Keeping the Dirt Out

It was late March when we put our home on the market, and now it’s (obviously) late July. I don’t want to jinx anything, but we may have found ourselves a buyer for our little abode. I couldn’t be happier about this development, but it does mean I’m on hyper-alert about about keeping our cute place nice and clean.

Now, my natural state is not slovenly by any means. I’m not the sort of person who lives among piles of detritus and must tunnel through them in order to make my way through the house. Things are generally pretty civilized here, with nothing an hour or so of cleaning couldn’t take care of if someone were coming over. But my eagerness to have all the moving-out chips fall into place has trained my eye for every speck of dirt that could possibly fall and sully my highly-polished anything, and it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say I chased behind my cat to catch her summer shedding.

As I was scrubbing down my porch with a little Dr. Bronner’s mint soap today (incidentally, has anyone ever taken the time to read the full labeling of said soap? If yes, does anyone understand what he’s trying to communicate? It seems to be the soap of choice on planet crazypants) I realized how often I get to drag my 5-gallon buckets of soapy water out to the deck. This all has to take place every two to three weeks now that I need things to look spotless and sparkling. But the Earth, which so many Pacific Northwest folks seem to quite literally worship, is really only interested in taking my home back for its own. And unlike many places in the US, which rely on central AC to get their populations through the summer, in the PNW we simply open our windows for the season. All the grit in the wind comes right in, and collects on your cat, who then scoots and spins it all onto your floors, then sheds fur and spins on your floors some more.And as I scrubbed today, I thought about how much like housecleaning the writing life really is. Just as it would be easier to keep the *&^%@#$% deck clean if I rinsed it every day rather than scrubbing it every 14, I probably wouldn’t have the inconsistencies that I do when I come back to my writing after a long chunk of time away from the text. When I come back to my work after a hiatus, I find I’m tentative, and reluctant to face the grit that’s accumulated on my language over a couple of weeks. And while it might not take a half-bottle of vegetable soap to get back in the writing routine, it takes an emotional equivalent. Whenever I have to take breaks, as I do this summer for teaching, moving, and developmental work with the magazine, I realize that grit is accumulating.

And just as looking at a bunch of dust and dirt isn’t something I’m willing to do right now, I’m making a commitment to myself to get back to my writing office, for at least an hour or two a week, which is all or maybe more than I can spare right now, to brush of that layer of dirt. I may still need to come at the work with a deck brush and a bottle of soap, but I’m going to try to dust it off with my typing fingers if I can. Because, as the end of the day, who cares how clean my floors are? But if I can possibly write something worth that’s worth reading? That’s worth several clean decks.

3 Replies to “Keeping the Dirt Out”

  1. Oh, dearest! You write the very words that express my own feelings about the writing these days. We both know how painful taking breaks can feel, and yet we’ve seen each other through far thicker clumps of literary grime. We’ll just have to learn how to make those one or two hours of writing time incredibly productive. There’s really no other choice, is there?

  2. An interesting metaphor. One thing I’ve noticed is that a block of time away from a text means it takes that much more effort to get back into the established tone. As it is, I’m working on a rewrite of my novel every day and it still takes me 15-45 minutes to immerse myself in the novel’s world and produce something consistent and usable.

    As for getting the house ready for sale, I’ve sold a couple and have always been a little depressed at having cleaned and fixed everything to make it marketable, only to leave without having had a chance to enjoy the pristine condition.

  3. Joe, you know, it *is* depressing cleaning it all out only to leave your pristine house to someone else. Especially since I have a hunch the buyer’s about to gut the whole thing and redo it to his own tastes. That’s life!

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