Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back to the grind

I have finally forced upon my lazy self the realization that summer is nearly spent, and with it, its indolent ways.

So I guess that means the girls and I are going to have to get back to our regularly scheduled housekeeping again. During the summer, you'd be surprised at how easy it is for me to avoid cobwebs hanging from the crown molding - our ceilings are very tall and just so long as I can keep my eyes firmly fastened at around the eight foot mark, I'm fine. Ditto to dust on high places, like the top of the fridge and the china cabinet and the bookcases.

Low stuff is a bit more difficult because I was brought up by a mother who insisted on dusting the baseboards with old toothbrushes, but I have trained my eye to seek out the middle distance. If the middle distance includes a piano bench with sheet music spilling off it onto the floor or a dining room table piled so high with HISTO binders and books on ancient Greece and Shakespeare books and an absolute welter of highlighter markers, ink pens and sticky index tabs that have escaped from their package, I just shut my eyes and feel my way into the kitchen. I can tell that's where I am because of fourteen tomatoes on the windowsill next to a picture of the Pope and three dirty cereal bowls in the sink, which is right next to the EMPTY dishwasher.

Something changes in the fall, and it might have something to do with the fact that we spend a lot more time in the house. If I have to be indoors a great deal of the time, I can't abide the disorder. It weighs me down like a college dictionary on a Twinkie. That's not to say that clutter doesn't mysteriously seem to build up, but I have found a voice modulation technique (VMT hereafter) that works very well. It goes like this: "IF YOU TWO DON'T PICK UP YOUR CRAP, I AM GOING TO PUT EVERY BIT OF IT I FIND IN A BOX AND DRIVE IT OVER TO ST. VINCENT DE PAUL!! AND I'M LEAVING IN TEN MINUTES!!!"

In our house, we ascribe to the "do a little every day, that's what keeps the dirt away" theory. We clean, dust and vaccuum the upstairs on Monday and Tuesday and do the downstairs late in the week, looking ahead to the time when company might presumably be invited or drop by.

The girls do the sinks and the countertops in the bathrooms every day - or at least they're supposed to. I've found the VMT to work wonders in producing shiny sinks as well. They're also in charge of the bathroom wastebaskets. I do the upstairs bathtub; my husband cleans the downstairs shower. I clean the toilets and Swiffer the bathroom floors.

Upstairs, the girls trade off on sweeping and dusting their bedroom and the playroom. I do the small upstairs hallway and my bedroom. My husband sweeps the stairs and the landing.

Downstairs, the girls clean, dust and sweep the living room, dining room and foyer, all except for my desk in the dining room, which is my private domain. I take charge of the kitchen and laundry room which, heaven help me, includes sweeping out the dogs' crates and washing their bedding.

I cook dinner; the girls do the dishes. I load the dishwasher with breakfast and lunch dishes; the girls unload it when the dishes are clean. My husband washes, dries and folds all the laundry, asking only that the three of us put ours away, which is a pretty darned good deal.

Every night before we go to bed, we are all bound to scout the downstairs and carry up any superfluous belongings that are junking up the place. My husband was in the army before we married and it absolutely ruined him for clutter. He becomes visibly nervous when a single barrette is lying innocently on an end table. Drives him bonkers.

He is always very pleased when fall comes around and he can finally dry his palms on his Dockers and really enjoy our home. He is often so contented with life in a dustless, clutter-free home that he comes home from work around Michaelmas, bearing pots of hardy mums in many colors, and pumpkins, white and mellow orange.

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