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Spring Cleaning: What I am not doing.

I like a clean house. I really do. Not that you can tell by looking at my home. Cover of House Beautiful, it’s not.  House Lived in and Slightly Trashed, maybe.

I am not, as they say, a domestic goddess. Had I been among the pantheon of gods and goddesses of the home, I would have been chucked out a long time ago, relegated to the nether regions of earth for being way under qualified for the job.

I could blame it on the kids. They are young and they are messy.

But if you were to compare their room and my office, they look much the same. If our rooms were a person they would look like they’d slept in their clothes and had a severe case of bed head.

I could blame it on my husband. But he’s a neat freak. Ok, not a freak – he would consider that harsh, and perhaps it is. But to those of us who do not have the spiritual gift of cleaning, anyone who can do a good job at cleaning is a freak. And he is definitely superior to moi in the realm of cleanliness. I could clean my little fingers to the bone and be so proud of my work and he’ll come in and instantly spot the one or two or three places I missed.

Me: “Really, honey. I didn’t see that large pile of whatever that is in the corner.”

Him: “It’s 2 feet high and I think it just moved. How could you not see it?”

Me: “Ummm…”

He can’t help it. There’s a Thing in his brain that can’t deal with clutter. I’ve contemplated having it surgically removed, but it’s inoperable. If there is clutter about, his brain stutters. His capacity to concentrate gets short circuited and he just sits there and twitches until I smack his head or clean up the mess.

And I can’t help it. Well, maybe I could, but it would be really really really hard. My mother likes to tell the story of when I was 5 or 6 and faced with a monster mess to clean up in my room. I wasn’t to leave my room until it was finished. I sauntered out about 5 minutes later, ready to play. It didn’t take her long, however, to find out how I’d done it. Everything was put in its place – under my bed. I don’t do that now, of course. I couldn’t. Extra blankets, sweaters, stray slippers, dryer sheets, curled up magazines and dust badgers are in the way.

I try. Mostly.

Simple tasks get frustratingly complicated. Today for example. I vacuumed. (Thank you for that small smattering of applause.) As I vac’d, I noticed that the machine didn’t have a lot of suction. And it wheezed. I found myself slowly and ineffectively pushing around half an M & M like I was playing shuffleboard on the Ledo deck.

I popped open the hatch to see if the bag was full. I didn’t see the bag. I saw what appeared to be a large opossum. It didn’t surprise me – we have an opossum that hangs around the yard and rifles the garbage upon occasion. I call him Murray.  I hadn’t seen Murray in a while, so, you know, it could have been him in the vacuum cleaner. But it wasn’t.

The last time I changed the vac bag (1972?) I apparently didn’t put the new one in right. So what I had here was an opossum-sized wad of dust, Cheerios and dead spiders. Twenty minutes later the wad was out, the new bag was in, the carpet was dirtier than before and I was thoroughly grossed out and fed up with cleaning.

Not my idea of fun. Nobody, of course, actually likes cleaning. If they say they do, they lie. There’s a TV commercial for a cleaning service called Merry Maids. They claim to love cleaning. They show us this by dancing around with brooms and mops and laughing maniacally. I think they’re high. Too many parlays with Mr. Clean will put anybody over the edge.

Everybody’s at a different place with cleaning. I know people who haven’t cleaned up since they moved away from mom; people who only clean when company comes over; and people who clean so much that I’m worried for their mental well being. My mother-in-law kept a spotless house. She liked things new looking. So when they bought a new recliner, for example, she left the plastic wrap on the foot rest. For 15 years. Her husband was a well-ordered man. Everything had a place and everything had a neat little label. (See, I told you my husband couldn’t help it.) Things were so clean and tidy and new looking that it didn’t feel like they lived in the house – they merely existed in it. I’ve been in other homes so spotless and sanitized that the life was cleaned right out of the place. I will never be that tidy, but by golly, you’ll know that somebody lived – really lived – in my home.

See that pile of shoes by the door?

2 pairs of little feet have run and skipped and danced and jumped through the room, leaving laughter and a pile of socks in their wake. Their rhythm taps out, ‘we are here we are here we are here’ every every day. And I’m ok with that.

Not everybody feels that way. Take the whole ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ thing. Written by a man. A Christian man, no less – John Wesley. But what did he know? (And more importantly, what did he clean?) If God thought cleanliness was the way to get to Him, you’d think He’d mention it a little more. Clean a little more. The only time in the Bible that God cleaned up was when he turned on the celestial spigot and flooded the whole planet, washing away the mess humanity had made of itself.

I’ve decided that cleaning is a part of the curse placed upon us when Eve bit the apple.

Maybe that’s why there aren’t any domestic gods – Eve started the whole mess, so she and all her girls get to clean it up.

I can’t turn the hose on my house and wash it all away. Darn it all. So I’ll slog through my piles, straighten out the shoes and do my best to teach my girls how to be neater than I am. And at the end of the day I can feel good about a clean-ish house where my husband can relax and not twitch for a little while.

At least until he checks under the bed.

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