Our neighbor keeps a rain gauge on the fence marking our shared property line. After a light rain, or after the sort of deluge we’ve been subjected to this last season, this gauge supplies a neutral topic of conversation, devoid of politics and stripped of world view. (His front yard sports a Trump-Pence sign: our side yard, judging by its blue and white sign, hasn’t given up on Bernie Sanders.) As long as neither side of the fence brings up global climate change, an observation on inches of rain per hour makes for a pleasant topic for a chat across the fence.
Though I’d like to, I usually can’t use the weather as an excuse for the state of my house. The one clear exception is tree pollen season — you can’t clean while that’s going on. But then one day you look out the window at your car and see the windshield isn’t yellow and then you know you’ve lost your good excuse and you have to clean the house.
But the rest of the year, I can’t blame the weather for a dirty house. Of course, as a person with a cluster of disabling symptoms aggravated by plunges and leaps in barometric pressure, any thunderstorm can bring me down and when I can’t do much of anything, housework is not an option. But that presumes I was even planning to clean.
Plastic bottle sealed at 14,000 feet (4267 m) on Mauna Kea observatory on the island of Hawaii, taken down to 9000 feet (2743 m) and then 1000 feet (305 m), where the change in air pressure had crushed it.
It’s true that I am the kind of person who straightens pictures frames as I walk through a room and sorts out the junk as I pull the mail from the mail box. I line up the shoes in my closet and square up the magazines. The knowledge of objects in one room that belong in another room causes me distress. Disorder is a kind of grief.
However, I can easily ignore a certain amount of dust and dirt. I put off vacuuming, scrubbing and dusting, and oiling furniture and Windexing glass until all of a sudden (it seems) I can write my grocery list in the dust on the buffet and I’m catching cobwebs in my hair when I walk through doorways.
I don’t like cleaning. There are so many more interesting things to do and so little time (and energy) to do them. Now that my husband is retired he does the vacuuming. But my part still requires a lot of moving around, and if I move around too much, I wear out quickly. People like me, with CFIDS or Fibromyalgia, have little or no stamina for exertion of any kind. If I clean, I probably won’t write or practice piano on the same day.
So it makes sense that I want to live in a clean, neat house AND I don’t want to clean it.
What would be useful around here is a sort of dust and dog hair gauge. It could be attached to the baseboard, say, and when it measured a certain size of dust bunny — one inch? two inches? ankle high? — I’d know it was time to clean. The dust couldn’t sneak up on me.
But we don’t have a dust gauge, so we’ll just have to continue setting our cleaning schedule the way we do now: Invite company and clean for two days before they show up.
How do you decide when it’s time to clean?
Or maybe you don’t?