Journal entry: September 7, 2009 (age 40) – Labor Day Housework Marathon
This afternoon, I wore a huge, frozen smile as I walked over to my wife, Amanda, and showed her the bottom of the wastebasket I had just washed out. “Yes, Tim,” she nodded, “that’s very good!” Like many men, I need this kind of validation after completing the simplest of household tasks. Amanda will clean an entire room without mentioning it, but I feel the need to show her each handful of dust bunnies that I pull from behind the refrigerator. “Look at this one, honey! Good thing I got it out of there, huh?”
The two of us spent the entire Labor Day weekend cleaning every inch of our house. Because I’m a neat freak, but not a clean freak, this is not a common activity. A neat freak obsesses over any piece of clutter on a counter, desk, or table, while ignoring the half inch of dust on the bookshelves and the Rorschach stains on the kitchen floor. But when I do clean, I clean like a maniac. I clean the tops of the blades on ceiling fans, and the grills of radiator covers. I dust the top of every picture and door frame. I scrub the flat surfaces of the sashes between windows and storm windows. I power-wash the downspouts. I gleam the cube (Rubik’s).
Amanda is a cleaning generalist. She likes to do housework in small, frequent bursts of activity. This ensures that our bathroom and kitchen are usually in decent shape. I believe in a more “hose out the living room on leap year” approach. This ensures that small ecosystems in our closets face unnatural disaster only once in a dingy blue moon. (“Run, my microbial fellows, the pale giant has a Swiffer!)
Having a cat makes housework more difficult. Having three cats, as we do, makes it somewhat futile. It will only take a week or so before our clothes begin to pick up pet hair every time we sit in, lie down on, or glance at a piece of furniture. To get even with our little dander-throwers, we vacuum a bit longer and more violently than is necessary. Cats have an inordinate fear of vacuum cleaners, as though they share a collective memory of the first upholstery crevice attachment being gifted to the ancient Egyptians by the dog-headed Anubis, god of death and crumb removal.
Speaking of things that drunken archeologists think about, a thorough housecleaning can unearth long-forgotten totems from the distant past. An earring. Grandpa’s recipe for tripe margaritas. A ticket stub from a Color Me Badd concert. These are hypothetical, of course. I’ve never worn an earring, and I’m not sure which would be worse – a Color Me Badd concert or a tripe margarita. Ah, college.
Now that we’re finished cleaning, I look forward to wallowing in my own filth. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be proactive. I’m going to put open boxes of baking soda in every room. I figure that’ll buy us a year or two. And I’ve written to the research and development people at Glade to suggest a few new scents: “Foyer That’s Been Dusted Within the Last Four Months,” “Basement That’s Damp, but Draped with Bounce Sheets,” “Couch that Cats are Allergic to,” and my favorite, “Cage-free Humans.”