Cleaning Up For A Brand-new Year
Wednesday - January 06, 2010
Late, late, late. Here it is the week after the week after Christmas, and I am sitting on the sofa gazing at the damn tree. Yup, it’s still there in the corner of our living room, its branches drooping lower and lower under the weight of all those ornaments and thousands of little twinkly lights.
It was a beautiful tree, but now it’s tired.
I love Christmas. And New Year’s Eve is exciting. But then comes the inevitable let down. By the time the holidays are over, we are so ready to move on. The glitz is pretty and fun, until it isn’t anymore, and then everyone’s ready for it all to go away.
And every year for some reason my “helpers” (hubby and son) tend to disappear like guilty ghosts when it comes time to take down the glitter. Oh, they have good excuses - uh, I mean reasons - for their yearly non-participation: school, work, blah blah blah. Yeah, I know, and actually, I really don’t mind.
I see the cleaning up as part of the renewal process: physical, mental and spiritual. I look forward to being alone with my thoughts in my silent house. I take my time, plucking each glittery ornament from its place on the branch- the glass balls and crystal drops, the tiny pictures in gilt frames and the tree topper, Saint Nick with a snowy beard and flowing white robes. I snuggle them into cardboard boxes, wrap them up in layers of tissue paper, then put them away in their various resting places: the walnut armoire, the downstairs closet, the antique Korean tansu. They will sleep, and I will forget all about them until December rolls around again.
I know a lot of people hate this part - the cleanup. But, strangely enough, I love it.
I wasn’t always like this. In fact, I used to be quite the slob. Just ask my mom, my sisters, even my husband. When he picked me up for our first date I remember him gingerly stepping over the clothes and stuff strewn on the floor of my cramped little apartment. He was too polite (or maybe bewitched?) to say anything about my obvious lack of housekeeping skills. He told me later - much later - that he was just a little shocked and maybe a little afraid of what might come crawling out of the dust bunnies lurking under the bed. Needless to say, we spent most of our time at his place.
I read something funny on the Internet the other day, by a woman who absolutely hates housework. She knows all the tricks of surviving the holiday season without stressing and trying to be the perfect wife, mother, decorator, chef and house cleaner. She’s come up with some strategies she swears will make your life a heck of a lot easier:
1. If you have kids around ... play the “clean-up” game. You know, see how fast everyone can pick up toys, shoes, etc. (No young kids for me, but my nephews are really good at this game.)
2. I put a dryer sheet (Downy) on the back of a little fan for a little while and it smells like my condo’s been doing laundry. (Doesn’t necessarily help you clean ... but the fresh smell feels productive.)
3. Dirty dishes can be hidden placed under the sink, in the dishwasher ... even in the oven in a pinch. (Just make sure you remember to take them out of the oven before you set it to preheat. Yup ... it happened.)
4. Open spare bedroom/office door and pitch everything and anything that needs to be out of sight. Lock door.
“And if all else fails ... your mood lighting, along with a little mood music, sounds grand!”
After I chuckled and shook my head I realized I’d actually done some of those things. When I was in college I hid my dirty dishes under the bed in my dorm room. My roommate hated me. How did I know this? The big clue was when she requested another room ... in a different dorm ... in a different part of the campus.
I’ve done the “throw everything in the spare room” trick, too. Who hasn’t?
So yes, I’ve changed. Maybe to please my husband, or maybe I just grew up. I’m still not the neatest person in the world, but I do like an uncluttered home and clean bathrooms. And cleaning up after the holidays now feels not like a burden, but a labor of love.
It’s like taking a deep, cleansing breath. Clean home, new attitude, fresh start.
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