Zen And The Art of Above Ground Pool Maintenance

Naked YogaFor years, I hated cleaning the pool. Hated it.

It was frustrating. I was constantly thinking to myself and saying out loud to anyone who would listen. “Why am I the one cleaning the pool? I don’t even swim it!”

I tried everything to get out of cleaning the pool. For a while we had a little robot thingy that was supposed to crawl along the bottom of the pool and keep it clean. It did not, however, work as advertised.

I tried delegating responsibility to my kids. The pool was for them after all (Insert eyerolls here). That didn’t work out either.

When all else fails, they say, hire a professional. So I did that to. Several to be exact. But then I just spent my time bitching about spending my money. And finding someone reliable, dependable and qualified turned out to be much bigger challenge than you might expect.

Honestly, even when a I found a decent guy, he wasn’t able to keep the pool much cleaner than the robot. My pool is surrounded by trees and fields of grass. In the spring pollen falls from the sky in streaming storms of yellow. Followed by helicopter attacks from the maples. And finally the blinding blizzard of leaves in the fall.

A pool service coming by to skim, brush and chlorinate the pool once a week was doomed to failure no matter how reliable, dependable and qualified they were.

What the pool needed was consistent, focused attention. There was work that needed to be done.

And the only way to do it is to do it.

The Pomodoro Technique taught me that about half an hour of focused effort will go a long way toward solving most problems in my life and, in the case of keeping the pool clean, it doesn’t even take half an hour. All it really takes is about ten minutes a day.

And the willpower to do it every day.

Leaves, dust and pollen fall in the pool every day.

Birds poop in the pool every day.

Algae grows and colonizes bit by bit, slowly but surely, every day.

The algae doesn’t care that the pool guy isn’t scheduled to come back until Thursday to chlorinate again.

The leaves don’t care if you skimmed the pool yesterday, or that the filter is already clogged. They keep falling.

And the birds keep pooping. Every. Damn. Day.

So the pool needs cleaning. Every. Damn. Day.

Embrace imperfection

The constant struggle to keep the leaves and the pollen and the dust and everything else out of the pool can almost drive you crazy. It’s a constant irritation. A raven knock, knock, knocking on your door.

Until you learn to accept the first rule of pool ownership.

There’s always going to be a little bird poop in the pool.

And leaves. And pollen. And dust. And insects. And organic matter of all kinds.

You’ll never get it all out. And you’ll drive yourself crazy trying.

I’ve got friend who used to run out of his house screaming and chasing the birds whenever they flew near his pool. Cussing them. Shaking his fists at them every time one dropped a load in his pool. Like his displeasure had any effect at all on their regularity.

When they gotta go, they gotta go.

And all you can do is all you can do.

Brush the pool. Skim the pool. Chlorinate the pool.

Today. Tomorrow. And the day after that.

It’s all you can do. And all you can do is enough.

Keep it simple

I’ve tried countless sanitizing systems. And different filters. And fancy new chemicals.

And I would spend 3 or 4 days a week in line at the pool store standing in line to get the water tested and have them tell me that I needed to buy 10 pounds of such and such chemical to counteract the 12 pounds of such and such chemical that 48 hours ago they told me I needed to bring my such and such levels down to such and such parts per million while maintaining my other such and such level at such and such parts per million.

Holy crap! It’s a swimming pool not a chemistry lab.

After years of trial and error I came to the conclusion that I really only needed 3 things.

I needed to keep chlorine in the pool; so I have a little plastic duck (his name is Alfred, by the way) floating around the pool that I keep filled with chlorine tabs. Easy peasy. And I haven’t bothered testing the water in years.

I needed to sweep the pool every day to keep the carbon up and floating around where the chlorine could do its job.

And I needed to remove as much organic material as I could.

Over the years they sold me sand filters and fancy cartridge filters and some other filters with names I can’t pronounce. And they sold me even fancier systems for cleaning the filters. What I came to realize though, was that the filters were just keeping the crap in my pool. They were one more thing I had to wash, clean and worry about.

Honestly, now I just use coffee filters. I keep a coffee filter in the skimmer and change it daily when I sweep the pool. No muss. No fuss. And a year’s supply costs me about $1.97.

Rejoice in the way things are

I spent years fighting it. Trying to find the easiest, most efficient way to avoid doing the thing that needed to be done. But my resistance only made me miserable and made the job that much harder to do it.

And the funny thing is once I accepted the inevitable. Once I gave into that which was required. This horrible, horrible chore became the highlight of my day.

I spent a decade trying to figure out new and more expensive ways to avoid spending 10 minutes a day outside basking in the glorious sunshine, breathing in the good clean Tennessee air and playing in my own personal 20,000 gallon tank of clean, crisp, refreshing water.

What a dumbass I was.

RELATED POST: How Cancer Kept Me in The Shadows for Over a Decade and Why The Sun is My New BFF

Terry LancasterTerry Lancaster is VP of Making Sh!t Happen. Speaker. Entrepreneur. And Author of BETTER! Self Help For The Rest Of Us. He’s a husband, a father and a beer league hockey all star, as if there could ever be such a thing.

Connect with Terry Lancaster