People who live in similar climates will understand my pure joy last Friday when it was finally, finally warm enough to wash my car without fear of the doors freezing solidly shut. My car was layered with crusts of road salt, such that it was difficult to see out the parts of the windows that wipers cannot touch, and my side mirrors were similarly fuzzy. You may be asking yourself why wouldn’t I just wash the windows when filling up for gas, but when it is that bitterly cold the thought of having washer fluid drip on my already frozen Reynaud’s hands was just too much to bear. Happily, the weather has changed, but not without a few snowfalls in the past week, which have sadly resulted in my car being fuzzily covered with road salt and muck yet again; although with a mild forecast, this feels less depressing.
The car was not the only thing benefiting from a wash last week; I also cleaned my oven. This might not seem like the most exciting news, but it certainly was to me. I know it’s not a popular thing to admit, but I houseclean a lot. I have many friends who enjoy cleaning services, but here’s the thing: I LIKE cleaning. I know! It’s not an interesting or exciting personality trait, but it’s the truth. My bathrooms are cleaned every other day, as are the floors, the kitchen is always fairly sparkling, and all surfaces are dusted weekly. Every month or so I’ll crazily go on a cleaning-binge on things that are not on the regular rotation: the fridge, the kitchen cupboards, the baseboards, the walls in the mudroom. But the oven is largely neglected because it feels like such a COMMITMENT. I use the oven almost daily and so in order to clean it I need the ultimate trifecta: a day of no oven usage, a can of oven cleaner, and a free afternoon. It’s hard to get all three at the same time, and I feel that I must make a note here: I have previously tried cleaning the oven with various hippie homemade products utilizing vinegar and baking soda, and I will say that the results are less than optimal. So I put on my shopping list a can of fume-free Easy Off, despite my general aversion to such products, because there was going to be no way that I would spend that kind of time and energy for an oven that was largely unchanged in appearance. I did, however, soak the racks in hot water and vinegar, with decent results.
Last Thursday I had nothing to bake – muffins having been baked the day before and even my kids do not consume an entire batch in less than 24 hours – and it was Wrap Night, so I liberally sprayed the oven with the fume-free-but-probably-really-toxic cleaner in the morning before going to teach. And I will tell you this: by the time I got around to cleaning it, at approximately 3pm, it was like magic. I felt like I was in a commercial, smoothly wiping off the grossness of my oven with one clean swipe. The exception was the oven door, which took two applications of Easy-Off and killed two scouring sponges.
I was so excited by this, I felt the need to carry on. Maybe it was the fume-free oven cleaner, but I moved all the furniture in the living room to sweep underneath, I scrubbed the floor tiles in the downstairs bathroom and hallway, and then I wandered around the house feeling exhilarated and in need of more things to clean, like a zombie searching out brains or my dog searching out discarded tissues on the sidewalk. MUST CLEAN EVERYTHING. By the time I finished all that and wandered around, though, it was Dinner Prep Time, so I had to settle myself down a little and be contented with cleaning out the kitchen sink.
Years ago my friend Hannah (HI HANNAH) wrote about the Flylady’s method of shining one’s sink. This is not a euphemism, we are talking literally about making your kitchen sink shiny. It made me laugh hysterically and also covet a shiny sink. I followed the directions, and I will tell you, that is one miraculous way to clean a sink. I have not done the full thing since then – the first step is to fill the sink with bleach and hot water, which I don’t want to do as it seems wasteful – but every morning before I leave the house I spritz down the sink with my hippie non-toxic cleanser, wipe it down, and then – this is the KEY, people – dry it off with a soft towel. The Flylady talks about how shining the sink is a way to give yourself a little love and motivation, which is absolutely ridiculous, and yet, it is the most satisfying thing to do. Why that is, I don’t know. All I know is that when I get home later in the day, I derive great satisfaction from my clean, shiny sink. Hello, you, I say to the clean sink in my head, before filling it up with dishes and soap suds.
I remember back in university, a friend expressed great disbelief on the discovery that I make my bed every day. What a waste of time, she said, You’re just going to make it messy again. Well, isn’t that EVERY household chore? Should we all just wallow in our own filth because things will get dirty after we clean them? Should we wear food-stained clothes and stop showering? Why floss your teeth if you’re just going to eat again? Even more than a shiny sink, a made bed gives me much satisfaction: it’s nice to look at, and at the end of the day, it is lovely to get into a cozily straightened bed. Also, it takes me less than sixty seconds to make my bed, and that includes pillow shams and decorative pillows. It takes me longer to put on my compression running socks. It takes me longer to put on normal clothes. It takes me longer to do every single thing I do every single morning, so I do not see this as a waste of time. One of the first chores my kids ever had was to make their beds, and I always feel a little vindicated when I see some kind of meme that talks about bed-making as some kind of indication of personal success.
Well, we are all different. I shyly told a friend who owns a cleaning service that I actually really like cleaning the house. I know! she said cheerfully, It’s instant gratification. Some of you might find that a sad way to get instant gratification, but here we are. My Grandma Fern was a force to be reckoned with, and one thing she absolutely hated was any child, but particularly one of her grandchildren, saying “I’m bored.” You would never say that to her without consequences, and I was never stupid enough to do so, but one day when I was staying with her I told her I was looking for something to do. A project, if you will. I didn’t say the loathed words, so she did not snap at me, but she did suggest maybe I’d like to mop her kitchen floor. I’ll never know if she was serious, but I excitedly grabbed the mop and went to town. I was probably ten or so; by the time I was sixteen I was thinking about the day I’d move out and get my own apartment with my very own cleaning supplies. I am now living the dream, people. I can buy any cleaning supplies I like. Follow your dreams. xo