Cleaning is for Sisyphusses

365 Days of Writing Prompt: Does a messy house make you nervous and cranky, or do you clean just before company comes over?

It’s both. Since I have a child, three cats and two parakeets, my floors are always covered in toys, nerf darts, cat hair, and bird seed. Plus no small amount of grass clippings or leaves that have been tracked in. All three are a daily struggle.

Step 1: Vacuum the hairballs

Step 2: Feel satisfied

Step 3: The next day, feel aggravated that hairballs have magically re-appeared, so leave them until next week when they’re larger and easier to see.

You can substitute birdseed or grass in step 1.

First thing each morning, when we get the glorious first light through our back windows, I can’t enjoy it, because all it does is highlight the mess on the floor. I can see each errant strand of cat hair, crumb from our previous nights’ meal, and all those little drips that never got wiped up, and are now dirty circles on the hardwood. And then each evening, woe is me when the light comes through the very high front windows, not only showing off the odds and ends that have accumulated on that side of the house, but also all the dust and pet dander in the air.

I love having a clean house, but sadly, it usually only gets cleaned before company arrives. I am usually dusting the diningroom table moments before the doorbell rings. You can only imagine how my back hurts after a long day of cleaning, obsessing over each nook, cranny, and flat surface, and putting everything that can’t be thrown away into a drawer, only to be rediscovered after several months. Have you ever seen a cartoon where someone opens a closet door and an avalance buries that person? This would happen if any of my guests ever decided to have a nosy peek into the hall closet. I will only open it if I have one hand already outstretched to catch anything that might jump out at me.  Certainly, any unannounced visitor who needed to use our guest restroom would understand very quickly that we have two guys living in this house, and neither of them have very good aim, nor seem to be bothered by the smell in that area.

The sad truth is, though, that I despise cleaning because I know where it will lead. The simple act of throwing out a few old items from the refrigerator will lead to a major overhaul during which I have to empty the entire refrigerator onto the counter, and then wash out each and every bin, shelf, and container, dry them thoroughly, and then re-insert the condiments in order of color, jar height, and frequency of use. My bedroom closet could take three to four hours (and then I would probably just end up putting everything back in there – just in a neater fashion), and it’s not all that big. I can’t help it. It’s not clean until it’s clean, and if it doesn’t sparkle, I feel let down. If I know that it isn’t going to sparkle in less than an hour, I’d rather leave it until I can no longer stand it. I leave it even though I know how much longer it will take at some future date, but by then, I might just be mad enough to actually finish what I started.

I write this in my office. On my desk are two thumbdrives, an empty “Rainbow Loom” box, various papers that don’t really go anywhere so they are placed in a semi-stack, some old bills, an iPod plug that is missing its cord, a tiny bubblegum machine, and some Christmas ribbon that never got put back in the closet. There are also packets of rubberbands, 4 bracelets, a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces, and some candy wrappers. I won’t get started on all the crap that has accumulated in here, such as a drum set, two chairs, and on and on. The last time I cleaned this room, it was so organized and neat that additional stuff was brought in. Now where do I put it? .

I wish it were clean. I wish I had the energy to clean it. I don’t think it makes me “nervous and cranky”, though. It makes me better at having the strength to accept the things that I cannot change. I can vacuum the hair, but pushing the same rock up the hill everyday becomes tiresome. Some days I can ignore the rock completely, but there are others when I just wish I had a stick of dynamite.