Monday, June 23, 2014

Reflections on Cleaning

I spent the better part of this past weekend cleaning my house.  And I'm going to take a big chance here and be as transparent as possible to let you know that this was quite a feat for me.  I normally clean best if I'm angry, and any angst that I have these days gets extracted from my being at the gym.

Before you make that face (yes, THAT one) about my admission of the missing Susie Homemaker gene (I can trace it back three far), please be aware that there are some areas of the house that stay clean because I'm weird about it...the kitchen...the laundry...and the sheets on the bed.  But everything else just kind of takes care of itself so to speak until I can muster up the enthusiasm to get after it.

If I peer into the toilet and the bowl looks dingy...I clean it.  I'm on no schedule...although I have valiantly tried to do so because I tend to work really well with schedules.

But since all of my spare time lately has been used up trying on clothes, ironing, pulling weeds and dealing with life, it has been a shockingly long time since I mustered up enough enthusiasm to do a good "deep Spring cleaning."  What better time to do that than the first day of Summer, right?

When I used the word "shockingly" I'd like to give you a little bit more insight so that you know where it was.  I don't want your imagination to take you to "OMG Hoarders" shocking or even "Shall We Check Her Mental Facilities?" shocking.  It was more "I Haven't Seen the Top of the Dining Room Table Since Christmas" shocking or "What Exactly IS Piled up in the Laundry Room?" shocking.

You know...we live here.  That kind of shocking.

Unless, of course, you are one of those people who cannot sleep until you've washed the three spoons in the sink and wiped down the counters before you go to bed.  In which probably should stop reading because you probably feel the need to go take a shower about right now.

I started with the master bathroom and Jill helped me by using her little steam mop while I cleaned the tubs and sinks and toilet.  I have small white tiles in there with black dots...a look that I thought was charming in 2001 when we built the house, but now I find somewhere between "impossible to keep clean" and "what in the WORLD was I thinking?"  The shower is in strong need of being redone from the insert that we put in when the house was built with the idea that one day we'd rip that out and tile it up and put a solid door on it instead of the glass and chrome combination that has gaskets that turn the most putrid color of green if you don't stay after it.

Of course, if you want to be all can just consider it "LeSeuer green."  That almost sounds attractive.  But frankly...a shower shouldn't contain anything around it the color of English peas.  Just saying.

I won't even go into the contractor knob in that shower that was the one thing I asked the plumber not to use because that pea color gets all up under that ball and it is impossible to get out.  But he did.  And it's been there for going on 13 years now.  One time Big Dave brought home another knob thingy...but it cost $60 and I think that I can find something on a clearance rack somewhere cheaper than that.  Seriously.

Bottles of this or that were thrown away, and I finally decided to sacrifice three violets that have been on life support for about six months to that great recycling bin in the sky.  They sat around my tub and I watered them every Thursday.  The remaining two look healthy enough.  For now.

I moved into the dust off of surfaces and taking the multiple laundry baskets with clean clothes in them and consolidating them into piles on the bed.  After I changed the sheets, of course, and remade the bed.  Let's just say that Big Dave won't have to buy or quite frankly even wash any tee shirts or socks anytime soon.  I must have put thirty sock balls and the same number of folded shirts on the bed for him to put away.

On his side of the bed, of course.  He always appreciates that little surprise after an hour on the couch snoring to the likes of "Dirty Harry" and all he wants to do is fall into bed.

Due to the consolidation, I now have four laundry baskets...which is honestly too many for the two of us so I tried to cull a few of them.  The broken one that has been retained because the others were full of clothes is now in the trash can.  Finally.   A pink one was relegated to the guest room for towels and the others are in our bedroom waiting on dirty clothes to be deposited into them this week.

Yeah, we'll see how that pans out.  I'm betting that the dark blue one will not contain darks and the white one will not contain whites.  They'll both be full...but sorted?  Hardly.

After moving from the bedroom I went into the laundry room to see if there was anything I could do about the countertop that I haven't seen since 2012 when I spent an entire day in there with a toothbrush and a promise to never let it get that out of control again.  Except I did.  Generally when people were coming in and I needed to stash

But I was determined.  So, the laundry room was cleared of the debris that had been parked there because I had no idea what to do with any of it.  I cleaned out the washing machine (gag-worthy) and dusted the dryer.  Am I the only person who gets dirt and dust from the lint trap everywhere?  Because of this issue...I keep Lysol wipes in there to clean up everything after every load.  Of course, it helps if you actually remember to use them.

I "steam mopped" in there as well and was mortified at how dirty that floor was despite frequent mopping. I would really love to have one of these little cleaners...but then Big Dave might retire and quit mopping.

I love it when Big Dave mops.

Plus, I did find thirty-seven cents in the laundry room...two carpenter's pencils, a couple of bits, and fourteen socks without mates.

From there, I moved to the rest of the home...dusted, cleaned, threw out, threw away, and boxed up and now the house looks like a home.  The table is clear, the vincas that I purchased last weekend were finally planted, and everything is as it should be.  Not perfect...but nice.

Except for the ant invasion.  I used to respect ants.  Now I just want to kill them by any means possible.

But we'll leave that alone for now.

I think what happened to me with regard to this current round of lax housekeeping was that I grew okay with things the way that they were.  I ignored the laundry baskets dotting the bedroom floor and the dust that settled on every surface.  I left the sheets from the last visitors on the bed because I didn't go into that room often enough to care and we rarely get guests without some serious advance notice.  In two weeks when we start "Family Visit July"...I'll be changing sheets every week for a month.  I want the rooms to feel welcoming and not dusty or unmade or full of stuff that needs to be put somewhere else at best...or set on fire in a blaze of glory at worst.

Last year, I crammed a ton of c-rap into Jill's old closet because it made sense to do so.  I could shut a door.  I could forget it existed. My niece and nephew (the "little people") went in there anyway to get the ginormous blue bear that Brian won for Jill when he was little for a photography session that kept them entertained for the better part of an hour.  Dixie and Riley were included in the festivities and neither of them appears to have any lasting psychological issues from we're good.

This year, I want to be able to welcome guests to a cheery room with lots of space and not a speck of dust.

Okay, that last one was hilarious...let's go for "a tolerable amount of dust" instead.

Life passes quickly and sometimes we collect items from this decade or that, from this trip or family member or because something was a great price and found its way into our vehicles.  We take these items and bring them into our homes and they become the backdrop of our days of waking and sleeping.  But every once in awhile, we have to realize that it is far better to get rid of that which is just clutter or in the way or just not necessary.

Sometimes we outgrow items and other times we move on to another hobby and the remnants stay around in case we get back to it someday.  Except we rarely do.

I realize that we Americans have so much that we have problems like "decluttering" and "weight loss" that the rest of the world does not struggle with because they have so much less than we do.  And although God has provided me with a beautiful home in which to live my life...I tend to take that for granted until company is on the way and I want to show them my best.

Why not show my best every day?  Why not deal with the little things so that I can truly appreciate and be grateful for the blessing not only of a roof over my head...but for order and peace and joy.  Why not show my thanks to God by being grateful for this gift instead of griping that I have to clean my baseboards.

Which I totally do...but let's not go there.  Yet.

I like order.  And since I have to keep my house in order for a month...I'm hoping that it becomes a new good habit.  At least I know that I won't be mortified to bring people all up in this house.  Which is good.

There are still a lot of things to be taken care returning the chicken wire to Home Depot that sounded like a good idea to protect our strawberries from the birds but only works if you actually take it out of the package.  Like clearing the countertops of items that should be stowed away in the pantry and dusting the living room mantle that I forgot until I saw the dancing dust emanating as the sun hit it this morning.  Washing the outside windows and putting sheets on the queen bed in Brian's soon as the memory foam pillow top thingy arrives from Amazon because he'd rather sleep on my couch than the bed that isn't "comfy enough."  Cleaning the bathrooms again because I like to make doubly sure that I give my guests a spotless tub, sink and toilet because I'd quite frankly appreciate the same.

I don't know what would make housework less like drudgery to me other than looking at it as an act of thankfulness for everything that has been given to me.  Hand-me-down family furniture, the Christmas cactus that refuses to die (bless its heart) even though my watering skills are lacking, and the dishtowels that sweet friends have given me over the years that hang from my oven door.

So. Very. Much.

Instead of grousing about having to clean my house...I want to see it as a privilege.  To feel about it the way that I did in 2001 when we moved in and everything was newly painted and beautiful.  The realization of months of poring over magazines and colors and different styles.  To see it as our home...where my children and their friends laughed and family has gathered.  To see it through the eyes that my sister, parents, niece and nephew do...or my friends who stop by when they can brave being out this far from town.

In two weeks, my son and sweet Brecksyn will be here for the 4th of July...and hopefully we will sit and enjoy fireworks but even if we don't...I know we'll enjoy each other's company.  The next week will bring the celebrate my Mom's birthday and do some fun things that I refuse to tell them about because I like planning a surprise and I can't think of people more deserving of one.  The following week will bring my France-dwelling beautiful little sister and the "little people" as Dixie knows them and the pool will be used nearly constantly and I'll get more hugs and kisses than I deserve but I'll eagerly and greedily take them over three way too-short days.

I can hardly wait.  For all of it.  Every second of that time under this roof.

So, if you have rolled your eyes at all that is before you to do today in the home that you live in...and you need a reason to get yourself motivated to turn off the television and get what needs to get done handled...just do it out of joy.  Thankfulness.  Anticipation.  Expectation.  Love.  And a heart full of appreciation that you have somewhere to lay your head.  Somewhere grand that God has given you.

Just remember if stuff takes too much of your time to have to divorce it.  Pass it on, donate it, or make a conscious decision to just enjoy the time you have to spend to keep it maintained.  Much like I do when I run my hands over furniture that my Gammy ran her hands over to dust a generation or two ago.  It ties me to her and to the knowledge and appreciation of growing up to be just an average kid in a truly remarkable family.

That's what I'll be doing this next week as I finish up this housework.  Being grateful.  Remembering time that has passed and people I have loved that I miss as I prepare a place for those I love who are coming to grace this home with their presence.

When I think about it that way...I can honestly smile as I pick up the dustrag and can of Pledge to handle those places that I've missed or overlook.  I really can.  

Plus, that steam mop is pretty awesome.  Just don't tell Big Dave.

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