Tag Archives: Housekeeping

Pandemic of cleaning

If you’re vacuuming more or organizing closets or wiping down door knobs and switchplates, you might be stressed out.

Well, you might be using Lysol wipes like they’re a hot commodity because of CDC guidelines for avoiding COVID-19, but you get my point, right? Some people go into cleaning mode when they’re anxious.

Cleaning is a real response. A study published in Current Biology found a link between anxiety and obsessive cleaning. It’s an effective response, too, because your carpet or closet or door is clean you’re done. If you’re only wringing your hands in worry, all you’ll get is tight shoulders and a headache.

So it is for my Beloved and me in our new condo where we’re sheltering in place. The first thing we do when we move into any new place is clean; even without CVOID-19, we’re not fans of other people’s germy dirt. One reason we chose this particular piece of real estate is because it’s part of rental program; lake lovers can vacation here during the summer when we’re enjoying southern Wisconsin’s temperate climes. To avoid horrible online reviews of how dirty this place is, cleaning is even more imperative so we’ve spent our first few weeks here obsessively cleaning all the weird things in a house you tend to overlook when you’ve lived there a while. It’s just a bonus that all this cleaning helps dissipate anxiety about skyrocketing infection rates and plunging stock portfolios.

If you’re looking for ways to turn your anxiety into purposeful effort here are a few things to clean that are not as obvious as the junk drawer or your bedroom closet:

  • Molding: Before anything was moved in, we washed the walls and molding first to prepare surfaces for the painter. The tops of the window and door molding were covered in years of dust! Also overlooked, the shelves above the hanging rod in closets.
  • bathroom vent

    Bathroom fan vent

    Bathroom vents: This is typically the most disgusting thing in a hotel room, and they’re not that difficult to clean. Remove the cover and scrub it in soapy water. Run some compressed air in the vent.

  • Dryer vent: This might be a whole afternoon project if your dryer is already in place. We installed a new dryer, so it was easy to run compressed air through the house vent. My Beloved also used the air compresser on the vent in the dryer (when the dryer was still outside, waiting to be installed). 

 

  • room vent

    Room vent

    Furnace and air conditioning vents: You’ll probably need a screwdriver to remove these. Scrub the vent, and clean the duct. My Beloved spraypainted the ceiling vents from the bathrooms because they were a little rusty (he performed this messy project in the garage). They look better than new now.

  • Furnace filter: Have you changed yours recently? These filter the air and you need that more than ever right now.

 

stovetop vent

Stove fan filters

  • Vent screens above your stovetop: These are greasy and gross, but ours are removable. I just ran them through the dishwasher. 
  • Ceiling fan: Are you sensing a theme here? If it’s a fan or a vent, it’s probably dirty. Get out a ladder and proceed with dusting it or, if it’s really gross, use soapy water.
  • Refrigerator coils: Yes, this means moving the refrigerator so you can get behind it. Air compressor to the rescue again (I think you could use a vacuum, too. Don’t depend on Minnesota Transplant for this one; best to google how-tos). We don’t think ours had ever been cleaned. My Beloved also removed the grate beneath the refrigerator door and washed it in the bathtub.
  • Kitchen appliances: When was the last time you washed the rotating plate in the microwave? The inside of your oven? How about your blender buttons (tip: cotton swabs)? If vinegar isn’t too dear to you right now, run some through your coffee maker (and then make a few pots with water only or you’ll ruin your morning java).
  • Kitchen garbage can: When was the last time this thing saw soapy water? And if it’s stored in a cabinet? Yeah, it’s probably revolting back there in the dark. Remove everything, vacuum up the coffee grounds and dried peas, and scrub thoroughly.
  • Air conditioner: A professional offered to do this for $400, which was too steep a price for us so my Beloved used his own power washer. Be sure you turn off the power before you try this trick.

cupboard cleaning

  • Cabinets: The knobs on your cabinets are probably disgusting but you’re blind to it. Look closely. Gross. Fill a new pail with soapy water and get scrubbing. If you’re really enterprising, remove the cabinet doors and knobs, sand them down and re-stain them (that’s what my dad is doing with his extra time these days). My Beloved doesn’t have a workspace like Dad, so he used a product called Restor-A-Finish. Just rub it right into the wood and let it soak in. Our cabinets had been so neglected, it took two coats.
  •  The deck: The power washer got another workout on the tile on the deck. Careful! Slippery when wet.
  • Window screens: Windexing the windows, that’s obvious. Removing the screens and hauling them into the shower, now that’s special. My Beloved used a scrub brush and dishwashing liquid.
  • Door bell: Lysol wipe and a Q-tip should do the trick. While you’re out there, look up? Got any bugs in your front light?

Have I missed anything? What strange element of your surroundings is now sparkling because of your anxious elbow grease?

The habit of housekeeping elevates the mundane to the sublime

The Power of the Mundane resonates with me.

Rachael at Frugal Faye blogs about this in “The Power of the Mundane: Why I Love Housekeeping.”

She describes the Power of the Mundane as “sameness and routine that creates that sense of ‘this is how life is,'” and she argues that there is beauty in housekeeping exactly because it involves “repeated activities that are completed predictably over and over and over”:

“The cumulative years of those daily activities: cooking dinner, folding laundry, tidying up all matter. In a frantic, unpredictable world, these monotonous chores and exercises are comfort and stability.”

Is that the most beautiful description of housekeeping you’ve ever heard?

It makes so much sense to laud the power of repetition, however boring it may be. Exercising or eating a banana for breakfast can be boring, too, but exercising every day or eating fruit for breakfast every morning can change your health. Socking away a little bit of every paycheck in a 401(k) plan is not nearly as fun as spending it, but do that with every paycheck and in time, you’ll have a nest egg worth thousands of dollars. Arriving on time to work, lunch dates and appointments takes constant effort, but over time, it earns you a reputation of dependability.

Mahatma Gandhi knew the power of repetition, too, when he said: “Your actions become your habits, your habits become your values.”

Among my “what matters” resolutions this year is to “Make a comfortable home: Cook, clean, decorate, organize.”

It is not exactly the sort of resolution I would have made 10 years ago when I aspired to climb the corporate ladder and I was married to a man who did almost all the housekeeping.

But I am in a different place with a new man now. Part of my desire to create a comfortable home is altruistic (because I know my Beloved values it) and part of it is selfish (because if I’m going to spend as much time in my home as I do, it might as well be clean and pretty). Mucking out and redecorating my home office last year reminded me how peaceful a beautiful space can be.

The cooking part of the resolution is easier for me. Cooking is creative. I love assembling various ingredients I happen to have on hand into a creative dish (like frittata or soup). I love garnishes, too. Even when it’s just me and my Beloved, the plate is not complete unless it’s sprinkled with parsley or there’s a pickle on it, and I love putting dip into little metal cups on my plate.

Still, I hate housekeeping. Hate, hate, hate. But I realize if I want to achieve this resolution to make a comfortable home, I need to figure out how to make peace with these repetitive tasks.

Do I want to be known as the grumpy woman with a clean house or the cheerful lady with a clean house? The house deserves to be neat and clean in any case; I have the power to change my attitude.

I am reminded of what Thich Nhat Hanh writes about washing dishes in Peace is Every Step:

“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water and each movement of my hands.”

I shall attempt to harness the Power of the Mundane this year and be mindful about housekeeping. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my little place in it.

The power of vinegar and dish soap

Two ugly chores performed in honor of a new year’s clean slate were ticked off the list today:

  • I ran vinegar through the coffee maker to loosen the grit. Don’t neglect running two or three water-only pots afterward or your next cup of coffee will taste like salad dressing.
  • The level of gummy hairspray on my hair brush had reached a 10 on the Disgusting Meter. When it comes to that, it’s time for a long soak in a sink of dish soap and hot water to soften the spew. A scrubbing with a toothbrush takes care of what’s left.

Coffee maker and hair brush are as good as new again!

“All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to you.”

~ Gandalf in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

(Yes, we’re having to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy after our successful “Hobbit” outing.)

Minimum requirements for gracious hosting

All this talk about London’s preparation for all the Olympic guests has me thinking about my own guest preparation.

Having guests is fun, and maturity has taught me that “done is better than perfect” (good thing for me, Mitt Romney isn’t coming to dinner at my house tonight). If I were to wait until my house (and housekeeping) were perfect, I would delay extending invitations so long, the entertaining would never happen.

That said, a minimum level of housekeeping is necessary to make me and my guests comfortable. Here’s the short list:

  1. Sheets washed. If the guests are staying overnight, the sheets on the guest bed must be clean and the bed made.
  2. Toilets scrubbed, preferably the day of the visit. A toilet that was cleaned last week does not meet minimum standards (at least not in this house!). Replace hand towel with clean one and empty garbage. Bonus: Bathroom sink wiped clean of stray hairs and water spots.
  3. Couch pillows fluffed and afghans folded.
  4. Dog toys picked up.
  5. Kitchen decluttered, counters wiped and dishwasher mostly empty (making it easy to fill once the meal with guests is complete).
  6. Whether you’re serving a meal or not, at least one type of drink — coffee, water with ice, beer — must be at the ready. Preferably all three.

If you’ve dusted in the past three weeks, dusting is bonus. Sweeping, mopping and/or vacuuming the floors is a nice standard to have, but it’s not on my list of minimum hosting standards. Other nice-to-haves: Laundry room emptied of all clean clothes (and dirty ones in the hamper); kitchen desk cleaned off; refrigerator clean; stairways vacuumed; appliances wiped clean of all fingerprints. The beautiful thing about master bedrooms and basements is that they have doors, which can be closed.

Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about mass transportation or security guards.

Let the hosting begin!