Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Cleaning

There are few things I enjoy more than having a clean, neat, pretty apartment — and few things I hate more than cleaning. Maybe the reason that spring's arrival never has me leaping for joy is that spring is associated with "spring cleaning." There's no such thing as "winter cleaning." I love winter.

I hate procrastinating about cleaning, and I hate feeling guilty about not cleaning, almost as much as I hate cleaning itself, and maybe more. But I spend a huge amount of my time doing both. It's silly, but that's how it is.

Hire a cleaning service, you say. It's surprisingly affordable, especially when you consider all the agony you'll be spared.

No, no. I'm not only cheap, I'm uncomfortable with that. I'll pay a professional to clean my windows, which is a risky business with potential for broken bones, if not death. But I trust only myself to get this place as clean as I like, and I don't even have high standards. I never let the dust bunnies grow up beyond my ankles; I hate cobwebs, obvious stains, and sticky counters; and I like to be able to sit somewhere or move the curtains without getting coated in cat fur. I'm not obsessed. I don't worry much about germs because I can't see them. What I can see is my desk, which usually looks like I borrowed it from a hoarder. No one can clean that except me.

On the few occasions (before moving, or after some disaster) when I had to hire cleaners, I worked along with them, and picked up some tips.* I had to stay with them to keep an eye on the cats and I could not sit and watch them work. I know people who hustle to clean up before their cleaners arrive, a related form of guilt. But I think it's fine for everyone but me to hire cleaners. This working-class child believes in cleaning up her own household mess. We have a very small apartment so I should be able to maintain it easily. In theory, at least. Besides, I'm not even working. What else do I have to do?

The cats hate cleaning, too. Possum and Wendy have decided to be afraid of the vacuum cleaner, conveniently forgetting that when they were small and had ringworm, I vacuumed everything, including the walls and furniture, every single day for months. Now that I'm only using it about once a week, and they flee in terror, giving me the worst looks.

I'm not sure what I hate most: vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the kitchen, scrubbing the bathroom, or de-furring furniture and curtains. I guess I hate all of it with equal enthusiasm. Notice that I don't even mention washing our wood floors, because I so seldom do it. Nor does "dusting" include any serious attention to our 200 linear feet of books. It's too daunting. We do that maybe once a year. We did it very thoroughly during the ringworm crisis, and removing a book still doesn't raise a cloud of dust, so I'm not going to even think about that anymore.

I do like tidying up and putting things away, sort of. I have this technique where I grab everything that isn't where it belongs and pile it on the bed. The rest of the apartment suddenly looks very neat — instant gratification that inspires me to keep working. And now I've got stuff strewn all over a bed we can't sleep in until I deal with each item. I'm bad at sorting papers and throwing them out. So I stuff all my excess papers into one — just one — 9" x 12" shopping bag. When it threatens to explode, I go through it and toss.

The only thing that forces me to stop procrastinating about cleaning is the arrival of unavoidable guests. We had two possible sets of unavoidable guests this past weekend. Neither of them materialized, but it was more than enough to get me cleaning.

The house looks great. It took only a few hours. I should wash the curtains and maybe the insides of the windows. I also need to declutter closets, drawers, and cabinets. Later. Someday. Right now, the apartment is decently clean, and I can see the pretty marble surface of my desk. Spring cleaning is over.

* Cleaning tips from the pros: Microfiber cloths are best for just about everything. Orange oil does wonders for wood; use sparingly. Play great music, loudly: I prefer The Clash and the Gypsy Kings.

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