Sunday, March 7, 2010
Saying and doing, however, are two different things. Breaking myself of the automatic habit of bringing the world into my home with just the press of a button is not unlike choosing to forsake material life and enter a monastery. There's a moment of fear that you've been entirely cut off from the world and somehow you're going to go crazy crackers from the silence. What brought me back from the brink was reminding myself of the 72 bucks I spend every month on a service that basically provides me with background noise.
I further vowed to refrain from turning on the tube until I really wanted to watch something. Instead, I would focus intently on one project, and not the laundry list of "should do's" I try to accomplish in the 48 precious hours I have away from the weekly grind of tasks and projects of my job. I decided to focus on the kitchen.
The thing about cleaning anything with focused attention, is that the more you clean, the more dirt you seem to find. I rarely, for instance, get down on my knees to see what's going on at the base of the cabinets. I don't partly because there is yellowed plastic baseboard molding that runs around the entire perimeter of my kitchen which I'd like to just rip up and can't afford to do at the moment because that would entail doing something about the mismatched self-stick tiles on the floor. So I normally don't look below cabinet level unless it's absolutely necessary.
Yesterday I looked. For a second I thought, "Where is Extreme Makeover when you really need them?" Not in my kitchen, that was for sure. So I hunkered down with the dust pan and brush, a sponge and three different cleansers--one just didn't seem to do the trick--and had at it. Now I have really clean, but still ugly yellowish-beige baseboards. I'm not sure what I accomplished except to feel the smallest bit of satisfaction in having paid attention to this gross and neglected place that seems to be the dumpsite for all the refuse I don't want to look at. Like a lot of areas of my life. Emotional, mental and psychological junk that I prefer to be ignorant about because if I recognize it, I'd have to clean it up.
But, like I said, you clean one thing and then you notice there's a greasy, grimy drip pan that is glaring out from a pristine white stovetop. Spattered ketchup on the refrigerator door. Kitty litter in the corners. You open the cabinets and piles of plastic storage tubs come spilling out. Somehow or another, the entire kitchen has gone from being a quick sweep of the broom and wiping the down the counters to a full-scale fumigation.
Out came the rubber gloves, the Goo Off, the scrubby sponges, the bleach cleaner. I even tackled the tower of containers, stacking them in neat rows, the mish mash of lids all collected in a little storage bin. I purged the spice cabinet of colored sugars, empty bottles, cupcake liners I wouldn't likely use, and anything I hadn't opened in six months. It's amazing the junk we accumulate, I thought. Even more perplexing is the stuff we don't even recognize or can't remember why we bought in the first place. Like why did I have a bottle of Gravy Master? I never make gravy.
None of this was made easier by the fact that my cat, Misha, was underfoot the entire time. I mopped the floor; he walked on it. I sanitized the counter, he jumped up and started parading back and forth. I filled the garbage bag to the verge of exploding, and he started gnawing on it.
After about two hours of guerrilla cleaning, I felt somehow....lighter. Evacuated. I wondered if that's how people feel after they perform the prescribed colon cleansing prior to a colonoscopy. Something else I have been ambivalent about from a cleaning perspective, but will, one of these days, have to accept as a necessity.
The only problem now is that my more focused attention has discovered a half dozen new eyesores that I need to fix. Like the horribly greasy drip pan that's beyond scrubbing which means a trip to Loew's to buy a replacement. And the tiny crack I discovered near a doorway that needed to be spackled. And then there's the molding I've been meaning to install to hide the small gap between the cabinets and the new subway tiles I put up last fall. What started as a way to focus my attention away from the lack of cable TV has become a weekend of rehab.
Not long after I put away the bucket and broom, dumped the garbage, and stashed the rubber gloves, the cat hopped in his litter box and did what all felines do--sent litter flying everywhere. He looked at me in his totally imperious way, and I looked back at him looking equally imperious, and said, "Really?"
It seemed like a good time to retreat to the couch and turn on a Grey's Anatomy rerun.