Cleaning House, Keeping Maine In Order
Well, I’m having a hard time concentrating on my blog this morning because my house needs cleaning. I mean the “I can’t die today because if anyone saw the state of my house, I’d die” kind of dirty. I’ve been just flat-out busy and housekeeping got away from me, and now it’s driving me crazy!
Usually, my house is pretty much tidy and well kept. Not like my mother or my grandmother’s, of course. Their houses were spotless: knick-knacks free of dust, floors clean enough to eat off of, rugs vacuumed, bathrooms fresh as a daisy. And cobwebs? I never saw one inside the house growing up. My mother even had a special little brush she used to comb the fringe on the area rugs. I kid you not.
These were good Franco-American women who would take the dishes off the table while you were still eating, if you paused too long. They were that anxious to get the kitchen picked up. Women who did their spring cleaning every year, top to bottom, never fail. I don’t know anyone who spring cleans like that anymore. I mean, moving the furniture to vacuum underneath, taking the pictures off the walls and wiping them down, washing the walls and ceiling, even taking everything out of every cabinet and drawer and washing it, plus cleaning the entire stove and fridge. I’ve probably forgotten something, but I’m worn out just thinking about it! Even when my mom got cancer, she still did her spring cleaning. Only she’d do one room a week, my dad moving the furniture for her. Franco to the core!
I just try to keep things picked up, and the counter and stovetop wiped down. I vacuum, wash the floors, and clean the bathroom once a week, and dust every couple of weeks. And if someone is coming over, I always freshen up the bathroom and race around the house making sure it looks good.
Like today, this guy is coming to repair the oven (it’s not lighting for some reason) and I just have to at least pull the kitchen together before he arrives. I already scrubbed down the inside of the oven while I was eating breakfast, but I still have the racks to do.
As he’s going out the door, Charlie says, “Ida, why are you fussing? It’s just the stove repair guy.”
“I don’t know, Charlie. I wish I could just go with it, but I can’t. I’d feel like I was letting my mother down.”
I admire people who have a relaxed housekeeping style. I really do. I know someone who keeps a vacuum cleaner in her living room, like a piece of furniture or something. If company drops in unexpected, she says, “Oh, you’ll have to excuse the house. I was just in the middle of vacuuming.” The thing’s been there so long, the last time I visited, I saw cobwebs on the vacuum cleaner hose.
Then there’s the burning candles in the bathroom trick. That’s so guests at a party don’t have to turn on the light. It looks like the hosts are going for atmosphere, but really it’s a dead give away that they didn’t have time to clean the bathroom. Everything looks better by candlelight, even dusty baseboards. Which is a good thing, because it keeps me from sitting on the toilet, palms itching to find a dust cloth and get to work.
Both of these methods are beyond me, but I’m inspired by these folks’ ability to work the middle ground. They care what people think, but not enough to get compulsive about housework, so they’ve found a way around it. And they’re comfortable with it. That’s the part that’s hard for me. I just feel more myself when the house is in order, tidy and clean. It’s genetic.
I just hope I don’t turn into one of those crazy old Franco-American ladies, like ma Tante Laura, my father’s sister. Her house and yard were always spotless: lawn mowed a little too short, shrubs sculpted to within an inch of their life. Then she got dementia, and started cleaning other people’s houses. Ma Tante Laura would come to visit, and then disappear. We’d find her cleaning the bathroom or sweeping the garage. She took the finish off the top of a neighbor’s stove once, scrubbing it with steel wool. They were at a ball game, and left the back door unlocked. Ma Tante Laura let herself in and started cleaning. Folks in her neighborhood finally had to get an injunction against her because if ma Tante Laura felt they weren’t mowing their lawns short enough, or their shrubs needed pruning, she’d do it for them. Poor dear.
Oh, sugar! The stove repair guy’s here, and I still haven’t gotten to those oven racks!
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)