Friday, September 02, 2005

The Zen of Cleaning

We’re going away for about a week. We have a wedding today in County Clare. Then we’re going to spend a couple of days in Doolin, a picturesque fishing village known for fantastic traditional music sessions in its three pubs. After indulging in fresh fish, Guinness and music, we’re heading north to the lonely wilds of Donegal. We don’t really have an itinerary in Donegal, we’re just going to wander.

Before our trip, I had to get our house in order. The attic and our bedroom had become certified disaster areas. The shed in the back garden was feeling the effects of the summer. To get to our auxiliary fridge, you had to battle through a forest of lawn chair cushions and try not trip over my hiking boots.

I couldn’t enjoy a trip knowing that sort of chaos was waiting for me back at home, so yesterday I went on one of my cleaning sprees. I don’t like the daily-upkeep sort of cleaning. I hate vacuuming and dusting. I’m not the most tidy of people, even though I appreciate a clean, well-organized space.

Despite my antipathy to regular cleaning, I love intensive organizing and cleaning sessions. It’s hard to get into them, but once I get going, I am impossible to stop. I have a system. Like Rick Moranis’ character in My Blue Heaven, I have a system for everything, even eating pancakes.

My cleaning system involves clearing a workspace – a bed, coffee table or dining room table work well but the floor will do in a pinch. Then, I start in a corner of the room and pick up everything that doesn’t belong there. I haul the stuff over to the bed and sort it into piles. Books, clothes, papers to file, papers to recycle. I keep a garbage bag close and use it frequently.

There’s always a point where the cleaning process looks worse than the mess does. On bad days, I must power through this moment. I have to force myself to carry on, to not give in to the apparent hopelessness of ever finishing. But on good days, like yesterday, I love this moment. It puts me in the zone – it lets me know I am making progress and gives me a glimpse of what the room will look like when it’s done.

A good cleaning day is like a good running day. My body does its thing well and my mind is full of thoughts. I often get breakthrough ideas for my books while I am cleaning or running. Both also give me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. It took me about seven hours to complete my mission, but I can leave today secure in the knowledge that, for at least a short while, my living and storage spaces are ship-shape.


At 2 September 2005 at 14:38, Blogger Lyss said...

I don't have a system, but I do hate cleaning. And once I start I go util I can't anymore.
Have fun at the wedding.

At 4 September 2005 at 01:48, Blogger Career Guy said...

No way can I go at cleaning for seven hours. I'm wiped out after an hour or so. If it's not clean by then, it's not gonna get clean.

At 11 September 2005 at 07:28, Blogger Biotress said...

I hope you had a good trip!


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