The Art of Cleaning

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A popular song among the “under five crowd” contains the lyrics “clean up, clean up, everybody do your share/clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.” Hmm … I’m married and for some reason my husband just doesn’t seem to take the first part of that song to heart. Thus, I, like many women, get stuck with the bulk of the housecleaning responsibilities. Like everyone over the age of five, that song does nothing to motivate me to pick up a sponge and attack that green stuff growing around the bathroom faucet.

Now, irony of all ironies, my mother-in-law owns and operates a very successful cleaning business. Some may find the fact that their mother-in-law can clean the grime off of anything that is within reach, intimidating. I, however, find it to be a blessing. Just when I need it the most, she will appear with all her rags, buckets, and mysterious cleaning products in hand to tackle our house. She is always so gracious; she smiles and says that I’m doing a good job keeping up with everything. But, we both know that reality screams, “I stink at cleaning.” She has introduced me to a whole new world, albeit one, that I’m happy to escape from as soon as she’s gone. I never would have thought to clean the blades on our ceiling fan. I just assumed the dirt would all blow off if I left it run on high for two hours. Also, you should dust the layers of accumulated dirt off the bathroom vanity lights (until I have to squint to see my reflection, the light fixtures seem perfectly clean). And, oh, the day she decided to clean our windows will be a day my husband and I will both remember for it was the first and last time we looked out and didn’t think we lived in a perpetual state of fog.

Although my dear mother-in-law has tried to introduce me to the joys of cleaning, I continue to believe that the only joy in cleaning is the joy of watching someone else do it. Let me share a few other thoughts on this whole concept of cleaning.

Dusting—what is the point? To me I’m merely sending the dust from one piece of furniture to another. I swipe my rag across the coffee table and watch the dust particles travel through the air until they land on our end table. As much fun as it is to watch the dust dance in the sunlight, I think the effort is pointless. One day I think they’ll discover that dust actually helps prolong the life of fine furniture.

Cleaning the kitchen floor—I was all about mopping the kitchen floor until my mother-in-law showed me that the proper way to handle the linoleum is with two rags (one to clean the floor and one to dry it) and a bucket of cleaner. Well, needless to say, although this method does get my floor significantly cleaner, the mere thought of schlepping around on my hands and knees doesn’t thrill me. Hence, this process happens about as often as a lunar eclipse. My theory here is that when my floor is sticky, it truly acts as a safety feature that should give me a reduction on my home insurance premium. Just in case a tornado decides to blow through my kitchen, my feet will be so firmly planted on that sticky linoleum that I won’t be going anywhere. It’s truly safer than a fallout shelter!

And finally, the vacuum … for the years I lived on my own, I think I failed to ever change a vacuum bag. In fact, I forgot that that was truly part of the little cleaning game. Although I now know that one needs to change the bag more than once every ten years, I just encountered a new problem last week … bubbles coming out of the vacuum bag whenever I turned it on. A glass had broken and I felt compelled to sweep it up (if that tornado came through I wouldn’t want to be covered in glass shrapnel as I stuck firmly to the floor.) Shortly after I began sucking up all the little pieces of glass, I noticed soap bubbles coming out of the middle of the bag. I turned the vacuum off and they magically disappeared. I entertained myself for a few minutes turning the vacuum on and off and trying to figure out what my mother-in-law would do in this situation. Since I knew she would never have to deal with such a thing, I decided it was best for all concerned to put the vacuum away and I haven’t visited it since.

Cleaning is so not my thing and although I understand it is a necessity of life, I’m incredibly happy for people like my mother-in-law. Around my house, “Mi casa es su casa” is translated to, “My dirt is your dirt and you’re welcome to it anytime you want”!


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