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Cleaning Up: A Gift Bag of Good Intentions

Cleaning Up: A Gift Bag of Good Intentions

cleaning suppliesClearly, there’s a message in these bottles.

Last week I received a less than subtle rebuke regarding my slovenly ways, make that alleged slovenly ways. Momentarily taken back by the frightful experience of retrieving a cold drink from my refrigerator, my friend Tyson felt compelled to share his thoughts on the condition of it. (Good thing he didn’t open up the produce bin or I would have had to administer CPR.)

If the broken chair isn’t telling enough, perhaps a Christmas Tree stand on the porch in May is.

I have to admit while my face feigned interest , the sensory network between my ears and brain was blocked (a natural reflex any time I hear,  “You need to clean.”) I did pick out a couple lines, “Blah, blah, blah Tom…Tom, blah, blah, fridge.” His shock-and-awe moment of disbelief was countered with my eye-rolling, simmer-down approach of non-urgency. I offered, “If the bottle is chilled, I don’t see a problem.”

To me, Lived-in is a interior style just as real as Mid-Century Modern or French Provincial . Let’s face it, one’s man’s mess is another man’s cozy. And may I point out in my defense, dirty dishes stacked in the sink show my concern for water conservation, and clothes draped over furniture protect my fine furnishings from dog hair, dust and the fading effects of sunlight. Besides, the trouble with vacuuming is it never gets resolved. You have to do it over and over again; that just seems wrong to me and surely unsustainable in my world.

A ceramic pumpkin and pile of winter coats protect one chair, Boz the other.

With tidy on trial at my house, we discussed, sparred and finally put the issue to rest (or so I thought). My Tom Sawyer tactic of suggesting he show me how to clean a house from top to bottom was most ineffective if not laughable, so I tried reverse psychology, “Tyson, I wouldn’t allow you to clean my house even if you begged me.”  (Drat, that didn’t work either. Neatniks are a wily lot.)

A tale of two loafers: Maybe those shoes should go in the closet and Miss Gracie should sleep on the floor. (Not gonna happen.)

A week or so later, I met friends for dinner off-island. Tyson, the icebox inspector, was last to arrive. Before sitting down, he handed me a snappy looking and heavy tote, a gift bag of untold goodies no doubt, a peace offering, an apology for the cleaning critiques of his last visit. Unzipping the top flap, I looked in and could see the joke was on me. I began to chuckle realizing the last laugh would not be mine. Out of the tote, I pulled an arsenal of cleaning products, from scouring sponges to Pine Sol to Windex.

Everyone else also laughed, laughed a bit too hard in fact. I asked, “Seriously, you guys think my house needs cleaning?”

Now the co-conspirators were tight-lipped, and their silence seemed particularly articulate.

“Okay, I give, so tell me, what are these Scrubbing Bubbles of which you speak?


  1. That takes some moxie…I’d tell him the same thing I tell anyone who comments about the relative cleanliness (or lack thereof) in my house…the mop is thaddaway 😉

  2. Your house might be a little unkempt, but it has nice lines and that’s really what matters. Also, send your friends some Bon Ami. That’s a real cleaning product. It also has a cute chick on the front– you’d appreciate the packaging.

  3. mmm, well, I am a cleaning fanatic. I can let it go for…awhile…but then I must get things in order…or…. my brain does not function. But having said that, I do not need anyone telling me when that line has been crossed! Let me tell you, I have seen far messier and dirtier houses than in your home pictures! Perhaps they are just not…dog people?

  4. Send him over here to do a comparative mess study! Or, here’s another way to get cleaning help, invite him to dinner, go to great lengths ahead of time describing the menu, dessert table layout, and possible featured guests. When he arrives ( 2 hours early hee hee ) appear to be in the middle of a huge cleaning drive and inform him that you can’t start dinner until you get ALL the cleaning done. Continue to talk about the juicy things that will soon be simmering stove top, exotic odors that will be wafting from the oven (once it’s cleaned) and so on. It might just work ( if he doesn’t first read this entry).

  5. Tom, wouldn’t a self-vacuuming house be a dream? I want one myself. I’m blaming a lot of my “unkemptness” on the beloved pooch who really does look like Pigpen with a trail of airborne hair as he moves.

    Be careful with those cleaning products. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. I recommend picking up/cleaning in 15 minute-increments; otherwise, you’ll wear yourself out and get discouraged. Cleaning can be overwhelming. My sympathies.


  6. What’s the point of living in the country with 2 dogs if you have to spend the time cleaning? Especially “dusting” a most odious chore. What’s the point when it only gets dusty again? I used to think the best house would be cleanable with a fire hose, but now that I live in Missouri, that would only increase the humidity. I agree on the cleaning products – way too many chemicals. Dish soap in the frig & Comet powder in the bathroom, a little Windex pump if needed. less toxic fumes that way. and always use a cookie sheet in the oven under your baking so you don’t have to clean that with nasty oven cleaner.

  7. I believe that there is “neat” and there is “clean” and you can still be a slob if these two are not connected in some way. Tom you happen to be neat but maybe not so clean?… oh well. In our house Laura will ” straighten up” but leave grease coated crumbs and stray vegetable matter behind the kitchen faucet. I’ll clean (or salute) anything that doesn’t move but I can’t seem to put anything away.

  8. Too hilarious! Tom you are such a good sport! Not sure I would be….the only room in my house that is a disaster is my hubbies office…I am too afraid to go in there, and usually just keep the door closed. At best all I can do is peek my head in then I quickly have to leave 🙂 I agree with Myrnie – your friends are a hoot!

  9. Scott, Renae, Sarah, Tamara, Myrnie, Shirley, Sara, brion, beanz, and Ina, how wise you all are my friends, next dinner out with the “cleaning crew” I’m bringing you all along as my backup. Cheers!

  10. Don’t we get to decide how to keep our surroundings? Your home, your dogs, your chairs, your garden are a reflection of you. Perfect in every way. Stick your fingers in your ears and loudly say “lalalalalala”.

  11. I love your friend’s sense of humour. Wait a second…he wasn’t joking, was he? I confess, I fall on the other side of this thorny bush. I actually find housecleaning therapeutic and relaxing in an odd way, although I’m totally with you on the vacuuming thing. What is it with all that dust?!

    Thanks for stopping by my place and leaving such a lovely note. With compliments like that, you can drop by for a visit any time!

  12. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then I know for sure I’m heading in the other direction but I think I’ll have plenty of company. Great post Tom! We can always count on you for laughs and a good dose of reality.

  13. Cute post! My husband is the neat one, and so he’s always telling me to get out of the garden and clean the house! I like your view that vacuuming is unsustainable!

  14. Priceless. Absolutely priceless. There’s not many of us that can get one up on you. But tell Tyson if he comes to my house to visit he has to give me a minimum of 45 minutes notice.

  15. That’s so funny, so well written. I can just see you glazing over while the blah blah blah talk was going on.
    Now Tom., remember to dust off those cleaning products when next your friend comes to visit, nothing worse than dusty cleaning products (teeheee )

  16. Okay, I’m laughing out loud here at this funny post…you did mean it to be funny, right?

    I just returned from a FIVE week visit to the South and Midwest visiting my children, grandchildren and sisters. The house was “neat” upon my return home, although I knew deep down it hadn’t been “cleaned” in the past few weeks! Still, I appreciated the effort by my macho logger tree farmer and the overall neat appearance. However, I proceeded to unload and unpack all my junk, uh, stuff from the past 5 weeks. Now, it was no longer neat or clean!

    Which means I now have to look for MY cleaning supplies…

  17. Oh Tom, I vote for comfort and time spent doing what you love, over someone else’s idea of what is just tooo dirty in your own house.
    I truly think clean is a white western worldly idea that is greatly over rated. I am totally creeped out by sterile austere uncluttered spaces. But to each their own, I say. I am always amused/offended by holier than thou clean freaks who feel that being tidy and obsessed with cleaning is somehow a more highly evolved state than living a more natural (dirt filled) lifestyle. If we looked at the average household on the planet at this moment. It would probably have a swept dirt floor with all of your belongings in plain sight. We of the western world have really lost sight of reality, in my mind, when we have our esthetics based on dust & dirt free shining expanses of Formica smelling of toxic chemicals, devoid of living creatures or odors based on things that were once alive. I say donate those toxic cleaning products to Grannie’s Attic and go outside and enjoy being alive in the moment. It might even be sunny and not raining or both!

  18. Ha! Love that dust quote Jody! Dust, pumpkins, winter coats and hounds. Fab combo.No “Robber” alarms needed in our house from now on.
    J (Down Under)

  19. Your home looks lovely… and, as long as you haven’t poisoned anyone…. My place is clean and tidy, but dusty (or does that count as unclean?) I HATE dusting.

  20. Tom

    This is tough since I’m partly with you and partly a fan of Tyson.

    Clutter really irritates me–and that’s totally different from having a lot of stuff neatly arranged in a small space. I’ve lived in Manhattan on a tiny budget so I get it.

    On the other hand, I can completely ignore dirt for a long period of time. Hegui is the total opposite and we used to fight endlessly over this until I/we insisted that we hire a maid. She comes every other week (except during the kitchen reno, which was taxing in so many ways) for a reasonable rate, and we’re a happy couple once more.

    Your X-mas tree stand ON the wooden chair alarmed me more than the fact that it was out in May. That thing can scratch the delicate wood!

    Think about the maid thing. It might make life that much more comfortable for you and easy on your friends.

  21. this cleaning thing brings out as many comments as the compost debate…”clean’ is relative as your gentle readers have indicated in their comments and it is an illusion when the filthiest item in our homes is the sponge used to wipe our kitchen counters. I was going to go into post modernity and lack of resolution but being the first day back from a long weekend …


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