Airing My Dirty Laundry

In polite society, we don't talk about cleaning that much. It is something you are just supposed to know how to do, and work it seamlessly into your day, without sweating, on a regular basis so that when guests arrive, there are clean glasses and the sofa is clear enough to offer them a seat.

I bought my first vacuum cleaner on Mother's Day (oh, the irony). It is a Bissell and it sucks up dirt pretty well, as far as I can tell. It's a little heavy, but it has a washable filter and canister and you don't need bags, and the hoses are really easy to get on and off.

At first, I was delighted. We have wall-to-wall carpet upstairs now and a very messy toddler and a cat who sheds. Not to mention all the dirt that gets tracked in from people who spend a lot of time biking around town and splashing in puddles in the park. I never had a new vacuum cleaner before, and I'm now convinced that the hand-me-down ones we always used did nothing except spew dust all over the house.

But recently I started to wonder if a broom isn't faster. I mean, the actual sweeping seems to take longer, but when you are done, you are done. No moving parts to break. Obviously I can't deal with the carpet with a broom, but why do I lug the Bissell all over the house? A broom is lighter. It doesn't take up as much space to store. It doesn't make any noise and you don't need electricity (actually a bigger problem than you might think when you live in a house with original wiring).

Cleaning is different depending on the type of house you live in. Those of you who live in old houses know that ancient dirt creeps up from behind baseboards and out of closet corners where plaster is crumbling. Sometimes we find bits of 75 year old newspapers that were shoved in cracks to prevent a draft. Buffalo nickels emerge from under the radiators.

Some people are very particular about cleaning techniques. They learn from their mothers the "right" way to mop a floor, or clean a toilet. I don't have any hereditary cleaning rituals. I just experiment with what what works best, preferably using baking soda and vinegar and perhaps a little Simple Green when necessary. Some people have special tools...a duster they can't live without, or a certain brand of toilet tank cleaner.

I recently ran across this video, and I'm sort of intrigued by the book, although she seems to be coming from a place of privilege that I can't relate to. I like the images of the "help" scrubbing the tile and changing the garbage can liner. When I was hanging my clothes on the line to dry yesterday, I tried to rethink the act...make it into something pleasurable. And then suddenly it was, the bending and stretching to reach the line, and gazing up into the sky as I did. Lifting up the heavy red bath towels to the highest part of the line. Tiny t-shirts and shorts all waving in a row in the breeze. It went from being something I do because I ought not use the dryer on a sunny warm day, into something that I actually enjoyed.

So what do you think? Should I keep vacuuming my wood floors and stairs, or just stick with a broom?

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