I just returned from seven days of cleaning—a lot of cleaning. Six bedrooms, four bathrooms, two kitchens, two dining areas, two living rooms, a pool room, a ping pong/laundry room, a number of closets and cabinets…Mattress covers, bed skirts, comforter covers, and bedspreads to wash for 12 beds…Six thousand windows to wash (okay, maybe it only seemed like six thousand). I did all this while my husband cut and sectioned dead trees, stacked wood, hauled away dead brush, repaired flicker holes in the building, refinished tables, built a stile, and gathered up 100 feet of barbed wire to recycle.
My husband has been one of the owners of a large, remote mountain place we call the Lodge since long before I met him. Since he retired, he has taken over the maintenance of the place. It needs to be thoroughly cleaned once a year, but it’s hard to find someone to do that work in such an out-of-the way area. This year I thought, “Why not pay me?” I could use the money to help defray the cost of my ridiculously expensive annual trip to New York City at the end of the month, to immerse myself in musical theater.
So that’s why I cleaned for seven days. Ed and I are both exhausted, and yet…to my surprise, we had a really nice time. It felt good to do hard, physical work that had an end in sight. At home, trying to deep clean just one room is overwhelming, with stuff from daily life everywhere. I went to my dresser recently to clean it and started with my “Things I Never Use Drawer.”
It occurred to me that perhaps, just perhaps, I shouldn’t have a “Things I Never Use Drawer,” so I decided to purge. I found two belts I never wear, but I realized they would be perfect with a silk tunic—if I ever actually get a silk tunic. I found empty jewelry boxes that snap shut—previously containing gifts from my husband. I should get rid of those, but, really, they might come in handy packing jewelry for a short trip or for gifts for someone else, even though I haven’t used any of them for five or six years now. I found a bag of rhinestone jewelry that I collected for a one-minute appearance on stage in a show 12 years ago. I could get rid of it, but who knows when rhinestones might come in handy again? And the rice pack for heating when my back hurts….well I have another, better rice pack, but I probably should keep this one for a spare.
Needless to say, I still have my Things I Never Use Drawer.
At the Lodge, though, drawers are empty. Cupboards are filled with things everyone uses. There are no knickknacks. Cleaning had a clear END in sight; I just had to plug away toward reaching that end. Working toward it was strangely rewarding. I spend so much time “in my head”—writing, editing, reading, coming up with ideas. This was a nice change.
But the best part was that whenever I looked out of those six thousand windows I had to wash, I saw at least fifty shades of green, my favorite color. There was the friendly lime-ish green of the aspen leaves, the heavy, deep green of the pines—even deeper when the mountains cast a shadow on them. There was the sage green of (surprise!) the sage, the various greens of box elder and willow and ground cover, and the sparkling green of the timothy grass when the sun hit it. Honestly, it was so beautiful that it took my breath away, again and again.
And a few walks into that rainbow of green, when the day’s work was done—even better.