Maria came on Wednesday. I had cleaned some the week before, so that she would not not be too frightened by what she found. She looked younger than I expected for the mother of grown children, and was cheerful and energetic. I told her just to do the downstairs (living room, dining room, kitchen, bath, and den) so she could get to know the house, and let me know the supplies she needed.
It only took her five hours to whip the downstairs into shape; when I came down once, she was Swiffer-dusting the lampshades--who knew people dusted lampshades? Magicianlike, she made the brownish scratches in the bottom of the white sink disappear.
We’re in awe, if not love. She promised to clean the top of the refrigerator when she comes back in two weeks.
I’m already finding that there are interesting side effects from someone coming in, besides a cleaner house. The rooms look so sparkling that I’m not willing for anything to clutter them up. Things get put away or into the recycling bag immediately, nothing stays on the kitchen counters or dining room table. It’s easier to maintain than I thought.
A second effect was described to me by a friend who recently rehired a cleaner after a hiatus. My friend was so inspired that she took down, washed, and ironed all her curtains. Her husband refinished a coffee table that had been languishing for decades. My sense is that there’s something about being freed up from routine tasks that gives you the energy to plunge into other projects. It’s as if there is a certain amount of energy (or guilt) earmarked for Home Maintenance that needs to be used up.
Without planning to, I cleared out the basement that had become a repository over the spring and summer. I opened the sewing machine I had gotten for Christmas and read the directions (computerized and way more complicated than the Singer I had as a young adult). And I embarked on a large upstairs bathroom project which I’ll explain about next week. With pictures.
Meanwhile, I taught my first class of the fall on “The Psychology of Stuff” over at Stony Brook University (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). I’d wondered last September if there was enough to say about our attachment to things to fill up twelve weeks. Not to worry. Making peace with stuff, finding the perfect balance to feel happy and supported without being overwhelmed, is the goal of nearly everyone.