It all started with the floors. As the holidays careened toward their inevitable conclusion and the hope of a New Year was poised on the figurative horizon, all I could see was my filthy floors. Prior to the arrival of my seasonal company, I should have finished the preparations with the floors clean. However, a few unplanned visits to the doctor’s office had stolen my opportunity. By Christmas day, my floors were so ever-loving disgusting that I cringed when the heavenly morning sunbeam shone on the miscellaneous crud at the kitchen threshold. During our brunch preparation, as food was dripping and dropping onto the kitchen floor, I was thankful for the camouflage properties of the new cork flooring. Three days later, my houseguests made hasty plans for a day trip after my “floor cleaning day” announcement. Time wouldn’t permit the use of the steam cleaner I’d borrowed from my sister-in-law. I barely managed to vacuum the first floor and was three mop strokes from finishing the kitchen floor, still clad in my stinky running attire, when the doorbell rang with yet another visitor.
The New Year loomed ahead but I was not concerned with getting tipsy on bubbly and professing my resolutions. Instead, I listened to the tick-tock of my primal inner housekeeping clock. Randomly and maniacally, I flitted from room to room performing compulsive tasks which seemed the dance steps to this inner rhythm. I began to clean, organize, label, purge, fix, and decorate everything in my frenzied path. Much like the nesting urge of an expectant mother, it was time to birth a new year. The madness which began with the filthy wooden floors, spread to the pantry cabinet and closets. The bed linens in the guest bedroom might still have been warm when I tore them from their happy nest and marched them to the laundry room. If only time-off was time-off, a holiday actually a holiday or a vacation felt like a vacation. My inner housekeeping timetable apparently disregards sentimentality and semantics.
What is it about clean floors? From Protestants to Puritans, many agree there is righteousness to a clean floor. I randomly and unscientifically polled some women friends to get their thoughts. One said she felt like Super Mom when she cleaned her floor. Her clean floor was safe for her bambinos to crawl upon, whereas, prior to motherhood, she had no recollection of floors. Another said cleaning was evil. Another said, since the cleaning of the floor is the final task, it is then shiny waxy cherry on top of the clean house sundae. Proof that you and your cleaning are complete. A time-honored accomplishment valued by our mothers and their mothers before them. I think my clean floor feels momentarily like my soul and karma are clean. Or, I just have a clean floor which will be dirty in forty-nine seconds because, “Hark,” I hear the pitter patter of dirty little feet en route to accidentally knock over his juice for the fifth time this week.
“A place for everything and everything in its place,” is the phrase that embodies the goal of the organizational mania. If only the people selling you all the stuff to create magnificent magical clutter-free closets and garages would come over and help, we’d all be set. I’ll bet their closets don’t look as good as yours do. “A bin for everything and everything in its bin,” would be more truthful. I couldn’t say no to those three gargantuan six dollar red and green end of season Tupperware bins. I plotted out loud to my husband in the large chain store,” If I put my ornaments in those, I free up the others to organize the rest of the stuff in the attic.” And then I asked, “Would you please carry them to the car?” He didn’t flinch, God love him.
I am all about organizational tools and systems but even I’m not kooky enough to buy a label maker. My labeling method for leftovers is masking tape. It works well for denoting food storage destinations in the pantry as well. I tried organizing my linen closet this way but it didn’t go very well. The towels were afraid they’d lose their jobs to younger towels and the tablecloths got an attitude when they were shoved to the back. The best two tips I can offer up for a tidy linen closet are a) pack your sheet sets inside a pillowcase for grab and go bed making and b) pitch your unused stuff. Maybe the second tip is a no-brainer but you can go find a multitude of better tips from those tip lists in publications everywhere. Or maybe you were hoping I would confirm those rumors about a helpful closet fairy? She likes seeing you make an effort first. Think of the giveaway bag you fill as an offering to her and maybe she’ll California Closet you for your devotion.
My fix-it compulsion seemed to come on with equal fervor. A few smoke detectors needed their batteries replaced as we’d stolen them out on Christmas Eve as I’d neglected to purchase those necessary nine-volters for the sons “talkie walkies”… loser Mommy. The pile of wounded husband jeans in the sewing room got zigzag patched at the pocket corners. The thriftiness and practicality of mending must be embedded in my genetic make-up too. Unfortunately, he returned from work today wearing peek-a-boo pants. They had ripped a third of the way down the leg. Hey, I tried, right? I had my nice knives professionally sharpened. And I tried washing that skanky head smell out of my pillows but failed. So I found a killer pillow sale and replaced them instead. And those old crunchy towels were right to be paranoid. Big brown soft bath towels came home at the same time. Being cheap has its practical limits. Sometimes peace of mind is a purchase and toss away. Finally, anything to be returned, rebated, or donated goes down to my front hallway. Trick is to get it to the car before it develops that enchanted force field around it that makes you think it belongs there.
I am fascinated by the correlation between the New Year and my inner reset button. Not to mention this same occurrence happens in spring and fall as well? Maybe the two equinoxes and two solstices are quarterly opportunities to shake the etch-a-sketch, renew hope, and make amends for all the ill made decisions from the previous year or past three months. Some people even believe each loving day contains the possibility to start over again. The New Year holiday is just a shinier sparklier socially acceptable occasion to give oneself permission to do so.
Whenever and however they are created, resolutions are goals we make because we value ourselves. Change what you can and let go of the rest. I resolve to clear the chaos and clutter, figuratively and actually. To continue to write, exercise (despite the weight that refuses to come off), and make new friends. I resolve to allow myself playtime after I clean to redecorate at whim or by plan, because that makes me happy. And I resolve to be happy. If clean floors make me happy than so be it. No one notices a clean floor but they do notice a smiling face.
First published January 2010 on Divine Caroline website.
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