Deep Cleaning Blues: Hurt So Good?

Houseproud deep cleaning blues IMG_4008Last week I deep-cleaned our bedroom over the course of two+ days. In fact, I spent approximately 24 hours cleaning one room of the Houseproud homestead, and if all goes well this week, I will spend another few days deep-cleaning our living room. Shall we pause for a minute and reflect on that statement? Perhaps you’re looking at your screen with much the same expression that the Mister has when I go into deep-cleaning mode? If only I could take your hand and explain that I’m not completely mad, but unfortunately I am not sitting beside you. Alas! How I wish I were, and that I could be as eloquent as Cheryl Mendelson in her 1999 book, Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House. If you are the least bit houseproud and would like some validation, or would like to know why anyone would be, read her book and you’ll understand.

I’m so much more effective when everything is well–ordered. This is as true when I’m working on a database or getting volunteers prepped as when I’m in the kitchen or knitting. Part and parcel of a deep-clean is putting things in order. It’s the time to discard things that no longer work: dried up pens and glue sticks, manuals for electronics you no longer own, fabric that someone else will use. It’s when you make sure that all of your supplies are together, like with like, which is especially important for supplies that you don’t use regularly. The visceral pleasure in having the proper supplies at hand and ready to go is matchless. This doesn’t mean that wild chaos is always to be shunned! Playing with piles of fabric or yarn to get the ol’ creative juices flowing is a damn fine thing, but everything ought to be tucked back into place at the end of your fun. If that’s not done, things get lost or broken or stained or…

Houseproud deep cleaning blues IMG_4037Few things make me as cranky with myself as when I can’t find something, or I have to open a box or a trunk for the umpteenth time to see what’s in it. Labels are my friends, I’ve learned. As of this deep-clean, almost all of the boxes, bins, baskets and trunks in the bedroom are labeled, especially those that are opened infrequently. My next deep-clean project will be to make an inventory of my supplies, especially those that aren’t in the open. Knowing what one owns – that’s a helpful thing, nu? Remind me to tell you about the times I’ve bought knitting needles because I didn’t know that I already owned a set in that size…

Houseproud deep cleaning blues IMG_4022I’ve learned to keep my go-to equipment easily accessible. This means that some things don’t get tucked away – they stay out in the open, like this little doll that holds sewing needles. Other things stay out whilst I’m working on a particular project (and I’m always working on multiple projects), but are tucked away upon completion. Of course, this kind of clutter makes casual dusting impossible, which is one of the reasons deep-cleans are both necessary and unpleasant. However, while frequent cleaning would be far simpler if we had everything stored in easy-wipe boxes, such an arrangement would frustrate our daily life. So the useful things stay out and get dusty, and during a deep-clean they get dusted and put back into place. And as I’m putting them back, I make sure that frequently-opened boxes or drawers aren’t blocked by these useful things, or by mementos or collectibles.

One of the reasons that it takes so long to deep-clean our bedroom is that it’s the main repository of two things that are both dust magnets and annoying to clean: our books and our little mementos and collectibles. Another reason is the sheer amount of stuff that the room contains: it is our bedroom, my craft room, and the Mister’s tool shed. There are books and craft supplies and mementos galore in the living room, too, but not nearly as much as we have in the bedroom. When I deep-clean, the apartment looks shattered – there are stacks of things piled on every available surface. Amazingly, you can’t tell how much stuff we have once everything’s back in place, which is very important to me. I can’t ABIDE disordered clutter: my clutter must be tidy.

Houseproud deep cleaning blues IMG_4055This leads quite nicely to my last thought: a thorough deep-clean will make you intimately familiar with your possessions. And how. This is because a deep-clean involves holding and cleaning pretty much everything you own. Here’s a question I asked myself years ago: how long would it take you to dust every book you own? Iron every item of clothing or clean those shoes? Organize mementos that you’ve collected on every trip ever? There’s nothing like an epic deep-cleaning session to bring clarity about what you really need to keep.* After all of the purges, though, we do have a lot of stuff, and it takes a lotta time to clean that stuff.

But even knowing how long deep-cleanings take, I still do ‘em. They’re worth it: the clean smell of a room when the dust is gone and the curtains are freshly washed; the sight of knickknacks in a new configuration; the ease of working on any kind of project and knowing exactly where the supplies are. Oh – how wonderful those things are! They make the pain of deep-cleaning well worth it, especially in retrospect.

And with that, it’s time for me to wander off and get some sunshine. I’ll probably bring my knitting with me – I have a fun new project to tell you about, as well as a few completed projects to share. Next week’s posts will be light, as I’ll be spending much of this week deep-cleaning the living room (oh, grant me strength and better lungs!), but tune in this Wednesday to read about one of my favorite comfort-food dishes. Have a lovely week, duckies, and until next time and very fondly, yr little munakins

* We donate the stuff we don’t need to the Oakland Museum of California’s White Elephant Sale (art / craft / cookbooks, craft supplies, linens); St. Vincent de Paul’s Direct Service Campus in Oakland (street clothes and shoes – esp’ly men’s, and toiletries); local Little Free Libraries (novels of all stripes); or Alameda’s Goodwill (everything else). I also avoid buying stuff I don’t need, and make sure that the things I do buy are sturdy enough to be passed on to others or are compostable…

Houseproud deep cleaning blues IMG_4048

I made this little box out of a beer can ages ago. It holds tacks and tiny clothes pins, and lives on a bulletin board in our bedroom. It’s useful and it reminds me of my first solo apartment, of the art grrrl gatherings I hosted there and some damn good peeps.

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