The biggest problem with cleaning your house beyond a swipe with a paper towel is that you realize the level of filth you’ve been living in.
There was a stain on my carpet. The stain was annoying me because it was large enough to be seen from Mars. I found some carpet cleaner and an old wash cloth and I went to town. I managed to scrub it out, only then there was a clean spot on the carpet, which highlighted the dingy spots near the clean spot. I scrubbed at them, crumbs and other accumulated detritus hopping up at me with my effort. I found long strings of embedded hair coming up. If I’d had a spinning wheel, I probably could have spun enough yarn out of it to make a hair shirt to wear when I felt guilty for letting my house get in that condition.
The whole thing was disgusting. I took a shower afterwards, noting every discolored speck in the grout as I tried to scrub off the memories. I was horrified that I’d been obliviously living with it all for who knows how long.
That sort of thing happens a lot in my universe. Whenever I accidentally drop an ice cube or spill water on the floor I’m tempted to just leave it and let it evaporate because I know if I wipe it up there will be a shiny space, free of grime in its wake, like a neon sign pointing the way to the un-mopped expanse surrounding it.
Honestly, I do try to keep up. It’s just impossible.
I think it is our ridiculous twenty-first century standards of cleanliness. A hundred and fifty years ago, everything would be covered in coal dust and smelling vaguely like raw sewage and unwashed humanity. Even operating theaters back then weren’t particularly clean, much less sterile.
When my husband and I built our house, twenty years ago, we chose the surfaces based on how well they would hide dirt. We were childless then, but we were realistic. We chose speckled countertops and woodgrain flooring. Our furniture is spilled-coffee brown. We did a pretty good job of it all. I admire people who dare have light, solid colors in their houses.
Not too long ago I went to a cocktail party at the home of a friend of mine. His home looked like something out of the pages of Southern Living magazine. Everything was matched and monogrammed and tied up with raffia. The floors were a spotless white. I grabbed the elbow of another passing friend, one who had small children. I gestured around with my wineglass, careful not to spill. “Toddlers live here,” I stage whispered. “TODDLERS!” The toddlers were allowed in this pristine, glass-laden, shiny-white room. There was a small white table in the corner with crayons in a basket sitting atop wholesome coloring pages, every crayoned mark neatly within the lines. I couldn’t have been more impressed if the toddlers in question were juggling running chainsaws while balanced on unicycles and reciting pi to the 400th digit.
My life is messy, and my house reflects that. It’s sanitary – you can eat my food without fear of e-coli or salmonella, and you don’t need to worry about sentient molds and mildews in the bathrooms. You won’t catch anything nasty from walking barefoot, but you might step on something sticky or sharp so I wouldn’t recommend it. More power to people who can maintain some semblance of control over their homes and their lives and all the myriad of elements contained therein. I can’t, and I’ve given up trying.
I’ll just be happy with those little, shiny clean spots. I’ll revel in them, and appreciate them for the miracles that they are. They’re the rainbows after the storm marking the covenant of hope, and I’ll take what I can get.
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com , on Twitter, or on Facebook. Lori is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2018 Columnist winner, and a New Apple, Readers’ Favorite, and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.” She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.”
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