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'A little dirt won't hurt you'

My Mom was a genius. She knew all about the 5-second rule well before it was documented by science.

When I was little and dropped a slice of apple (or more likely a piece of half-chewed candy), I'd wail. My ever-practical mother would just pick up the apple (candy), dust it off and hand it back to be saying: "A little dirt won't hurt you."

It's a phrase I've learned to live by.

In fact, by the time I was a teen I was using that phrase on my mom. When she'd complain about my room being "a disaster" (which was overstating it but only slightly), I'd just shrug and say "A little dirt won't hurt me, right?" (Shortly after making that remark, I was taught how to run the washing machine by myself.)

It wasn't only my mom who passed down her, uh, relaxed attitude for housekeeping. If I look farther back to into my past, I find more housecleaning shirkers.

My great-grandmother — my bosomy, pie-making Nana who was known for spiking her mincemeat — was always after us kids to carry our dinner dishes to the sink one by one. "Don't stack them up," she'd cry in alarm. "Then you have to wash the bottom side, too." Guess she never got the whole automatic dishwasher thing.

And I remember my mom telling me about an uncle of hers who instructed her and her sisters to hide the dirty dishes under the sink. She never said how long that ruse worked.…

With that kind of an upbringing, you'd think I'd be a slob. Surprisingly, I'm not. I'm just sneaky clean. I keep my house neat (no papers and books lying around, no clothes on the floor) so you don't notice that I haven't dusted since Hillary was a contender. I buy throw rugs with dirt-friendly patterns on them. And I never have people over in the afternoon. (That sushine. It just shows so much.)

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.