By Susan Govern
The dictionary defines the word clean as to be free from dirt, marks, stains or unwanted matter. After several months of having the house closed up, it has been the ritual of many to “spring-clean”.
Unlike those who every spring purge closets, shampoo carpets or maybe even wash walls and paint, I give the house a thorough cleaning but save those bigger cleaning projects for another time – like those weekends before my husband makes plans to make himself scarce.
There’s only one problem and it’s something that occurs with regularity whenever I am cleaning house.
If you have ever seen the movie “Up” and the scene with the dog with the talking collar, he gets distracted mid-sentence by a squirrel nearby. Well – my cleaning routine is a lot like that.
Since our living room and dining room are open areas that are like one room, I usually start by going through the clutter that has accumulated in these rooms; clearing out newspapers from the previous week and magazines that have been read. These go right to our recycle basket.
But then I come across clutter that is different. I find items that belong in other parts of the house – like a book that should be back in the “office” or a pair of gloves taken off and left on the end-table next to the couch which should be downstairs by the coats. As I start the process, I also decide to “redecorate” and end up changing out candles or family photographs that are displayed. In essence – I become like the dog in the movie – and changing things becomes my “squirrel” moment.
And then there’s the mistake I make of being in another room to put something back where it belongs, only to start sorting the clutter there which usually leads me to some other room in the house.
Round and round I go – you could say I’m chasing that elusive squirrel by my actions. Over the years I have come to think of it as “cleaning in order to clean”. Eventually I get back to the rooms I originally wanted to work on. By then a couple of hours have gone by and I’m not in the mood to do more than dust and vacuum. Forget about moving the sofa and loveseat to sweep under them, forget about taking down the curtains and washing the windows – so much for good intentions.
Making my way through the house, eventually things are cleaned up and put in order. Then I turn my attention to the kitchen.
Why is it that when I’m cleaning the kitchen counters and floor I notice the smudges on the kitchen cabinet doors more than any other time? Next comes the stove top which gets cleaned every day but this time starts me thinking about when was the last time the oven was cleaned (the answer – during another President’s administration but I’m not saying which past President).
Once all in this “heart of the home” is shiny and clean, I decide to take a break. Heating a cup of water in the microwave for tea I notice it’s been a while since that appliance has been given some attention. As my tea grows cold, I get distracted once again. (Did someone say “squirrel”?)
Finally as the hours pass by I put the last of my cleaning supplies away and standing in the middle of the living room I quietly pronounce the house clean and all in order.
About that time, if my husband has been outside doing yard work or some other chore in the garage, he’ll come in and ask what I’ve been up to. I happily reply “Cleaning”.
He looks around, nods, and tells me “It’ll look nice once you get started.”
Remember at the start of this I mentioned the cute dog from “Up”. After his remark I much more resemble the rabid dog in the horror movie “Cujo”.