Spring Cleaning

I woke up this morning with not much to do and an odd pain in my toe.

It has occurred to me a few days prior that today would be a good day for spring cleaning. Not my usual “hang my clothes in the closet and ignore the dust” type of cleaning (it’s worth noting here that I once bought and air purifier in hopes that it would keep me from having to dust and vacuum as often), but a serious, sweaty “wash the windows you haven’t tended to in five years” sort of cleaning. After getting out of bed I paced the kitchen for a while, fetched the newspaper thinking how nice it would be to have the time to read it, made some coffee, and then – to my great surprise – grabbed the stepstool and started yanking the mini-blinds from above my bed.

What would set me apart from all the other folks spring cleaning today (despite chronic messiness and inability to conquer basic domestic tasks?). I was keeping notes for my blog. And taking pictures.

Perhaps my fellow spring cleaners can learn a few tricks from my adventures – or at least learn what not to do.

Step one. Mini-blinds. I literally have not touched any of them in the five years I have lived in this apartment. An occasional up and down are all the action they are getting, and they certainly weren’t getting clean. I had read somewhere that you could clean them with a damp fabric softener. That advice did not come with the necessary disclaimer that it would only work on blinds that were not completely coated with dust and dirt. They had to come off.

With the help of my trusty stepstool I pulled all of the blinds down from their windows. My next step was to put them all in the bottom of my shower, douse them with dish soap, turn the shower on, and walk away. I then loaded the curtains in the washing machine, and walked away from that as well. I put on some Guster so that I could dance around the kitchen while I cleaned, and went to check on the blinds.

The rinsing was helping, and I scrubbed down the three smaller sets without much trouble. One of the larger ones was quite dirty, but I managed to hang it in the shower for ease of washing. The dirtiest section was closest to me, which meant I was spraying water all over the bathroom and myself while I cleaned it. It made me feel dangerous. I liked it.

Hanging the blinds in the shower

Blinds hung over the fence to dry, I remembered there were a few dishes in the sink I needed to deal with (mostly to have space to wash other things). I limped back into the apartment with my still-throbbing toe turned the water on. But where was the soap? That’s right, still in the bathroom.

My dishes were done lickety-split, and it was time to deal with the windows. The one piece of housekeeping advice I have ever taken to heart is that you should clean windows with newspaper to prevent streaking. I looked at my unread newspaper, forlorn and unread on the counter and entertained some destructive thoughts. I found an old store circular instead.

The rear window was filthy, but a straightforward cleaning. Out came the screen (and into the shower to rinse), both sides were wiped down, and that was done. I knew the street facing ones would give me more trouble, not only because I had to scale the mini-fence that protects the window well from the street (remember how that turned out this winter)?

I had a rag and cleanser for the window frame, newsprint and glass cleaner for the window pane, a small broom to sweep around the outside, and my trusty athletic flipflops to aid me. It was nearing the hottest part of the morning, but I was undeterred, sweeping and scrubbing away. I got a few funny looks from neighbors, probably due to the fact that I was squatting below street level with an array of cleaning products around me. Or it could have been because my white tank top had gotten soaked while cleaning the blinds.

My newspaper was becoming saturated around the same time a piece of dirt flew up at me and bounced off my glasses. I was very glad to be wearing eye protection, and wiped my spectacles as I walked back in for more sheets of paper. I was out of old papers, so I started decimating the Sunday Globe, luckily only needing to crumple the parts I never read anyway (sorry, automotive section). Before I went back out I found some mud on my neck and saw that my ailing toe was covered in filth. If my suspicions were correct and I had a running-related injury, the dirt casing would not help prevent the inevitable toenail loss destined to occur. “If I lose my toenail over these stupid windows I’ll be angry” I thought, and went back to work.

It was on to the inside of the front windows. I realized that I was going to kick up a lot of dirt inside too, and covered the bookshelves nearest the windows with a sheet. I relaxed knowing my German and Italian dictionaries would be safe, then took another look at the filth of the window and wondered if I should be protecting the sheet as well.

At this point, I’m not even convinced those window sills were ever white, since no amount of cleaning would get them back to that color. It took two rounds of sponging and wiping to get them looking presentable. They were so hideous I won’t even post a picture. Oddly, no one walking by paid the slightest heed to the woman sweating and swearing just inside those little windows. It made me wonder if I even needed to hang the curtains and blinds again, since apparently no one is looking in.

This was the second round of sponge water.

Yucky water, part one.

The two side windows were not going to be nearly as much trouble. The one next to the refrigerator also need some love on it’s grungy window sill, so I filled the bucket with clean water again and got down on my hands and knees.

That’s when I saw how hideously dirty the radiator behind the fridge was. I started negotiating with myself “if no one can see it, do I really have to clean it? and if I can only reach half of it, is it really fair to the other half to clean just part of it?” In the end I cleaned it, also did the parts of the floor that I don’t usually reach with the mop, and stood up to find it was noon.

Knowing that I might spend today cleaning, I bought Bloody Mary mix yesterday to take the edge off. I committed to waiting until noon to have a cocktail. Needless to say, I counted the minutes from the moment I got up. To reward myself for my restraint, I made a double.

Then it was time to rehang the blinds. I had planned to give them one last wipedown but was so tired and sick of windows that I just hung them up. They were much harder to get back up than they had been to get down, and I felt anew my lifelong frustration with being so short. In all seriousness, I find not being able to reach things an unsettling type of helplessness.

Helplessness be dashed, I got the blinds back up myself. My toe no longer hurt, but it’s worth noting that I hadn’t had breakfast and the Bloody Mary had gone straight to my head. I washed the toe off and slopped some rubbing alcohol on it, then took a moment to call my mother . She’s always good for some commiserating about messiness, plus I wanted to tell her that I had finally washed the curtains we made together for this apartment when I first moved in. After a while I realized I had to eat or I wasn’t going to be able to stand any longer, so I excused myself from our conversation and made a sandwich right around 2:00 pm.

Lunch couldn’t save my exhaustion, and my day of cleaning seemed destined to end not with a bang but with a whimper. My notes from this part of the day devolve into phrases like “mop – letdown” and “sheets – ice cream”. The only part of those notes that rings a bell is the ice cream, which salvaged the afternoon and fueled the last few hours of work.

Still life with rose and Haagen Daas

When taking down the blinds the first time I discovered that the top of the refrigerator was hideous. I cleaned five years worth of take out menus, appliance handbooks, and my first rental agreement off the top and wiped off the dust. This took longer than it should have.

The top of the fridge, pre-cleaning. Yes, that's a paper map. Yes, I still use maps. In fact, that map still has the Central Artery above ground on it. I make do.

I finished two more loads of laundry, and put them out back in sunshine so bright that my sheets and shower curtain were dry in no time. I re-hung the curtain and then took a delightful shower, making sure to give my big toe an extra dollop of soap. I put on a dress for dinner and decided that making my bed would be the last task of the day.

There’s nothing nicer than clean sheets, and nothing worse than trying to get them on by myself. I pulled two corners over the bottom, then climbed up on the bed to pull on the other two (unreachable from the floor). Up on my knees on the half-made bed, this simple task suddenly felt insurmountable, and I collapsed onto the bed, removing my glasses just before my face hit the partially-covered mattress.

I lay there for a while, not concerned about what needed to get done, enjoying the unique exhaustion that comes from a day of hard work in warm weather. I wished I could have gotten a picture of that, but will have to make do with this one, of the toenail that didn’t end up falling off after all.

Ten toenails, for now

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1 Response to Spring Cleaning

  1. Pingback: 7 ways to make your life easier | Felice mi fa

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