When it comes to cleaning – and many other things – I have 2 sides, warring against each other. These 2 sides, or sub-personalities, come from my 2 grandmothers. Jekyll and Hyde, if you will.
The Desire for Order
On my father’s side is my Granny: the cleanest person I know. Her home is immaculate, ready for visitors at any moment – though if she is expecting visitors, a more thorough deep-cleaning will be undergone in preparation. And, strangely enough, I don’t believe this is a significant source of stress for her. She is not a germaphobe, she isn’t compelled to clean and re-clean obsessively, as if it were some sort of disorder. She enjoys nature and the outdoors and can tolerate dirt very well, in its proper place. But there is the key, I think: everything in its place. Granny is a person of order, of organization. She is also a person of generous hospitality. She will air out rooms, decorate for the season, and fill her home with delicious scents to welcome guests on their arrival. She wishes others to be comfortable in her home, and as she is most comfortable when everything around her is spic and span, she assumes this attention to detail will put others at ease, as well.
There is a part of me that feels pulled toward this ideal. Arriving at Granny’s house for Christmas is one of my fondest childhood memories. Her house was Christmas – everything I’d read about in stories and seen depicted in paintings. Slightly old-fashioned, as if from an era when there were servants available to dust every knick-knack and polish the silver, to keep fires blazing in every room, and produce elaborate holiday meals served on fine china and crisply ironed table linens. Except that this was all condensed into my grandparents’ moderately-sized bungalow, with only one fireplace keeping the entire house toasty warm, and all accomplished by Granny and Grandpa.
Although in our practical culture, some might call this level of dedication to housekeeping extravagant, and perhaps a frivolous use of time, there is something about it that I have always found deeply relaxing. Knowing that every detail of my surroundings has been arranged for my comfort, from the eradication of dust-bunnies to the placement of a bowl of candy – made of crystal, and standing on a white doily, of course – does make me feel like a welcome and honoured guest, as I’m sure is my grandmother’s intention. Seeing everything clean, cared for, and tastefully arranged, gives me a sense of peace. Of restfulness. And I long for this sense of order in my own life. To have everything in its place.
The Reality of Chaos
On the other side of the spectrum, in almost every sense, is Nana, my mother’s mother. To walk into my Nana’s home is an adventure, every time. When you step into the back porch, it may be filled with a dozen rolls of wallpaper from a recent garage sale. It will likely smell of compost. The screen door will slam behind you, the bright blue paint on the wooden door will be peeling, and the handle may fall off in your hand. Once inside, you will smell bread baking in the breadmaker – a delicious, heartwarming smell with the magic ingredient of anise. You won’t be greeted with filth, but there will be signs of living – food out on the counter, projects on the dining room table. There is a cluttered, slightly grungy feeling to the whole place. Even though this is Canada, you would not feel uncomfortable walking in with your shoes on (in summer).
Something about this is very comfortable. Nothing is new. Nothing is precious. Nothing is permanent. The creaking of the floors as you walk on them may produce a subconscious sense of unease – reminding you that this house, like everything else on earth, will someday rot and crumble and be no more – but along with that is an acceptance that all things are temporary, and replaceable. You are not walking on hallowed ground.
There is a sense, in Nana’s house, that there are places that have rarely, if ever, been explored. That you wouldn’t want to look too closely at. It is not as though my Nana doesn’t clean. I believe she prepares for the arrival of her family as earnestly as my Granny does. But her cleaning is to her level of comfort – to the point that it is clean enough. It is done out of necessity, not with joy or pleasure. Any kind of regular cleaning is strictly surface-level, and is never thorough in any sense. The corners and crevices remain untouched. Deeper cleaning is sporadic and selective. And always done with torn-up rags, which are thrown out after use. In fact, though frugal to the extreme, Nana would readily admit to being more inclined to throw out and replace just about anything – including a stove – than to clean it.
From these 2 halves, you get me.
I want the order and cleanliness of my Granny. My environment is important to me, and I care what others think when they walk into my home or my room. But like my Nana, I have other things to do with my time.
So what you get is a general desire for, and attempt at tidiness, while I fail to keep on top of things. My environment gradually deteriorates, but those little things nag at me until eventually it becomes too much, and in a flurry of activity, I clean every inch of that space from top to bottom, rearrange the furniture, and organize every item in a more efficient fashion than before. It is a thing of beauty. I spend days relishing in it.
And then begins another slow descent into chaos.
Maybe BLE can Save Me
Interestingly enough, this pretty much mirrors my attempts at controlling my food. Periods of mad activity and strict dedication, with determination that this time, I will maintain the effort. Followed by a disappointing return to my old ways.
At the moment, I am moving back into my old room. It’s taken a couple of days, and I’m still not done. The 1st day involved removing everything from my room. Cleaning the floors and corners and underneath all the furniture. Then taking everything out of the closet, and repeating the process of cleansing. Throwing things out, giving things away. And finally, taking all the stuff I kept, and reorganizing it all. Unpacking and repacking every box. Returning everything to my closet and my room in a new and better way. Total Marie Kondo.
Just as I’ve done with my food using BLE, this is a complete overhaul.
It’s a good feeling. Really good. But I know I can’t attain my Granny’s level of cleanliness. I certainly can’t keep it going. I need to find a system that is efficient and livable. Easier to maintain. If it’s too arduous, I won’t be able to keep it up
Just like I couldn’t stick to any of the crazy diets I’ve tried before.
I’m hoping BLE is it. Easy to stick to, once I get used to. Manageable. Liveable.
We shall see.