Saturday, August 1, 2009

On cleaning the house (or not).

I share a fairly small living space with one other person and three cats (so make it five people).

There is no yard or outdoor area we have to tend to, not so much as a single window box. We actually have a cleaning service come in every other week to do The Big Clean, and yet ...

... there is this unpleasant business of maintenance in-between times. I'm not talking just about the litter boxes, which in a small home without cross-ventilation demand at least twice daily scoop fests. (As Confucius sagely noted, where there's a poop fest there inevitably follows a scoop fest. Or the French Revolution).

No, it's just that water wearing on stone (or as I like to call it, Lysol on my nerves) everyday-ness of having to keep an eye on the various liquids and solids in the house. Things like the cats' water bowls in the middle of the room, nocturnally relocated by a certain cat who shall not be named.

She operates under stealth this one, moving the bowl a few feet sideways with a thousand tiny "tings" of her claws on the rim. Under cover of dark of course, so I wake up and jam my foot in it on the way to the bathroom. Who says cats don't communicate, much less have a sense of humor?

Moving on to the kitchen (and the cats all vote for that), what passes for cooking here naturally involves some preparation. This is as simple as tearing the strip off the box and making sure the silver bit inside is on top of the (Swanson) family pot pie, or as involved as making sure the tips of the spaghetti don't stick out of the pot. And there it is, the errant over-bubbling of water, the rinsing out of pots (nobody likes the pasta watermark), the scrubbing of the glass plate in the microwave.

Even the cleaning gals detest that one.
I realize that I'm long since past the days of having my Dad (or an otherwise fairly hopeless ex-husband) take the fall for the stinky trash, much less the reliable luxury of seeing Mom's hot, solid New England meals appear with clockwork regularity on the table. It's true that when my bed goes unmade (which it always does, unless company is coming) there is nobody to blame but myself. I don't actually blame myself, because really -- in the grand scheme of the Universe -- what's the big deal? Like a tree that falls in the forest with nobody to hear it, a closed door means my bedclothes remain a blissful non-issue.

In the shared space, the fault is squarely mine when the coffee table sags under mountains of magazines and overdue books. My enviably minimalist friend keeps just one (current!) publication on her nightstand. Someday science is going to find a gene for that.
It's also going to find that I don't have it, or anything remotely like it.

Where are all the back issues she hasn't read yet, awaiting cannibalization of the best bits? I lose sleep over this, I really do. How a person can live without all that paper is disturbing, on a par with the terrible mysteries of Lifetime holiday movies, the Bermuda Triangle and the neighbors who insist on keeping the Christmas decorations up all year long. I don't see the appeal of a wreath with deranged tinsel flapping in the heat of a July afternoon. Call me crazy.

In spite of our (her) best efforts to keep our household chaos to a minimum, the dust bunnies still quietly grow teeth and the (my) love seat is slowly turning the color of (three) cats hair. It's got a sort of tweedy look, if you squint in a certain light.
I rather like it.

In the final analysis, I am Oscar to my roommate's Felix. With sympathy for my entropy, she gamely tolerates the untidiness (a generous word for it) and I ponder the mystery of how she leaves nothing behind when exiting a room. Nothing left but a minor dent in the sofa pillow, and even that will discreetly correct itself within five minutes.

It's a good thing I am there to balance things out.


  1. If only there were cleaning faeries to sweep through in the night and tidy our human (and cat) messes! Wouldn't that be wonderful?

    I try my best to keep up with all the household chores, but of course it is a never-ending battle. The war on filth will never be won. It always comes back.

    My cat is so big and furry that he sheds the equivalent of three kitties. He also enjoys nosing half his food out of the dish, as well as playing scoot the water bowl across the kitchen tile. But he is so damn cute that I don't mind.

    Ah day maybe we will all have little robots or something to eliminate our messes. Until then, we must keep on with the cleaning duties.

    C'est la vie!

  2. I am an Oscar, too. I have magazines from the 80's on my nightstand. I love them, they are my friends. As a crafter, I have yet to figure out how not to infect the space around me with projects spilling out of their baskets. I feel sorry for my 'Felix' husband. He says he's given up (on a tidy house). Lindsey and I are both collectors too and that adds a certain amount of clutter to the place. I say it that way because to us, it's our collections and they're beautiful, but to my husband it is clutter. I obviously don't worry about the neatness of my home over the idea of an adventurous day out hunting more treasures. I'm just me, and me isn't having a tidy house. Twyla