June 28, 2010

The straight dirt

First I wanted to post this picture of my farmer's market haul from Saturday. It is so nice to have fresh fruits and veggies again!

And homemade bread, mmmm...

But I really opened this page today to respond to Sarah's question on her blog: How do you stay zen about cleaning your house?

As I said in her comments, I don't recommend this strategy. I got over my cleaning crazy when my back went out in 2004. Four paragraphs later, I decided it was more polite to move my raving here.

My junior year of college I had the dubious honor of residing in the party house. Are you picturing stacks of beer cans, sticky floors, and all around chaos? Not my pad. For I had the cleanest party house in history. Every day when I came home from class I fastidiously erased all evidence of the previous night's festivities. You could trash the place, but it never stayed trashy.

Compare that to now. I can't turn around without seeing dust or clutter. My bathtub is long overdue for a scrubbing. My newly longer hair is freaking EVERYWHERE. Dishes routinely sit in the sink...

What changed? Well like I said I hurt my back. For about six months I could barely walk to the bathroom, let alone get on bended knee and scrub it til it gleamed. And you know what? My friends didn't quit coming over, my husband didn't contract a horrific disease... Basically no dire consequences came to pass at all.

In the meantime I realized there were other things I'd rather be doing. Spending time with my husband. Writing my thesis. Talking with my family on the phone. Screwing around on the internet.

I don't know if I could have gone cold turkey. But now it's almost as if I don't recognize that person. I try not to let my place get outright disgusting. I tend to pick one gross spot every day and sort that out. Today, for instance, I desperately need to sweep my hairballs up from the bathroom floor. If it's a good back day, I might even mop in there.

Oh, there's a load of other stuff that needs doing. Organize a growing stack of work-related papers. Run the vacuum in our bedroom. Dust the entertainment center. Sweep and mop the kitchen. Will I accomplish any of that? Unlikely. Because, nowadays, even one load of dishes is enough to put me on an ice pack for half an hour.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still funny about some things. A spotless kitchen counter, because food-borne illness still freaks me the hell out. Hospital corners, because wrinkly sheets drive me batty when I try to sleep. Here's the thing about that though. I never make the bed until right before I get in it. I leave it wrecked all through the day. Ha!

I seem to have some feelings about this, no? And you can see why I decided it was better I should work them out here, and not take over an innocent comment stream. Come to think of it, I bet I could fill a whole 'nother post ranting about how patriarchy hijacked the hygiene hypothesis germ theory* to keep women down and domesticated.

Sarah... I hope this is helpful. And I wish you the best in beating the Proctor and Gamble conspiracy.

*Edited 12:47 p.m.: I realized in the shower that I had utterly misused "hygiene hypothesis." I was thinking about germ theory, which more or less went, hey doctors, if you wash your hands in between patients, you won't spread so many of their cooties.

The hygiene hypothesis says rather the opposite: that in Western societies, we're so darn clean we fail to prime our children's immune systems. It's meant to explain the prevalence of asthma and allergies in developed countries, when they're virtually unheard of elsewhere.

Oh, shower. How many "ah-ha" moments do I owe to your existence?


  1. I love to clean. Love it. Especially since I discovered Mrs. Meyers products. Her Lemon Verbena scent is awesome, and I use it everywhere except the bathroom where I am wild for 7th Generation's Lemongrass and Thyme.

    I wash my kitchen and living room floors on my hands and knees with Bona and a rag every night after dinner. I vacuum the upstairs every night while Ben gives the kids a bath. He vacuums the stairs every other night and the laundry room every night. I do the bathrooms about every third day. Dust whenever I notice dust (except the blinds and fans and bathroom exhaust fan covers-- they only get dusted on Sundays). Every Sunday I clean everything and also Magic Erase my walls, clean out my fridge and freezer, move the couch and clean under it, and organize something-- the mail basket, the kids' books, my drawers-- something.

    But in the fall, I m going to spend part of my Saturdays working on my book, so Sundays should be more of a family day than a house scrubbing day, hence my need to outsource some of my favorite jobs,

  2. Oh girl. So did I. Cleaning is the world's most socially acceptable path to instant gratification. Scrub surface = surface clean. No waiting for a professor or boss or committee to notice (or not) my hard work. I could *see* the success, right in front of me.

    And, if I'm 100% honest, I still get that little jolt of happiness, every time.

    I suppose this was more to encourage you to accept whatever your cleaning crew accomplishes, even if it's not up to your standards. I can totally imagine my younger self going around behind a Merry Maid and thinking, "they call this CLEAN????" :)


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