Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cleaning Time

Today I washed the curtains, which were varying shades of gray and ecru. Some went through the wash cycle three times. Now they are beautifully white again, and I'm very pleased. Now I want the windows washed, but that's a scary job. The last time I had it done, one guy balanced outside, on the narrow ledges, while the other guy held onto his ankles. I huddled in a corner, afraid to look until they were done.

One of the perks of my having a writing project is that my cleaning schedule takes a deep slide into non-existence and I don't feel guilty. We live in student-type squalor, sharing space with dust bunnies the size of kittens. Everything stays covered in cat fur until I get a break. I keep up with laundry, clean sheets, food shopping, and dishwashing, but everything else pretty much goes to pot. My desk looks like an ad for a hoarding TV show piled with papers, mail, books, cat toys, packages, and all the stray objects I've gathered up that had been lying around the place so that, except for the catastrophe on my desk, the apartment appears neat. Filthy but neat.

I'm getting a break for about six days; I plan to spend it scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen, vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning out cabinets and drawers. I'm actually in the mood: I'm tired of the mess. I might even clean some wood floors. It won't help that I'm feeling like I lost a prizefight yesterday, after taking my first gym class in far too long. I hurt all over. They say that activity is the antidote for post-exercise stiffness, but it's been of no use so far. Fishing Wendy's toys out from under all the furniture nearly finished me off today.

On the Apartment Therapy site the other day, someone asked what motivates people to clean? A surprising number said, "Watching Hoarders on TV." I can relate to that although I don't watch TV. We have a hoarding relative, and whenever we visit her, I can't wait to go home and start throwing things out. That's also why the clutter all over the house ends up in heaps on my desk. When you start piling things on chairs, the bed, or the floor to "help you get organized," you are doomed.

Other people reported that they get motivated to clean for company, which I also do. One person wrote that she imagines her mother is coming over, although her mom has been dead for 27 years. I might try that. (With my own mother, not hers.)

* * *

Which reminds me: I found a huge rip in one of my curtains this morning, which had to be mended before I could wash it. I'm renowned for having sewed buttons to myself instead of to the correct article of clothing, but I did my best. It took awhile, and I realized how much time sewing provides for quiet sitting and thinking. All you can do (besides think and talk) is focus on putting that needle exactly where it belongs. I thought about how important this skill had been for almost all women for centuries, and how little it's needed today. I thought about how sewing would have been preferable to more active chores for some women but not for others.  I thought about what great seamstresses my mother and grandmother had been. My grandmother would make lacy wedding dresses for anyone who asked, including me — when I was four. It was gorgeous; I loved it. My mother made me a closet-full of dresses, and she quilted, embroidered, crocheted, and knitted as well. She made me a quilt for a Christmas surprise one year when I was in high school, and I still can't figure out how she managed to do all that time-consuming sewing in secret. I don't have any of her skills. If only I'd been wise enough to ask her to teach me, and patient enough to have learned.

"Oh, well," I thought, as I finished my pathetic repair job. "It's too late now." I gathered up the curtains, headed to the bathroom, and started putting them in the washer. Just in time, I spotted an orange ladybug crawling on one. When our mother died, nine years ago, my sister and I started noticing ladybugs appearing at odd times, in odd places. They were a favorite of our mother's. And we'd had a long-running joke about my mom's weird, inimitable way of pronouncing "orange."

I was so surprised to see this orange ladybug that I said, "Well, hello!" to it before I realized what I was doing. It hopped onto my finger and let me carry it to the window, where I set it free. Was it a visitation? I think so, and my sister agrees.

* * * 

In other news, my husband has discovered low-calorie soy ice cream from Trader Joe's. He says it's smooth, creamy, and doesn't taste fake. What he really said was, "It doesn't taste like poison," as he licked the spoon. I don't know... I believe in trying all kinds of food but I can't think of soy as food. It's more like a craft material. So I'm sticking with their mini whoopie pies. They're a nice little reward for keeping both writing projects and housecleaning on track.

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