just ponderin'

… on foregoing time for a privilege

 

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People assume I have a cleaning lady.

Ha! No, silly you, it isn’t because my house is so clean!

I think it may be the size of the house, or maybe because it’s grey, or has windows…

Actually, I don’t know why they assume I have a cleaning lady… or are surprised when I tell them I don’t, often dropping their jaws and asking, incredulously, “Why?!”

Well, I’ll tell ya.

Because I was thinking about it today, while I was cleaning in my very own bathroom (I’ll stick to the fact that I was cleaning the sink, vs. the other bathroom bits because this is a PG-rated blog and also I try to keep it gross-free).

I say, “my very own bathroom” because there was a time when just having my very own bathroom seemed like a dream in and of itself (plus, other people can share my very own bathroom, I just mean no one else legally owns it. Except JoHn. So I guess it’s just sort of my very own bathroom. But just read on.)

Anyway, today, I can proudly say that I have (co-owned) a number of my very own bathrooms over the course of past 27ish years.

And, for a time, when JoHn and I were both working crazy busy hoity toity jobs, we did have someone come in and clean our house.

And I loved the feeling of coming home on a Friday afternoon to a house that was hair free and dust-free and shine-y and sparkle-y and smelled just awesome.

JoHn and I bought ourselves time, pretty much literally (if literally can be pretty much’d)

And we spent that time with our family, rather than vacuuming and dusting and wiping and scrubbing.

It felt so luxurious.

But now I have the time to clean, and I do it.

And it’s kind of great.

It isn’t that I love the cleaning itself (though it is sometimes totally meditative to wipe down countertops or sweep floors or wash windows or make beds… (I’d tell you about cleaning the toilets but, again, PG)).

It’s that cleaning the house is part of creating a space – making it the way I like it to be – for me, and for others who live here or come here.

I grew up in a house that was an absolute … how do I say this in my PG environment … aHA!

Poop storm.

My mother was a single parent, who worked as a secretary at a local community college.  My younger sister and I, I’m sure, gave her a run for her money.  And, I suspect – many of us in my family suspect – my mother dealt with sometimes profound depression, and maybe other issues to boot.

And all that contributed to the house being a pit, much of the time when I was younger.

Sure, we put away the piles of clothes and swept and vacuumed when people were coming over, which was rare, but most of the time…

It was pretty bad.

Cleaning and cooking took a back seat to … well, to most everything else. My mother was big on huge Women’s Liberation speeches, and it seemed to make sense for a while that the lack of cooking and cleaning was a brave statement.

But equal rights for women had nothing to do with shielding Swanson TV dinners from leaking ceilings, showering carefully so as not to crumble rotted bathroom walls…

Mold, mildew… dust, dirt… pale blue walls yellowed from an ever-present gauzy veil of cigarette smoke.

Not a place where people wanted to be, really.

When I left home in my late teens, I had so much to learn.

I remember marveling that people were excited to have people into their homes, vs. anxious at being intruded upon.

huh.

People wanted to have people to drinks or dinner, excited to cook for them, to create an atmosphere where people were comfortable.

Kind of cool…

Candles were lit.  Music chosen and played.  Other people’s preferences considered along the way.

Giving.

I learned to clean by watching what JoHn’s sister, Robin, bought for cleaning supplies.  I pestered her into telling me how she and Bro-in-Law JohnBrun (all one word) blasted Huey Lewis and the News on Saturday mornings and cleaned for a couple of hours.

So we did that too (our condo was practically amoeba free… if not fur free (of course this was all pre-kids!)).

I learned to cook from cookbooks and my friend, Anna, who would come over to our first condo, and cook with me.  She’d ask for cooking tools and utensils that I often didn’t have, and I’d buy them as soon as I could afford them so my kitchen had the basics.

I paid attention, as did JoHn.  So I figured women’s liberation was being honored if we both understood all this cleaning and cooking and the idea of having people over to share our times and spaces with us.

We learned how to create a home.

I never outsourced our cooking, you know, beyond the neighborhood pizza and Chinese food joints.

And when the kids were grown a bit, and I didn’t have to be away from home to do my work, I added the cleaning back into my life.

I appreciate the rhythm of creating a space that feels good to be in.

I appreciate the time to absorb, and be truly grateful for this space to clean… my very own bathrooms (and other rooms) in my very own house.

It may not be professionally, sparkling clean at any given time… but it is a product of me.

Of my time.

And my work.

Done for me, for my family, and for anyone who shows up and comes inside.

What was once a luxury to have someone else do for me…

Has once again become a privilege to take care of myself.

Go figure.

Thanks for readin’.

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Elena Peters

midlife blogger & pinterest master

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