Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spring Cleaning

(Spring cleaning creates a huge mess)

I hate to clean.  Most of the year I do what my grandmother called "taking off the top soil."  People think my house is clean, but it's an illusion, based on the fact that I keep clutter at bay. I don't like clutter. The occasional removing of top soil and minimal clutter make my house appear cleaner than it is. Still, one must face the inevitable now-and-then.  I make a good stab at deep house-cleaning once a year.

Some of you have been to my house.  It's a small Cape Cod style, yet I have a devised a list for each of its nine rooms (kitchen, living room, dining room, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, basement family room) with 10 chores to be completed in each room, making a total of 90 tasks. This may sound extreme, but, believe me, checking items off a list is the best part of cleaning.  Besides, I might forget something in my haste to get the job done.

(Do all those books really fit on the bookshelf?)

I wasn't brought up to put cleaning on the back burner.  My mother did a massive spring and fall cleaning, and did a heck of lot more than getting rid of top soil all the weeks in between.  I remember waking up at 6:30 a.m. to the sound of my mother vacuuming on weekdays before she went to her part-time job.  It took her decades to face the fact that neither my sister nor I have followed in her footsteps.

Still, most years, between February and June, I give everything a once-over. I certainly wouldn't want to clean so often that that dust didn't billow in clouds off the tops of curtains when I take them down, or the rag didn't turn gray after washing windowpanes.

(cobwebs no more)

I begin with the radiators, because they harbor more dust and cat hair than anything else, and because I dread dealing with them.  Then I start at the top of the room and work down.  What do you think of this Appalachian Besom Style cobweb broom?  My sister made it at a folk school she attended and gave it to me as a Christmas gift.  It could be a nice decorative item, but I use it for its intended purpose.

Besides cleaning in general, and cleaning radiators in particular, I also don't like the vacuum cleaner, although upgrading to a Miele cleaner improved my perspective considerably.  Nevertheless, I wash most everything when I deep clean, and only vacuum when absolutely necessary.  This allows me to play music. In my lackluster spirit as I begin a room, I might start out with music like Chant recorded by the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz.  Even though this is literally Gregorian Chant music, with slow all-male harmonies, Bill and I visited the Stift Heiligenkreuz monastery in Austria, so the CD eases me into the tasks at hand with a good vibe.

Once I get going, and really turn the place into a debris field, I need something livelier to push me through. As a classical music lover, I can find rousing symphonies in my CD collection whose rhythms force me to move more quickly.

This year, I read the best seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.  Even though sorting and being tidy are things I'm good at, I found this book fun to read and full of interesting perspectives.  The author insists that each area of the house should be gone through full-throttle with a clothing day or a book day to ruthlessly discard huge quantities of possessions.

As I hauled furniture from the walls and books off shelves, I thought about my "things." While I had the books out (and was forced to vacuum each one, ugh, a holdover from my mother's technique), weren't there some that hadn't been cracked in at least 15 years? Did we need all of them? I found that having an increased awareness of "stuff" wasn't a bad idea.

I have had conversations about this book with many of my friends who have read it.  People seem to get hung up on Kondo's premise that you should only own things that give you joy.  Joy?  Hmm.  That's going kind of far.  I like my possessions, but a lot of them sure don't send me into rapture.

This idea alone seems to keep people from recognizing what is really good about the book.  Think of that joy premise in reverse.  Kondo says that your house is your oasis, which is why you should only have joy-inducing items in it.  The reverse of that is keeping out possessions that create negative thought.  If you come home, walk into your house, and something that you have annoys you, makes you sad, or in some way gives off bad vibes, that's the clue that it should go...just my opinion.

(Barkeeper's Friend is great for the kitchen. Otherwise, I'm a Murphy's Soap fan.)

Eventually, I decided that I had done enough house-cleaning.  Spring sunshine beckoned, but I hadn't gotten to the kitchen.  It could wait. Maybe I would even do it piecemeal, checking off one item on my cleaning list every now-and-then, rather than tearing the whole place apart and doing most of it in a day.

Then I had a blender disaster.  Only 1/2 cup of milk, one egg, and 1/2 cup of flour were in the blender when they shot out and spewed all over the room.  It looked like an entire half-gallon of milk and a dozen eggs had been flung against the walls, doors, cupboards, floor, and me.  I stripped, right there in the kitchen, and took my clothes to the basement.

The mess was unbelievable.  Not only that, it looked disgusting, and it would smell pretty bad if I didn't do a really good cleaning job, and soon. I was totally bummed. I had no choice but to ignore the sunshine, put on some loud rip-roaring music, and get rid of the glop. In the end, it probably wasn't such a bad idea to bring the kitchen up to the standard of the rest of the house, and I learned a thing or two about using a blender.

(This view is worth keeping the curtains off)

The only part of cleaning that I really like, and it's the easiest part, is throwing the curtains in the washing machine and then hanging them outside on the clothes line. When I iron and hang them back up, they really look great.

Nevertheless, while they are down, Bill and I debate whether we like the windows better without curtains. Do curtains give me joy??  We don't live as if in a home decor magazine, where views out of windows always show lush scenes of woods and mountains, but it's still nice to be able to look out unimpeded.  We ask ourselves why we have curtains at all.  Our reasons are cold and heat.  I drop the tie-backs when it's cold because the room feels warmer and cozier with the glass covered.  And I drop them on hot days to keep the sun out. Otherwise, they don't serve a lot of purpose.

This year, in contrary fashion, I re-hung the curtains in the living room and kept the curtains off the dining room windows.  All the better to see Spring's beauty, as the flowering crabapple tree comes into bloom.  It's easier to see the birds flit in and out of the bird house in the tree too.  For now, the absence of curtains gives me joy.  And despite my bad attitude, a clean house makes me happy too.