A Lighter View… Spring cleaning

July 1, 1993

A Lighter View… Spring cleaning

By By Karen M. Morris

My mother kept our home so spotless, that Dad used to brag you could eat off the kitchen floor. Now why he thought people wanted to eat off our floor was a mystery to me.

Every June, Mom did something she called “spring cleaning.” It was her war on dirt, and she was the Commander in Chief. For seven days, the entire family was recruited to fight this battle against filth and grime. We were a rag tag team known only as “the soap squad”. Armed with a mop, a bucket and enough toxic chemicals to set off alarms at the EPA, we sanitized the house, the lot it sat on, and any air we might breathe.

Dressed in oversized aprons, bandannas and dew rags, we looked like a lost Amish family. But Mom’s strategy was brilliant. She’d tell us what to do, and we’d do it. Anything suspected of harboring dust was vacuumed. My sister thought this applied to the pets, and that’s how we lost Geraldine, our beloved goldfish. Walls were scrubbed, windows washed, and curtains ironed. By the end of the day, we were too dirty to be allowed in the house.

Apparently, this cleaning ritual was some bizarre tradition handed down over centuries by the women in our family. Personally, I think they made it up because they didn’t have cable TV. I own a television set with several premium channels, and I have absolutely no desire to scrub the refrigerator with a toothbrush or power wash a porcelain potty. If I’m going to sweat, I’m going to do it on a beach or a dance floor, not scrubbing an icebox or toilet.

I am curious as to why my ancestors picked this particular activity for their annual recreation. I mean, they had dirt floors and straw roofs. How do you know when you’ve swept a dirt floor clean? Do you wash dirt floors? And, say somebody accidentally slipped on your beloved dead goldfish while carrying a giant pot of spaghetti, and it splattered all over the ceiling. Wouldn’t that be an improvement over the colorless thatched roof? Isn’t that how frescos got started? I guess it could be worse. We could be spending a week every year picking ticks off livestock.

To avoid the curse of spring cleaning, I’ve made my home maintenance free. My carpets are soil, stain, and odor-resistant. I’ve discovered that window cleaner will remove the dye from the carpet, but a colored marker magically restores it. And wild, colorful rug patterns will literally hide everything. Once, when my daughter was a baby, she wandered into the dining room, and it took me a week to find her in the carpet.

My oven is self-cleaning, my refrigerator is frost-free, and the furnace has a dust filter on it. I haven’t changed the vacuum cleaner bag in five years; I use air in a can. I tell people that the dust balls dancing across the floor are my kid’s science project. And to eliminate washing the walls, I cover up the marks with toothpaste. It makes the room bright and minty smelling.

Mom would spend hours washing windows in a vertical pattern on the outside and a horizontal pattern on the inside, so she could tell which side the streaks were on. I have “no care” windows. I don’t care what they look like. I let the rain wash them and tell everybody the smudges are a special European coating to filter the sun. If an unidentified food leaves a serious splash pattern on a window…I shut the drapes.

Curtains used to require a full day to take down, wash and press. Then it took a team of five to re-hang the monsters. In my world, I opted for plastic. It’s durable, never wrinkles and can be washed with a squeegee while it’s hanging. And if someone accidentally melts the curtains with a toy rocket, I can have the drapes down and in the trash before the end of a commercial break.

Mom came for a visit, so I quickly did some “spring cleaning” before she arrived. It didn’t take her long to flush out my non-traditional cleaning methods.

“You’re using that volumizer shampoo to clean the toilets again,” she said, patting the bubbles off her slacks. “And you’re out of toilet paper.”

“There wasn’t any Kleenex?”

Don’t get me wrong, Mom has really loosened up over the years. Granted, she still pressure washes the driveway and polishes the door hinges…but she no longer sterilizes the lint trap on the dryer.

As we sat in the kitchen drinking lemonade, I noticed a hunk of pizza under the table. It made me laugh as I realized how much Mom and I are alike. You could eat off my kitchen floor, too.

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