It has been a very busy summer. Although I’m thankful to have a full and active life, I’m happy that we are starting to get back into our usual routines with more time at home. While we’ve been running around for the past few weeks, home maintenance, especially house cleaning, has been cursory at best. I’d fly through when I had the chance to run a quick vacuum or sweep up the biggest clumps of dog hair, but it had reached the point where I felt it necessary to apologize if anyone stopped by.
Friday evening, we had a couple of friends over, and my R.W. friend and I were sharing neglected home stories. With a look on her face that meant she was sure I’d think she was crazy, she said “I actually like to clean. I find it therapeutic.” Then she told me that on Saturday morning, she was planning to get up, put on old clothes, put her hair up in a bun, turn on her favorite music, and clean. I said “Me too!”
I don’t think she’s crazy. Well, any crazier than I am, anyway. I know some RW’s out there would rather poke their eyes out than spend a Saturday cleaning. But I know there are plenty of others out there who, like us, find it…well — like she said –therapeutic. Perhaps it’s not the act of cleaning itself as much as the satisfaction of getting it done. In our crazy hectic lives, sometimes it feels like the one thing we can control is the cleanliness of our surroundings. We can take a break from everything else in our worlds and do some nesting. It is an action that immediately shows positive and noticeable results, and can actually make us feel calmer. Sure, it also can make us feel back and knee pain, and cause chipped nails, but there’s nothing like a clean, fresh smelling house.
I realized this weekend while doing my Cinderella impersonation (minus the ball gown), that unlike other activities, cleaning for me is not the time to brood. When I go out for a walk or a bike ride, or maybe a long drive, or even take a shower, I will work through big stuff in my head. I do some of my very best thinking during any of those activities. But when it comes to cleaning therapy time, I go easy on myself. I turn on my playlist and go on a sort of comfortable auto-pilot. The men in the house usually find other things to do because a) they get nervous when I go into white tornado mode, b) they don’t care for my music choice and c) I’m singing.
Rather than solve any big problems as I work my way through the various rooms, here are some examples of the less than profound considerations that run through my head: Why does some of the soap scum and mildew in my shower turn pink? Is it some kind of science experiment going on in there? Why is it that men have an apparatus they can point, and a large target, yet apparently lack any aiming skills? How would this room look if we painted it mauve? Is it weird that I like the smell of Simple Green? Those bananas are going bad, I think I’ll make bread. I need to add more Styx to my playlist. Mom was right, as soon as you start to clean the kitchen floor, someone in the family needs to walk through the room. Why is my dog not bald after shedding this much? Apparently my house plants could survive in the Mohave Desert, because I forgot to water them and they are still alive.
About half way through my private therapy session on Saturday morning, I thought about my RW friend and considered texting her to share one of my keen cleaning observations. But I had failed to mention to her that first on my to do list was to sleep in, and she had likely been up much earlier and was already sitting down to bask in the glory of her clean home. And I was not going to interrupt that sacred moment.
Of course that’s all it is, just a moment. We aren’t delusional enough to think it will last. Soon we will be cringing when someone walks in from outside, dropping grass clippings or dirt off their shoes, or the dog will happily shake and roll himself on his favorite rug in the living room, replacing all the fur I just vacuumed up. Miscellaneous stuff will start to assemble on every flat surface, dust will collect around electronics, food crumbs will assemble on counter tops, something will get spilled in the oven, socks and shoes will pile up in the corner, toilet paper rolls will run out, and dirty dishes will magically re-appear in the sink. The house will once again take on that look and odor of being lived in. And that’s ok. We don’t live in a sterile museum, we live in a busy home.
But for that brief glimpse of time, I will sit to rest my back, take a deep breath and enjoy a nice clean smell, admire the vacuum marks in the carpet, the lack of cobwebs in the corners, and I will feel calm, refreshed… cleansed. I will be in control of my castle.
Then I will be ready to let reality back in.