I vacuumed today. The whole house.
I cleaned the bathrooms, scrubbed the kitchen floor and even straightened out the bookcase in the den.
No big deal, right? Wrong.
But let me explain: I hate housework. It’s too often thankless, repetitive, even frustrating work. And the Catch 22: you know you’re going to have to do it all over again before you want to.
Despite all that, there’s something amazingly restorative about plunging into the task of making a house clean — at least for me. And when that home really is in dire need of rescue, it’s somehow even more satisfying.
OK — call me crazy. But it was gratifying to go over floors that have been trampled on, rooms that have been too long ignored and, most recently, have been visited by three grandchildren. That brief youthful rampage in our empty nest surely added to the need quotient.
I wanted to return to the calm, the quiet and the basics. And cleaning somehow is about as basic as it gets.
I found myself actually humming as I wiped down tables with lemon oil, sprayed foamy cleaners that smelled like evergreen into bathrooms, and wiped away dust.
Something about cleaning takes me back to a far simpler stage of my own life, and maybe even the life of the world. I don’t mean to sound cosmic or mysterious, but cleaning is truly primal. I’m sure women in caves must have felt the instinct to get those club marks off the cave walls and to clear away the pebbles on the floor.
I actually turned down the offer of help from my husband, who was perfectly willing to join in the campaign. I’m not sure why.
There was something about the solitude, the feeling of wandering into rooms that even after years here still feel full of potential.
I transposed plants and bowls and a couple of throw pillows. And I loved the instant gratification — mine alone, this time — of fussing and fixing.
Lunch was an apple eaten on the run. By midday, I’d established a rhythm that I didn’t want to lose. And I know myself well: one lingering noontime pause, and I might never return to the rooms still awaiting that vacuum and mop.
The room we’ve dubbed the “dormitory” — an upstairs room with sloping ceilings and a window seat — was the greatest challenge. Already the catchall spot, and the place where visiting grandkids sleep, it had attracted the debris that had no other home. Clearing it once and for all — well, a triumph easier felt than explained.
By day’s end, I was sweaty, exhausted and achy. I’d probably used some muscles and tendons that hadn’t been tested recently. I also was strangely at peace.
Everywhere I looked, things gleamed. The old desk had taken on a kind of patina that may have been there all along, but surely not noticed. The drapes were hanging evenly after being a bit off-kilter. The family room was at last — and no doubt temporarily — empty of clutter. The trail of cupcake crumbs that Danny had scattered … scooped up in the vacuum bag.
For just a few moments, as dusk settled around our house, I plopped down on our living room sofa and just stared outside at the sky.
These last few weeks had been daunting and difficult. Not much time for just decompressing.
But on this day, at this moment, our house was clean. Every room all at once.
All was right with the world.
There are still miracles. ••