Today I cleaned out kitchen cupboards. I know, YAWN.
However, cleaning does something for me that nothing else does. Especially this kind of cleaning, the kind of cleaning where you take everything out, sort through everything, wash out the inside of cupboards. . . you know, deep cleaning.
And because I live in a house that was previously occupied by my husband’s ex-wife, this cleaning takes on a special meaning. With my cleaning I am telling the house, the pots and the pans (and myself) – I am here now. I will care for you now. You, in your way, will care for me. I will get to know you, and you will get to know me. I don’t think of this in a bossy, “I’m taking over” kind of way – just in a matter of fact way. Matter of fact for me: this is what you chose. You choose to live in this house and integrate yourself here, not somewhere else. Matter of fact for the house: um, this is way too many bread pans. Some of these need to go, sir.
It was a messy job. Bowls and drying racks and pots were everywhere. But now it is done, and I am left with a sense of being a good steward to my house. I feel as if I can care better for myself, my family and visitors, now that things are in some semblance of order there in the dark. (Mind you, the cupboards are not even in close to perfect order. All our pots and pans are mismatched, there is dreadful contact paper that refuses to come off, etc.)
I consider the process and results of cleaning Irish therapy. I learned this from my Irish grandmothers and my mother. Nobody ever explicity said that cleaning was good for the soul, but when I was young, I would watch them tidy and neaten and spring clean and feel what it brought to the home.
A cared-for space, no matter how simple or how lavish, is a good thing. Obviously, this can be taken too far, and people who obsessively clean or who are afraid of a little messiness. . .well, that is another thing altogether. That kind of freaks me out. And in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I am a fabulous procrastinator when it comes to day-to-day cleaning. Bo-ring! I am forever making little stacks of paper that I will sort through “later.” The dog hair and cheerios on the floor can leave me unfazed for days before I drag out the vacuum cleaner. But cleaning always feels good once it’s over. Just like therapy.
And today I was lucky enough to have help, which always makes a job more interesting. My step-daughter, who is nearly six, helped me through the entire process. She is a child of fantastic focus and intelligence, and she can clean with the best of them. As we were making a pile to go to the charity shop, and she was watching it grow, she asked me where the stuff was going. I told her, and she mulled it over for a few minutes. Then she asked me if she could have a sale.
I didn’t quite understand what she was asking. “A sale?”
“Yeah,” she said. “A sale, outside, to make money.”
Now I understood. She wanted to have a sort of a garage sale with the kitchen detritus. I love how a kid’s mind works.