Okay, so I cleaned my house the other day. I’m not proud of it, but sometimes it just happens. What happened was that I needed to go to the dump. See where we live, A. There is no garbage service, and B. We generate garbage. I have not yet figured out how to not generate garbage. Wal-mart doesn’t seem to sell the handy Recyclohome, home recycling center, and in spite of the fact that we own 100 acres, I’m pretty sure the neighbors would notice if we started to bury it all back in the canyon. So trips to the dump are SOP, literally Sort Of Problematic because the dump is in another state and is only open two days a week so you have to plan these things out. I usually end up going every 3-4 weeks. In the fall, if I plan carefully, I time it so that I can go by school and watch the football game too.
Now, your normal trip to the dump does not always precipitate a house cleaning on my part, but this trip happened to coincide with my reaching critical mass. I don’t know how you clean your house, but the “Critical Mass Method” is how I clean my house. This is the method whereby you keep noticing the clutter but not doing anything about it until one day, you get tired of looking at all the little dead bug bodies on the bathroom counter and actually begin cleaning something.
My mother-in-law, on the other hand uses the Good Housekeeping approved method of actually cleaning the dirt up when she sees it. She is the absolute stereotypical, cliché, sitcom mother-in-law. Her house looks like the staff from Architectural Digest, or maybe Sunset Magazine just finished up a photo shoot, only you never see them because she made them hide, along with all of their equipment, in the closet when she saw you coming up the driveway so the place wouldn’t look cluttered. This is how she operates: Say she is sitting innocently on the toilet doing what people normally do there and she looks up and notices a cobweb in the corner of the bathroom. She will immediately (upon finishing her business) proceed to find a long handled brush or let’s say a small shop vac, which is what I would use. But let’s say the shop vac is in the garage because my father-in-law has been using it to vacuum his boat, which is where it would be in my house. She will immediately ask him in strenuous tones to indicate that this is IMPORTANT to please bring it into the house so that she can remove the cobweb. He will do so (muttering under his breath because all of the Soule men mutter under their breath when put upon by their wives), and he will gallantly remove the cobweb himself because the Soule men are gallant that way. My Mother-in-law will then suggest that next time he makes a trip to Home Depot (they don’t shop at Wal-Mart) maybe he should buy his own shop vac to keep in the garage strictly for boat vacuuming purposes.
This is how it works in my house. I will notice as I am sitting on the toilet that there is a cobweb (usually it includes a spider in my house) in the corner. I will think, “huh, there is a cobweb in the corner.”
I will immediately forget about the whole thing until the next time I use the bathroom. You see, I’m okay with the spider unless it decides it’s a good idea to move into my shower. I have been carefully weeding out the spider gene pool to remove the shower-dwelling gene for several years now and I think I’m beginning to have some success at that. So the spider is really only in danger if I get the shop vac to clean up the cobwebs because then, it just makes sense to remove the spider as well. In fact, the spider has a better than even chance of living a long and healthy life in my bathroom corner because the next thing that happens is that one day, I accidently happen to notice that the shop vac is not in the closet where it belongs.
Several days (or maybe years) after this, I will actually ask David where the shop vac is. He will tell me it is in the garage because he has been using it to vacuum his boat and I will say in a very non-strenuous tone “huh, well if you get a chance, bring it in the house so I can use it sometime.”
Then one day as I am walking into the living room, I will trip over the shop vac and think “huh, David moved that into the house.”
Then, finally, after much time has passed, after I have tripped over the shop vac 47,000 times, after the spider has died of old age and is just a desiccated little exoskeleton hanging limply from one of the now multitude of cobwebs draped artfully around my bathroom to the envy of haunted house designers everywhere, I will reach critical mass and I will know that it is time to clean the house.
Only I don’t have time to clean the house… So I will think about cleaning the house—while I am off riding at a clinic or on the Alzheimer’s ride—while I am off sailing with David on the Delta or Tahoe—while I am visiting my mom—while I am at work. Until finally, one weekend, the stars align and I need to go to the dump anyway and my horse is lame and David has gone off hiking and I have time—and THEN and ONLY THEN, will I clean the house.
The cleaning itself is pretty unremarkable. There is the usual amount of windex and pledge involved. But most of what makes up cleaning in my house is REMOVING CLUTTER (so having this coincide with a dump trip is a pretty good idea). Only a portion of the clutter actually goes to the dump. Most of the clutter is just stuff that has managed to crawl out of whatever place it actually belongs so that it can commune with the other clutter on some flat surface. Right now, if you go into my laundry room, you will find at least two of my ball caps on the counter or on top of the dryer. Why aren’t they hanging neatly on their hooks? Good question. And there are at least 10 pairs of shoes there. This might make sense in some cultures, but at least 6 pairs of them ought to be in the bedroom closet. Coffee table? Books that ought to be on the book shelves. Dining room table? David’s sailing/camping stuff that has inexplicably clawed its way out of its storage container and is attempting to scuttle off of the table and into whatever dark corners it can find.
And the knick-knacks! There is the decorative Grappa bottle displayed in the living room waiting, I presume, to be joined by other decorative Grappa bottles in the future. I have to ask myself why I would want to broadcast how much Grappa I drink to casual visitors (one bottle folks—it is still waiting!). I have to ask myself if I can really drink enough Grappa to make up a collection worth talking about after I get out of rehab and assuming I haven’t just blacked out the entire concept of collecting Grappa bottles. I have to ask myself if I shouldn’t just recycle it right now and get it over with!
Which brings us to my Mother-in-law’s deepest darkest cleaning secret. She CONTROLS CLUTTER (with an iron fist)! If you look in any one of her closets, you will find where all of her clutter hides—banished there along with the Sunset photographers and their equipment. Every few months, her house has a new “theme” wherein she allows certain items of clutter a reprieve from the dark, as it were, and banishes the old theme items to the closet. If I were to pull this off, I would need about 8 more closets! Still, I often think maybe I should spend about an hour once a week banishing clutter—hahahahahahahahaha…