What is it About Cleaning?

OK fellow writers and readers – I’ll tell you one thing about me – two hours of cabin cleaning makes the writer’s desk that I couldn’t get away from fast enough this morning, look pretty darned good!

The other day I was fortunate enough to read a great little blog post by The Jilted Genius – entitled Monday Muse  The Genius mentions the Monday morning blahs of coming back from her walk to an apartment that needs cleaning. The words really struck a chord with me.

What is it about cleaning? I am a well-organized person – except when it comes to cleaning. I have always wanted to be one of those people who are super organized about housework – the type of person who schedules certain jobs and keeps up with things. This person – who lives only in my imagination – approaches the daily tasks of cleaning with the calm of a koi swimming idly in a peaceful pond among the beautifully blooming water lilies – swishing gently to and fro through the cleaning tasks with dignity. Well – suffice to say I have never achieved this Zen of Cleaning. I am always behind the eight ball. Jobs get done because we’re having company or because I have reached my maximum level of tolerance for mess – or my maximum level of denial about what is actually surrounding me. Call it what you will. I tear madly through the cabin looking like something from a horror movie – on my face is a look of pure malevolence – all I need is a chainsaw screaming in my hand, waving it over my head to complete the picture. I literally want to kill every person who has put a single thing out-of-place in this cabin. To hell with the fact that there is only Bruce and I and the dog – and we can safely assume the dog doesn’t misplace her things. I assure you, I am as messy as Bruce so my homicidal thoughts are definitely uncalled for.

When I taught at the university and lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in the city – mostly all by myself – I had to hire a cleaning lady. I couldn’t seem to organize myself to clean the bathroom – ever. Like that Taylor Swift song – never – I mean like never, ever. It was embarrassing. I claimed I was too busy teaching and holding down a couple of research positions. The reality is that I have always viewed my life as one that is too busy for cleaning.

It’s the starting that is the biggest challenge. I liken this to the anxiety that can often accompany the beginning a writing project – be it a paper, an article, or a work of fiction. There is this poised on the edge feeling that I find quite uncomfortable. I suppose it’s about knowing you have to step over that edge into something else. I usually bargain with myself a bit. I say something like – OK – I’ll do this for thirty minutes and then stop. Or I put some music on and challenge myself – can I finish 1000 words before the end of this album? Can I get the bathroom done in fifteen minutes? Once I do start – on the writing or the cleaning – the anxiety disappears along with the need for bargaining and challenging. And of course, like many of you, when I push the chair away from the desk after a good day’s work, or put the vacuum cleaner away and look around the tidy cabin – there is this amazing sense of satisfaction. I always tell myself – remember this – remember how good it feels when you’re done. But – I never do. I mean never – like never, ever.

Lake Tahoe – me being way too busy for cleaning

2 comments on “What is it About Cleaning?

  1. maggie says:

    I’m with you about housework. It’s definitely reduced with no pets – other than a husband – mine who likes to wear slippers everywhere outside before coming inside. Why do husbands always get that look when you get out the vacuum? It’s bad enough to have to do it anyway vwithout their pained expressions.

    • Welcome to the blog, Maggie – great to see your comment. I wish husbands would look at the vacuum and say – oh gee, dear – I see you are about to put in 30 minutes or so of hard work with that thing – I will be very careful for the next half day to not walk in with my dirty shoes on and then make sure I walk over every carpet in the house before I find what I need. All I ask is half a day! Oh well – what can you do?

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