"Cleanliness is next to Godliness." "A clean house is a sign of a misspent life." Two very different schools of thought, yet I'm well acquainted with both of them. I think I've mentioned here before that Thursday was always cleaning day when I was growing up and I can't recall an occasion that cleaning day was skipped, postponed or rescheduled. It wasn't so much that mom drilled the virtues of a clean house into our heads; it's just what was done, always on Thursdays, but I suspect she must have been doing maintenance here and there throughout the week because our house was always spic and span.
I remember one of my jobs was vacuuming the basement each week. Looking back, I have to ask -- the basement? Every week? It wasn't even a finished basement, it had a cement floor and housed my dad's workshop, the washer and dryer and an assortment of furniture that had been demoted from various rooms upstairs. I can't imagine it really required a thorough vacuuming all that often. Mom would probably faint if she saw the state of my own basement today.
As for that "misspent life" theory, I used to take great pride in being a super-clean person, but in retrospect I wonder what I was thinking. I remember two occasions in particular: one when I had a studio apartment and declined a trip to the islands with friends because I really needed to clean. Clean what? A kitchen I never cooked in? The one room that doubled as my living room and bedroom? Was I crazy? Another time, in a larger apartment, my then-beau wanted me to hang out with him at some friends' house for a Browns game -- beer, snacks, a bunch of fun people yelling at Bernie Kosar -- but guess what? I had noticed that very morning, the bathroom ceiling -- you know, how steam from the shower collects and sometimes you need to wash the ceiling... Yeah, no Browns game, no beer, no Bernie. But my ceiling was clean. I know. It's sad.
I remember my sister asking me (my own sister, who used to tell people she chose dental hygiene as a profession because she felt compelled to clean something) what in heaven's name I was talking about when I said my apartment was dirty and in desperate need of a good cleaning. I lived alone, had no pets, worked 80 hours a week at the time and didn't cook. What was getting dirty?
I can't explain it, I just placed a high premium on cleaning. Even when I was little, and the girl next door and I used to spend the night at my other sister's house, we'd get up early to surprise her and her husband by "cleaning" the house. I doubt it needed cleaning, especially by a couple 7-year-olds, but apparently we thought that was a grand gift to give.
And speaking of giving, I read recently statisticians at the Census Bureau have concluded God is giving most of us about 28,000 days to live. This concerns me. I've used over half of those and perhaps misspent more than a few, doing things like washing the bathroom ceiling. Now I'm more convinced than ever that my basement floor is not a priority. I still like to wake up in the morning to a clean house, and come home to one after work, but somewhere along the way, I've loosened up a little.
If you invite me to go on an island excursion or you're having people over for the game, I'll drop that bucket of soapy water like a hot potato. I'll even bring the beer. And when mom comes to visit, we'll just close the basement door.