Deep Clean

A couple of days a week I am lucky enough to walk with my friend Dorothy. As we walk, we talk about all sorts of stuff. Dorothy is not that much older than I am, but she is much wiser, and I have learned a great deal about patience, about raising children, about self-respect. She’s also in much better shape than I am. And a lot of times I think she humors me — by walking slower and not making me feel worse — thank you, Dorothy!

One of many, many things I admire about my friend is how immaculately clean her house is. So, when my husband and children have decided that we are going to clean our house, I jumped on board. (If by “jumped” you mean got dragged screaming, “I don’t wanna! You can’t make me!” then yeah, absolutely.) But I do want my house to shine like Dorothy’s, so in the last few days, I have been slowly, slowly deep cleaning my house.

It’s been tough going. Because the poor house has been neglected for so long, there have been layers of neglect to clean through. I started with the kitchen table.

Although the kitchen table doesn’t have layers of neglect, what it does have is new layers put on it every day. The kitchen table is rarely 100% visible, because everything collects on it, from the car keys to daily mail, bags, paper napkins, my son’s guitar picks … and once settled on it, it rarely makes it off. Therefore, eternal vigilance is the word of the day. Every night, before we go upstairs to bed, the kitchen table has to be de-cluttered anew. If we ever wish to have a meal as a family AT THE TABLE, it has to be cleaned. This is a rare and wonderful pleasure, since lately we have been taken to eating as a family around the TV. This is on me, since I have been wanting to clear the DVR, but there is no conversing around the idiot box, and that is not the way to raise children. I figure I would rather delete shows then waste valuable family time.

Next came the downstairs bathroom/library. I had to be ruthless. I am a tomboy, but I have several girlish weaknesses — purses, perfumes and lipsticks. I had to get rid of many lipsticks. Many, many, dust-covered, 10-year-old lipsticks. And it wasn’t that difficult, I only cried a little bit. I moved all the People magazines, all the books, all the comics and Friday edition newspapers with movie reviews that I haven’t gotten around to reading out of the bathroom, I dusted, I cleaned the bathroom mirror, and when I was done, there was empty and clean counterspace! I still have to put the magazine/book rack back, but that can go underneath the counter area, and still allow for an uncluttered look.

I then started on the counters in the kitchen. The area around the coffee maker and electric tea kettle was lousy with extraneous stuff, everything had to be removed, cleaned and very few things had to be put back. After this, I tackled the area where I stored my vitamins and medicines. I don’t take a lot of medicine, but my diet isn’t that great, so I do take a lot of supplements. Again, many things were removed, and very few put back. I even took away two containers that were just gathering dust, although they were pleasing to the eye — one was empty and one was half-full of hard candy that was at least five years old. There were ancient candles on top of the toaster oven, candles that I haven’t burned in a very long time and should not have been sitting there in the first place. I put all bags of coffees near the coffee maker, and found that I actually had counter space! I could now make sandwiches on the counter without having to resort to making them on the kitchen table (when it is available, and not completely cluttered). This was a new and exciting development.

Now that we started, we have no desire to stop. Next, we are tackling upstairs, where everyone’s bedrooms are. The dogs are thoroughly confused, but since it doesn’t concern food, they are just contentedly napping or watching us go back and forth.

Join me next week when I write from a house that only slightly resembles the one I used to live in, and mostly from the outside. It’s too bad our dogs don’t like my parents (ageist canines!) and my friend Dorothy is a bit afraid of dogs. I’d love to show off my house to my parents when it’s ready, and to show Dorothy what a good influence she is on me. Instead, I’ll just take many pictures. If I thought of this earlier, I would have taken the before and after photos, but it’s not too late. There’s still a lot of mess to go through.

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Elena Tucker

Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.