The Bare Minimum

Photo by cottonbro on

I have a reputation for being rather fastidious when it comes to the state of my home. I do like the idea of every object having its own place but there is more because of my attention deficit disorder than an obsession with cleanliness. If I cannot find something that I typically use my brain goes haywire so I literally have practices of storing my shoes in a certain part of my closet and keeping items organized exactly the same way all of the time. I adhere to these rituals to keep from coming unglued. I cannot survive in a chaotic mess because my brain literally goes bananas in such an environment. 

I also have a fetish for clean bathrooms and countertops. My senses cannot bear foul smells or sticky surfaces. I purchase disinfecting cleaners by the gallon. I will ignore a weeks long thick layer of dust but I wipe down the surfaces of my kitchen and bathrooms constantly. I alone boost the stock of Lysol as I chase down odors and fight to keep my home smelling clean and fresh. 

I’m also a bed maker mostly because I prefer preparing for sleep on smoothed out sheets. I don’t like crawling into a rumpled mess and having to pull and tug to get my share of the blankets. Instead I want to feel the luxury of plumped up pillows and inviting linens. I religiously make my bed each morning in preparation of falling into it at night. It just feels better to me than trying to straighten things out when I am weary and ready to slumber. 

I rarely wear shoes when I am inside my home and so I also enjoy a clean floor. I don’t want my soles sticking to the ground or gathering dirt. I sweep and mop frequently to have a sense that I can enjoy my home naturally, organically without worrying about what might be fouling my feet. So I keep my floors almost as clean as my countertops.

Beyond that I am mostly unconcerned about housekeeping. I have a junk drawer filled with items that I rarely use that could use a bit of organizing but I can’t seem to muster enough interest to do so. There is a closet under my stairs that is a catchall for odd objects that I might need once in a blue moon. We call it the velociraptor closet because there is no telling what may attack upon entry. It’s a great place to throw things if surprise guests announce that they are coming in a few minutes. Once something gets placed in there it may languish for years without notice until it becomes impossible to cram in one more thing and a bit of organizing is required.

My windows and blinds could certainly use more good cleanings but I am the original “I don’t do windows” woman. It’s a task my mother gave me when I was young and I detest it to this very day. About once a year I take the time to wipe down every inch of glass and dust each slat of the wooden blinds but the rest of the time I ignore the build up and dream of getting shades like my niece that clean quickly with a big swipe, or even better hiring a maid to come do the work that I abhor. 

I once tutored a young woman in her lovely home. She came from a very successful family. Both her mother and father spent long hours at work and did well enough in their chosen professions that they were able to hire people to do the tasks that my husband and I have always done. They had a housekeeper who came every single day. She engaged in a routine series of tasks that she repeated over and over again to keep the home in pristine condition. She told me that she dusted furniture and vacuumed floors every single day. She tidied bathrooms and the kitchen on a regular basis as well. Then she rotated the jobs of cleaning windows and blinds and washing clothes and linens. She loved her work and spoke of how generous her employers were but admitted that she was rather lax about keeping her own home in order. 

I remember the full time housewives of old who followed regular routines of cleanliness because they thought of keeping homes tidy as their jobs. Most of the houses I entered were kept in order by the mothers who balanced hundreds of tasks with caring for their children. Some were so fastidious that they even ironed the sheets that went on the beds. They repeated a weekly, monthly, seasonal and yearly menu of housekeeping duties that made their homes orderly and attractive. My mother was among them and as I grew older she assigned many of the jobs to me. I learned the art of cleaning a toilet properly at a very young age and I did it right lest I fail an inspection by my mom.

There came a time when my mother relaxed her routines to the point of being messy. She no longer minded having objects scattered on tables or the floor. Her sink was often filled with dishes waiting to be washed. She ignored thick layers of dust on her tables. She chose instead to read her books or get in her car on a sunny day and drive to see the ocean. Her priorities had changed and she felt perfectly comfortable in the chaos because things no longer mattered to her. 

I suppose that I will never be able to operate without some order and design in my home but I do smile when I go to a home that shows definite signs of people actually living there. I enjoy those whose priorities seem to be in the right place, people who are more concerned with enjoying life than spending hours repeating the same tasks over and over again. Still, I have my own bare minimum of needs when it comes to cleanliness in my home and I’ve learned how to get those things done without allowing the work to overtake my life. My bed will be made. My counters and floors will not be sticky and my toilet will still pass inspection. Just don’t look inside my closets or those extra rooms. You may be in for a shock.