Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Running the Race

I’m running a marathon. Don’t faint—it’s not the 10K for cancer research. It’s not the 5K for heart disease.  It’s the never-ending race against the relentless dust and grime in my house.

How does it accumulate so fast? It seems as if by the time I’ve finished dusting and vacuuming I could write my name in the new deposits on the coffee table. Is that fair? Shouldn’t I at least get one day’s grace?

I feel so good when I’ve cleaned the whole house that you would think I’d be looking forward to the next time I attack it. You would be wrong. I still curl my upper lip and flare my nostrils at the thought of Windex, Formula 409 and Lysol. At the end of a day of cleaning, I’m sure I need a good detox from inhaling all those fumes.

I guess I like it being done, not so much the act of doing it. I can think of a thousand things I would rather be doing, and so can you. You know how it is: your baseboards need dusting, your windows need washing, your shower has soap scum and if only modern technology hadn’t eradicated waxy yellow buildup, you’d be battling that, too. There are not enough hours in the day, and this is now that I’m retired from ‘work’. And did you notice how I shifted this from my problem to yours? You’re in this, too.

How did this happen? When I worked full-time I was gone fifty to fifty-five hours a week, including the commute. I always fantasized that when I retired my house would be neat as a pin and clean as a whistle. (Why pins and whistles constitute the gold standard for household presentation I cannot explain, but they do.) I imagined that my closets would all be color-coded, hangers lining up like little soldiers—all their heads and shoulders at the same precise angle. My shoes and purses would look like the gorgeous photos in splashy magazine layouts, which are clearly shot just to make us all feel inferior.

I fantasized that my kitchen drawers would all be so neat and tidy that Martha Stewart could drop in at any time and pluck a spatula of just the right size and shape from the second drawer. If Oprah herself had rung the doorbell, I could welcome her in without a mad dash through the house to pick up a stray newspaper or coffee mug. And if Dr. Oz ever dropped by to inspect my medicine chest, I’d be so proud when he opened the door to see my neatly organized and categorized supply of pharmaceuticals, not a single one out-of-date.

Need I tell you that none of this has come to pass?

My closets still look like I frantically ransack them for the perfect item on a twice-daily basis. The house is tidy, but my floors have a protective coating of dust that the Guinness people are coming to measure on Friday. The outsides of my windows make me cringe when the sun shines. I’m a failure.

One of these days I’ll wake up with an uncontrollable urge to clean everything in the house. That will be the day I sign up for the marathon at the Senior Olympics. I’ll just have to find out whether Windex would disqualify me under the doping rules.


  1. "One of these days I’ll wake up with an uncontrollable urge to clean everything in the house." That's a sentence I will never write! I hate to clean, so I'm not surprised that my house doesn't sparkle. But I did share your vision of post-retirement organized closets. My only progress is that I'm slowly getting rid of things I know I'll never wear again. Emphasis on slowly.

  2. Hi Leah! I sympathise. I'm a tidy soul, and have just a few rooms to keep clearn, but I'm hopeless at doing the windows; I just never quite get around to it. When the sun shines through them, I feel like I'm living in a post-apocalyptic zombie flick. As for your dust, it's mostly dead skin. So, moisturise, woman! Indigo ;> x