My Darling B and I each took a personal day from work to stay home yesterday and do a little spring cleaning. Yes, we know it’s January. Our house needs so much cleaning that we have to start spring cleaning in January. You’d understand if you saw our basement.

We moved for the last time in our lives eight years ago, but we still have big, plastic tubs full of stuff that we had been loading onto trucks and moving from one part of the world to the other. When we bought Our Humble O’Bode seven years ago (we bought it one year after we moved to Wisconsin; stay with me here) and busted a hernia moving all our stuff in, we promised each other that we would never move again. And so far, we have stuck to that promise. We have lived here in our little red house longer than we have ever lived in any other place, house or apartment, since we’ve been married.

But that left us with the big pile of stuff in the basement to deal with, and by “deal with” I mean ignore. I built some shelves along the walls, we stacked the tubs and boxes up on the shelves, and then we didn’t touch hardly any of it again. One of us will occasionally say something like, “We should do something about all that crap in the basement,” then pull a box down to peek inside, make a few more lame comments about “doing something,” and finally put the lid back on and put the box up again.

A few weeks ago I suggested piling it all up in the back yard, pouring gasoline over it and setting it on fire because, honestly, in eight years we have never needed any of that stuff. We hadn’t even opened some of the boxes, so could we please just get rid of them already? And B said, Tell you what: Let’s take a personal day and spend a long weekend going through a bunch of it, sorting out what we can give away and clean it up bit by bit.

And that is what we did. To maximize our long weekend, we took the day after MLK Day as our personal day, giving us a four-day weekend! Imagine all the boxes we could go through in four days! Now, imagine us sitting on our asses for three days, drinking coffee, looking at cat videos on the internet and completely ignoring all that junk in the basement, because that is how we actually spent Saturday and Sunday and a big chunk of Monday.

In the mornings we did most of our coffee-drinking and cat video-watching, because that is how we roll in the mornings. Once we’d had our fill of coffee, though, that’s when the ass-sitting got real serious. I finished a book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson (the most amazing memoir I’ve ever read in my whole damn life! You should read it. Now. Go. I’ll wait.) while My Darling B searched for and then downloaded about forty-two dozen apps for her tablet. It was an action-packed weekend here on the ranch, I can tell you.

But wait, there’s more! I spent most of Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday morning in my basement lair, playing with my toy trains. It’s a disease and I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I am and it’s not going away. I’ve learned to accept it. Also, it’s choo-choo trains! It still boggles my mind that there are people who don’t get that last part.

B had a project she had to work on Sunday and finish up on Monday, so she wasn’t there when I started cleaning up the basement by myself Monday afternoon. Only started it, mind you. Swept up the floor, really. Oh, and emptied a tub. It sounds like a whole lot more than it actually was.

But on Tuesday … ah, on Tuesday we really kicked it into gear, maybe because we work better under deadlines. B even shot steroids up her nose so her dust allergy wouldn’t leave her flat on her back. That’s how serious she was about cleaning up the basement. The few times I tiptoed down the stairs and stuck my head around the corner, she looked like the Looney Toons Tasmanian devil in there, just a big whirling dervish with arms and legs sticking out. By the time she was done, there was a big pile of stuff to cart off to the donation bins of Saint Vinnie’s, and the basement was ever so neat and tidy. Deadlines, I’m tellin’ ya.

I spent all day Tuesday in our bedroom, dusting. Really, that’s all I did, technically. Literally, I think what I was doing could be classified as earth moving. Honestly, I should have started with a shovel, but I didn’t want to scuff the floor. Instead, I started with the vacuum cleaner, because there wasn’t enough spray furniture polish in the world to pick up all that dust. After moving most of the boxes out from under the bed, though, I was frankly a little worried the vacuum cleaner might not have the horsepower I needed to finish the job.

The dust under the bed was just the beginning, however. I should have been satisfied after cleaning that up, but I had to go and move the book case, just to see what was back there, and OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT IS. And I should have never moved the chest of drawers.

Four hours later, after filling the vacuum cleaner and emptying the broom closet of every last cleaning rag, I was done, or at least I was done dusting. I still can’t blow my nose without getting black boogers, so I can’t really say I’m done yet.

the plan

The dishes are washed and drip-drying on the countertop, the cat dishes are washed and filled, I ate the last solid food I’ll have until tomorrow, and that’s everything I had planned for today. There’s nothing else. Oh, shit, there is something – I planned to clean the bathroom. Dammit! I hate cleaning the bathroom, but it’s got to be done. There are dust bunnies the size of water buffalo in there, and I don’t even want to think about how big the pathogens that are growing in the tile grout have gotten. When I hold still long enough, I’m pretty sure I can see them move.

Okay, fine. I’m going to clean the bathroom now. Hope you’re not.


I think our dusty house may be trying to kill us.

By the time we get to the end of the winter season, when the windows have been closed more or less continuously since October, our house has dust bunnies so numerous that the president takes them off the endangered species list. Granted, that’s mostly our fault. We could be more diligent about hunting them down. It seems like such a waste of time, though, when there are still books I haven’t read, naps I haven’t taken and web sites I haven’t doinked away the afternoon poking through.

This year has been especially dusty. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been remarkably non-diligent about cleaning. I don’t doubt that could be the case, but I’m not ready to make that admission yet. It could just be an especially bad year for dust. The cats have been shedding quite a lot. I’d feel a lot better about blaming it on them than taking responsibility of it myself. Tell me you wouldn’t do the same.

And up until now, having a dusty house hasn’t been a problem, so we haven’t wasted a lot of thought to mull over how to make it less dusty, or energy to do anything about cleaning it up. This year, though, we discovered that a dusty house is, in fact, a problem. This year it’s come to light that dust can make you really, really sick.

My Darling B ventured into the basement last weekend to clean up the room where she starts her garden vegetables under a bank of grow lights. Really, just veggies. Tomatoes and peppers. Nothing else. If this was a basement operation for growing other things people seem to be growing in there basements year-round, B’s growing area wouldn’t need a clean-up every spring to clear away the stacks of boxes, magazines and whatever else gets thrown in the basement “just for now.”

She cleared all the collected junk away first, then swept up the floor. An hour or two later she had a nasty cough. The next morning she was coughing up lung cookies. She thought it was a relapse of the chest cold she’d been suffering the week before, but the doctor she visited said her symptoms sounded like an allergy, and she she asked B what she’d been doing right before the coughing started and B told her, the blame fell on the dust.

Kay. That made sense, given that we already know our house is infested with dust bunnies and that B got the hacking ickies last year at about this time. First thing I did the night she got back from the doctor’s was change the furnace filter because I don’t know when I did that last. Probably last fall, but maybe a year ago. Maybe more. I always forget to write the date on the side of the filter. Didn’t forget this time, though.

And after summer I vacuumed the basement stairs where some of the biggest dust bunnies have been hanging out. It’s been live and let live up to this point, but I have to draw the line when they keep My Darling B up nights.

Then today when we did our housecleaning today we vacuumed and wiped and dusted like maniacs. And B’s been looking for a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter, a high-priced acronym meaning that it’s supposed to clean all the dust out of the air and/or all the money out of your wallet.

The End of the Lazy-Butt New Year’s Holiday

For the past two days I’ve indulged the hell out of myself: I parked my butt on the sofa Friday morning and have done practically nothing since then but drink coffee, read web comics, blog and read books. Just a total slug. And it was good.

But things fall apart, as they say, and it’s time to start battling the evil forces of entropy, starting with a quick clean-up of the house. My Darling B led the charge by breaking out the cleaning rags and assaulting the kitchen head-on, with an assist from me because I had to clean the dishes out of the sink before she could really get into it and she won’t touch the dishes because that’s my department. She puts food on the dishes, I clean them up, that’s the deal, and the delicious delights she comes up with make it worth scrubbing every cooked-on slick of scum off the cooking pans. I just want to make sure I add that.

Then I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and started hoovering up all the clumps of gray crud that have accreted along the edges of the stairs. And there’s your word of the day: “accrete.” It’s erosion in reverse, a build-up of stuff. I had to point it out because “accrete” doesn’t get used enough, so load it up in your vocabulary and lob it out there the next time you get a chance. Thank you. Love and Kisses, from The Pedantic Lexicographers.

I think the crud on the stairs starts out as mere dust, but when it combines with the kitty litter that gets tracked up the stairs by our live-in mousetraps it takes on a shape and texture that reminds me of lichens and probably occupies the same level of the chain of life, inanimate but not unliving, waiting for its chance to evolve into something mobile with fangs and glowing goat-eyes that’ll be able to erupt from the darkness of the basement and devour me as I saunter down there one night to get a beer. Or at least that’s as far as I let it get before I grab a vacuum cleaner and vigorously suck it out of the corners.

Then I vacuumed up the dust under the sofa, and then the shredded carpet around the scratching post, and the dirt in the hallway, and finally the hairballs in the bathroom before I bowed to the inevitable, pulled on my extra-large rubber gloves and started scrubbing down the rest of the bathroom. Talk about a breeding ground for killer life forms. Every time I get down on my knees so my eyes are close enough to the floor to see what’s going on down there, I wonder how we’ve managed to live through the week. Sometimes it’s a blessing being nearsighted.

Some three hours and several gallons of industrial-strength cleanser after I started, I was scrubbing my own skin with a loofa while standing under a shower of scalding water in the hopes of feeling clean again some day. It could happen.