Monday, March 7, 2011


Cleanliness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  I like my food clean, but I’ve never been a good housekeeper.  It isn’t something I enjoy and, in fact, see nothing but futility in it.  I clean, someone comes along—big boy or small boy—and drops a candy wrapper, a CD, some crumbs, an apple core, a pile of mail or books.  And now, of course, there’s Milo the dog, who collects all sorts of small dead things in his fur—leaves, small sticks, thistles, which he then rubs into the rug or drops onto the floor.  It would have been just as easy not to have cleaned in the first place.  I used to hope that the clutter perpetrators would eventually see the error of their ways and pick it up.  You know that expression:  “cold day in Hell.” 

My mother, a minister’s wife, entertained regularly.  I learned my deficient housecleaning habits from her.  Before the arrival of guests, which was frequent--and often unexpected, she would turn on the lights in the living room and whip around with a dust cloth, swiping all those places that were illuminated and ignoring everything else.  She didn’t bother with the backs or undersides of anything.  But she was a gracious hostess. 

I have always chosen to spend my time differently.  When the children were young, the evenings were spent with dinner, bathing, and reading to them.  And for years, I would work on what I had brought home from the office after the boys were in bed.  I was really lucky if the dishes were done before I turned in for the night.  And the weekends were taken up with soccer, errands, library runs, family, homework and food.  I was much more preoccupied with making sure everyone was well fed than with the dust on the lampshade.

But now that I’ve retired—and it’s spring--I feel obliged to clean out the detritus of my life.  When I left my office for the last time, I carried with me boxes of papers, pictures, awards, calendars, knick-knacks.  These boxes sit in our family room behind some furniture.  They’re waiting for me, though.  I sense them lurking behind the sofa—waiting, waiting, waiting. 

Last week, I cleaned our bedroom; and yesterday, I cleaned the hall closet and the bathroom.  I’m feeling quite smug about it, in fact.  I have not, however, cracked the boxes in the family room.  I think there’s a book I need to finish reading. . .

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