whistlestop caboose

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

A history of my life in dust buffaloes

Some people have dust bunnies, those little bits of fluff that bear witness to a moment of inattention in the great housekeeping sweepstakes.

Once in a while we have dust bunnies. Most of the time we have dust buffaloes. They bear witness to weeks of inattention, what some people here prefer to think of as focusing on other things. Well, yes.

The day arrived - it was yesterday - when in a panic I announced that the house really had to be cleaned. Now, immediately, all of it. Well, maybe just the most conspicuous parts of it. Even I could see that all of it was more than a day's work. I used to have a cleaning woman. At that point my business was slightly different and I had clients visiting and people to whom I outsourced work would come to the office. I simplified my work, downsized, and decided I could do without the cleaning woman, since I seemed to spend 1/2 day a week tiptoeing around her. The family assured me this was fine, that we would all chip in to clean regularly. If anyone had the option of sleeping in on the day the cleaning woman came, or if anyone was sick, this would no longer be a problem. We could probably go out to a nice restaurant sometimes on the money we saved.

Frankly, it didn't work. That was 7 months ago and the house has - well, you don't want to know when it was last cleaned, do you? As for the restaurant meals, they degenerated into hurried pizzas at home when we didn't have time for real meals.

Now here was my logic yesterday: the accountant was coming to close the 2005 books for my company and prepare the tax return with me. The office is part of our living space, much of which is an open area, so I would somehow have to get him in the door, past two bedrooms and several spaces that include corners for cooking, eating and all those other untidy things we do during a typical day. He, being a man of numbers, probably has a tidy mind and he would be shocked to see such unkempt quarters. I, being disturbed to see him shocked, would probably have trouble following his arguments about closing the accounts and making decisions about whether I am poor or rich this year, for these are not realities, they are accounting decisions, in my experience.

We chased buffalo most of the day. I coughed and had to scrub off the grime several times, but I convinced the cleaning gang (those who helped create the grime in the first place) that the time had come to throw out Old Stuff. My son is leaving home and we agreed that it makes no sense to keep books for 8 year-old boys or board games for rainy days with visiting grannies. Yes, they were called bored games, for days when he was really bored.

By the time the accountant came, early in the morning, I had seen much of my life from the past two decades gallop before me and away, on the backs of the dust buffaloes. Gone now are the bits of old jewelry saved for a short-lived post-summer camp beading frenzy. Gone are the mysterious medicines and heat rubs for injuries and ailments from the summer of '94, the Indian spices from a curry binge in 1996. Brochures about visiting penguins at the South Pole, and riding a motorcyle across Lapland in Finland to see the autumn colors: I remembered the year I fancied those trips but had to settle for staying at home when a magazine I worked for went broke and didn't pay me.

I can't say it was fun, but the air did seem a little better at the end of the day. I doubt the accountant noticed anything other than a strong blend of furniture polish and floor cleaner, still lingering in the air.

Buffalo-free, I was able to concentrate and follow him, more or less, when he said I would either pay taxes or get a reimbursement. That's what I love about accounting: it is such a black and white, tidy business.


Blogger christin m p in massachusetts said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this. I'm always wondering how other people are able to get so many remarkable things accomplished, while still managing to keep everything perfectly clean and orderly. Sometimes I swear other people have cleaning fairies that come out and scrub and polish everything, while their beneficiaries are busy getting more memorable things done. Even with just one full-time job, the best I can manage on the weekdays is "damage control". Then I end up using a good portion of the weekend to catch up on all the chores I didn't have time for during the week. I probably used to get more done before I started using the internet, but it's tough to say no to such easy access to information, along with all the free entertainment it provides.

Reading posts like this one and Chris C.'s post about the cleaning frenzy, are such a relief. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one out here muddling through the thankless daily tasks.

11:19 AM  
Blogger whistlestop caboose said...

Christin, I know very few people who really manage a lot AND keep thngs around them clean and orderly, unless they have help - not an option for everyone. The few people I have met who manage this either don't have children or they drive themselves crazy trying to maintain the front that this is easy to do. Even if you love housecleaning, it isn't easy to do! The only thing I can think of that acts as a festering thorn in relationships, as much as this, is different views on money. I have one very close friend who used to keep a beautifully tidy house. The constant presence of a dustrag and ghost who picked up cups he'd just set down really angered her husband. To save their marriage they decided on a compromise: six months of housecleaning perfection and six months of absolutely no housecleaning beyond the essential laundry and dirty dishes. It worked: he couldn't stand the pigpen any more than she could, and she couldn't stand the manic cleaning that possessed them and relegated everything else in their lives to the background, any more than he could.

In my case, when I was single and lived alone I loved having a tidy place that was clean. The sense of control over my surroundings was delicious. I married a man who likes things clean but it is not a priority and he works most happily in a muddle of papers, which I don't. Then along came children, who add even more clutter and who really don't see the point of cleaning when you are just going to track in more mud, not to mention put snail collections under your bed. But the turning point was having an autistic child, who is utterly oblivious to all of this, and who makes a constant mess. Either I love her and love them and live with the mess or I worry and fret and clean and get depressed because I'm losing on all fronts.

Put that way, the choice seemed easy: live with it, and get some help now and again. But I allow myself a couple days a year to rant and rave and clean like mad. At one ponit I grabbed large garbage bags and put everything that was sitting out into them, and locked them away in the cellar, which didn't make me any friends.

The predictable happened: a couple days later I couldn't find my shoes. Took a long time to fight my way to the bottom of that bag to get them, and even longer to laugh at myself.

10:21 AM  

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