Wednesday, March 29, 2006

spring cleaning

Yesterday, the Pottery Barn catalog came in the mail, and I threw it in the stack we have going next to the toilet, which is where I get a lot of my catalog reading done. It's fitting, I guess. Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Ballard Designs ... they all remind me that I am so much more like Bridget Jones than Martha Stewart in the homemaking department. Barely hanging on. But with the best intentions.

I like to imagine that in my truly grown-up, Pottery Barn life, we will set our table for casual summer dinner parties with crisp, freshly ironed linen tablecloths and the perfect Tuscan-glazed stoneware, with strings of lanterns glimmering across the garden-decked lawn, or that I will concoct delicate, whimsical cupcakes by hand for my children's birthday parties ... but who am I kidding? That's not our life. Our dishwasher leaves horribly large spots on the glasses, and I can't be bothered to wash them by hand unless people are coming over, and sometimes not even then. I can't figure out how to get the rotty smell out of our garbage disposal, and we don't change the sheets as often as we should. I imagine the people who live in Pottery Barn houses - they don't have dust on top of the refrigerator, and they iron their pillowcases and tablecloths. Still, our house is not filthy. It can be messy and cluttered and wrinkled, but it's also cozy and homey, and I like it this way. It feels real and comfortable. And sometimes parts of it are even sparkling clean, like last week when I scrubbed the kitchen sink to a shine and really went at the countertops. I do that not because of some anal need for a perfect house but because it makes me feel good, and it makes Steve happy, and it delights me to see him happy, especially when he's had a long day. So I do it for love. (And sometimes, I do other things for love and let the housework slide!)

One time, I visited some people whose home will never be mistaken for a Pottery Barn catalog. ("Some people" means I don't ever want this to get back to them.) Their stuff was everywhere, spilling down the staircases and crammed along the hallway walls. Even the bathroom counters were piled up with papers from work, paperback books, empty bowls with the spoons stuck to the old ice cream on the bottom. That scared me silly. The minute I left their house, I called Steve on my cell phone to describe the trauma scene. "Let's never let that happen to us," I told him. As soon as I got home, we started picking up crap: The old magazines piled up on our coffee table. The three days' worth of newspapers and receipts and rubber bands scattered over the dining room table. The stray Kleenexes that end up under the bed after sex. The scare lasted for a few weeks, but you know how it is. People slip back into their old, cluttery habits.

Before I moved in with Steve, I hired a woman to come over once a month and clean my apartment. It was a good deal for both of us: She was a single mom who worked at Northwest Airlines but needed the extra cash, and I was an irregular, spotty housekeeper who loved coming home once a month to the sweet smell of Murphy's wood oil, a scent that made me feel extraordinarily well-cared-for. It was worth the $35 plus tip. Sometimes I tell Steve that I'd like to hire a housekeeper again. He, as protector of the budget, raises his eyebrow and convinces me that together, we could do just as good a job ourselves. And we roll up our sleeves and scrub the bathroom clean, and that ends the discussion for another month or so. (I should mention that Steve pulls his fair share of the cleaning load around the house.) However, I think - I hope - he's softening to the idea now that I'm pregnant and he knows how hard the first year of parenthood will be. Perhaps, if we can shift some things around, we can make it work.

Meanwhile, I've got spring cleaning on the brain. I read the April issue of Real Simple on the plane home Sunday; it was dedicated to cleaning house in manageable ways: Small steps. Pleasurable products. Fifteen minutes at a time, with happy music playing. It inspired me. I've already gone online to order some microfiber cleaning towels recommended in one article - I just know they will change my life! And the other night, killing time at Eq-life, I bought a bottle of Caldrea's rose pink peppercorn linen spray. The bottle itself is exquisite, and the scent takes me back to a beautiful, idyllic part of my childhood. I changed our sheets, sprayed them all over, and breathed happily all night. Even today, they still smell good. It makes me want to iron something.

Spring cleaning. I feel like Bridget Jones starting a fresh page in her diary, full of optimism and resolve. I think I'm ready to get started.


liz said...

It's so funny that you mention Caldrea linen spray because I just received a bottle of it recently, and it has me ironing for the first time in, well, ever! Oh, I iron occasionally - but dread it. But the other night I happily set up shop with about 6 shirts and my Caldrea White Tea Linen Spray and felt just like Martha (post-jail, of course).

Although I like to think we'll have it easier when we move to a bigger place and have more room to store our stuff (and therefore less clutter), I too am guilty of "Bridget Jones syndrome" - and usually like it that way. I adore PB catalogs as much as (and probably more than) the next person, but I agree that what they consider "mess" is disturbing. A casually flung sweater over the arm of a couch doesn't really get close to the tornado that's hit our place some days (as you probably know!).

And the PB Kids catalog is even worse. Where are the spit-up-encrusted bibs, the far-flung toys, the crayon on the walls? Right. Luckily, I'd much rather have real children than plastic ones. Love is messy - I'm excited to look forward to having a messy house that's FULL of love!

(P.S. I still wouldn't rule out the cupcakes - you can make them out a box and they taste just fine!) :)

Emilie said...

Liz, that is funny! (And I really like that White Tea scent, too - we have some White Tea hand soap.) Did you know all of Caldrea's 2005 lines are on sale right now? In case you want to stock up. :)