Monday, February 27, 2012

Dirty Pleasures

Who knows what mysteries the canister holds?
I’ll be the first to admit that housekeeping is not at the top of my skills list.  It’s not that my mother was a slob by any stretch.  She taught my sister and me to vacuum and dust.  We tidied the yard and always had clean clothes.  How I came to this point is my own doing. 

O.k., our house isn’t so bad that we warrant an episode on Hoarders or Clean House.  I clean the kitchen after every use, I do laundry a couple times a week, and the bathroom gets a once over about as often, but it could be better.  Vacuuming and dusting are way down on the list, below scrubbing the toilet, although higher than ironing – which is a whole other matter and why I tend to wear knits or items that need dry cleaning. 

I think it’s the futility of it.  Having had multiple dogs in the household for the last twenty or so years, I’ve come to accept that dog hair and dander will be present regardless of how much I wash and groom the dogs or how much I vacuum and dust.  My husband and I have come to accept that it’s a fair exchange: a furry, dusty house in exchange for canine companionship. There’s a lint roller by the door and each of us has one in his/her car. 

Even so, there comes a point when the situation is so appalling that even I can’t tolerate it any longer. The dusting is still tedious and my allergies don’t make it any easier, but when it comes to vacuuming, there’s an excitement, or perhaps something more akin to morbid curiosity that spurs me on.  Our vacuum cleaner is bagless which allows me to quantify our level of filth. 

Despite the claim that our vacuum will “never lose suction,” it does when the catch canister becomes too full, which on some occasions happens quite quickly.  This requires me to keep a close eye on the “full” marker so I’m not wasting time pushing a functionless vacuum. I poke the “on” button, and watch as a tornado of dust and fur forms and builds in the canister. It’s simultaneously amazing and disconcerting.

In my defense, our carpets are rather a dust color to start with, of that mysterious pile that’s not as long as shag, but not looped like berber either, and it’s got its share of stains.  So fur and dust sort of disappear.  Still, I know it isn’t really an excuse for letting vacuum sessions lapse as frequently as I do.  But seeing the dirt and hair accumulating in the canister discourages rather than encourages me to vacuum more frequently.

If I only have to empty the canister once, I almost view the session as a waste of time and effort.  But having to empty the canister multiple times, especially if it’s just one room, confirms that it was indeed time for a thorough cleaning.  My husband has caught on with the fascination as well. 

The typical end of cleaning conversation goes something like this:

“Whew! Done!”

“Thank you.  How many canisters?”

“Seven (or some other appalling number)!”

“Wow!  That’s disgusting.”

“I know.  It’s a good thing I vacuumed.”

Now if the number of full canisters was one or two, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting (or repulsive) and the other spouse would likely have little appreciation for the effort or timing.  But when the number rises above, say five canisters, that is considered a feat, even a fortunate event, since apparently we’ve been walking around on five canisters of filth unbeknownst to us. 

Gratitude and kudos for a job well done is usually expressed with a glass of wine or a martini, which serves as further reinforcement for procrastination.

I suppose a similar fascination is why I enjoy doing laundry.  There’s that moment of anticipation as I empty the lint trap between loads.  I know lint isn’t really “dirt,” but it still feels like I’ve accomplished something, that somehow I’ve improved our cleanliness situation.  Dog bedding laundry day is especially exciting. The amount of fur pulled from the trap on those days can almost be thrilling, momentarily inspiring me to make dog fur sweaters.

How can my dogs not be bald?
I suppose at some point we could phase in wirehairs, poodles or doodles as our next dogs, or better yet hairless, to eliminate the shedding.  But I like the feel of longer hair on dogs, and we don’t need to trim or shave them.  Sure, with bigger dogs, we’ve gone from dust mice to dust bunnies, and I’m sure dust ponies on occasion.  Now that the Uber Hund is gone and we don’t have to worry about his footing, we could get rid of the carpets and go to wood or tile floors, which would keep the dust and dirt from becoming imbedded.

Still, there are those moments when I almost regret cleaning, strange moments that strike me when I’m off guard.  I moved the couch and found a small cloud of the Uber Hund’s distinct reddish gold fur.  He’d been dead a little over a month and I’d put away all his other things.  But there it was, a little bit of him still tumbling around, a silent reminder.  I thought about leaving it there, but before I could push the couch back, the vacuum sucked up the fur ball and it disappeared in the whir of other bits of hair and debris. 

Six canisters.  A good haul. 

My husband and I raised a glass and toasted to the little cloud of Uber Hund.

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