone to do the whole job for me. It's an enormous expense, and I really don't mind the actual cleaning, so it seems like a waste. But I found a service that will do a decent job for $100. That is a major bargain here in pork-city (DC). And that $100 is definitely worth it, because the problem with doing it myself is not really the time it takes, but the stress that it causes.
I have never, ever had a regular housecleaning routine. I tried really hard a couple of year ago, using a checklist and allowing myself reasonable time frames. But I still couldn't work up the motivation to keep it up. Really, I've always just cleaned something when it was dirty enough to bug me. But that leaves me in the state of always being annoyed at the dirtiness of some part my house, and always feeling like I should be doing more. It has been a constant source of stress for as long as I can remember.
Now, a bargain once-a-month job is not going to keep my house in a state that doesn't bug me. We have a child, a dog, and a cat, and you can see the increase in dirtiness on a daily basis around here! But what that once-a-month cleaning gives me is the knowledge that I'll have a reboot. If I just can't find the time or motivation to vacuum for that entire month, I know it will be resolved by the maids. If I just clean the bathrooms for that month because that's what bugs me, I know that I won't also have to squeeze in mopping and dusting and all the rest. And if I don't touch a thing for the entire month, I won't be left with an even bigger cleaning job. I'll just have suffered a dirty house for a while, but then I'll get to start over. This knowledge is all I need to feel totally relaxed about the whole process.
Hopefully I won't raise my cleanliness standards and start getting stressed out again. I admit that that is a real possibility. But, for now, this seems to be working. Hallelujah!