Photo by Isaac Mao
I went through a stage of picky housekeeping. All of our books, computer games, phonograph records, floppy disks, lists, cassette tapes, and spices were put into alphabetical order. Photo albums, negatives, and warranties were chronological. Housework was scheduled by the week.
The older I get, the farther I get from these organized days. I chuckled at suspense movies when detectives searched through people’s bureau drawers for clues. They find telephone bills, correspondents and incriminating lists. In my house, none of this stuff is in drawers. It’s all on the kitchen table.
I sometimes think the table is magnetized to paper. Children’s schoolwork, unanswered letters, coupons, advertisements, clippings, bills, pleas for donations, and magazines accumulate in leaning towers that would put Pisa to shame. When it reaches the point when we can no longer fit four dinner plates around the junk, I enlist my family’s help. After an enormous flurry of activity, 5% is tacked onto bulletin boards, 20% is thrown on the living room coffee table or in the bathroom magazine rack, and 50% is moved to the hutch. Cleaning off the hutch is an all day job.
I’ve become quite blasé about housework. Three cats, two kids, and one husband have weaned me off any need for an orderly household. I learned that I was usually the only one disturbed by the chaos. So now the mess has to attain crisis level before I discard my own plans and assume the attack position.
I have the same lack of energy toward keeping the refrigerator free of alien growths. I suspect the actual value of Tupperware is to properly age leftovers for the compost heap. Two prominent questions are, “When did we have this for supper?” and “Does anyone know what this is?”
The living room curtains are a variation on this theme. It only took 45 months of hating the drapes that were installed by the previous owners and innumerable snags and tears by the cats before I reacted. Knowing I needed strong motivation to refinish the water damaged window frame and redecorate, I cut the shears up for a Halloween decoration and threw the drapes into the trash. A stark window stimulates action.
In previous winters, we had covered the interior window with plastic to insulate us from the cold. The two sided sticky tape left a residue behind as difficult to remove as gum from a child’s hair. Despite numerous chemical forays, which probably left me with permanent lung damage, the guck remained. I realized stripping the wood down would be a serious undertaking. I was not that motivated.
I patched the damaged wood, painted a heavy stain over the mess and varathaned it to a gleaming gloss. I felt like a goldfish in an aquarium during the work. There’s nothing like an enormous bare window to make us creep around in the dark. I suspect the neighbors learned more about us than they desired.
A surprise bonus from the exposed natural light was the plentiful blooming of my violets in early winter. Now see, if I’d been quick and capable, I might’ve missed that lovely surprise.
May 5, 1991.