Yesterday I cleaned the bathroom and while I'm on the subject, I really wish I would have read Is There Life After Housework? before I started that task. It's a book that's going to stay on my shelf when other cleaning books meet my other discards at the thrift store. What makes this book different than the many others I've read is Don takes a big picture approach to housework. He addresses clutter and maintenance before cleaning which is the only sensible approach and this is where I want to take a moment to go way back in time to when I was first married. I've long believed that taking care of what you have regardless of how you feel about it is smart. Don's book only reinforced this which is the main reason I'm glad I decided to buy it. This is the magic of buying used books at thrift stores. Sure I've gotten burned a few times, and books at the library are free, but for less than a dollar I have a new philosophy on cleaning and how to approach virtually every surface inside and out of my home.
Last night my husband said he would come over. I went and picked up Jill so she could mow the lawn. Before we left I caught her flipping me off on the stairs. I didn't say anything other than to ask her if she had. When she denied it I said that I had seen her. We drove back to the house in silence except for the radio. I asked for her phone while she was on the riding mower. She was upset about that, but had no choice other than to hand it over. My neighbor to the right is in a home so his lawn work is done by family and friends. I thought we could help by mowing the stretch of grass that connects to ours so I asked Jill if she would do that for him and his caretakers. She didn't, but I didn't make an issue out of it. I heard a noise that signaled mower distress, but I sat on the couch pretending to read while I watched her try to untangle the mower blades from the moving blanket and paint tarp that she had driven by and sucked into the deck.
She was crying and swearing before she came in to go to the bathroom. I had her sit down on the couch with me for a while. When I asked what was wrong she told me that the mower wouldn't move. Years ago we had a tree taken out, but the stump remains and she was stuck on that without the traction she needed to propel the mower forward. I tucked her hair behind her ear and asked if she needed some help. She shook her head and said that she couldn't move the mower. When I asked if she thought the two of us could move the mower she shook her head again. I pulled her hand and told her that I thought that we could at least try and if we couldn't get it by ourselves her father could move it when he arrived. It's a good thing we didn't have to wait for him as he completely forgot that he had said he would stop by. Knowing that he's busy and not interested in doing things around here I had prepared a very short list of things that I couldn't do by myself.
He picked up supper and my youngest. I sat at the table telling myself to look forward to the day when I am no longer living at a place that belongs to him and made a resolution to become more responsible than I am now. I'm also going to give myself some credit for not trying to get things done just because he was there after my bedtime. I go to bed early, but it's a long day when you're up at four or five. I slept in until just before six this morning. I was very cold when I woke up so I went for a short walk, plucking perfectly ripe mulberries off of trees as I passed them. It still blows my mind that the owners of these trees and bushes don't gather the fruit. When I first met my ex he parked under the oldest mulberry tree in the state of Wisconsin. Instead of appreciating its age and seeing it as a food source he complained that his car was full of berries that had dropped and burst. He could have parked in the street, but the police in that town are quick to write out tickets for people who are parking on the wrong side on the wrong day.
I'm trying to think about what I need to ask for while I'm living here. I could just let everything be since there isn't any incentive for me to do any of the projects he hasn't bothered with even though they're slowing dropping his property value. He tends to manage the crisis rather than figuring out how the ounce of prevention could be applied to avert disaster or unpleasantness. In the past I did that too. Part of it was not knowing, but in this age of Google there really is no excuse for ignorance. If you can't figure out how to pay your bills on time then that's a problem. Same with cleaning and money management. Why pay to install beautiful bamboo floors if you're not going to maintain them properly? They won't last, they won't look good, and you won't have that moment when you look back on a sparkling floor and inflate your sense of self worth and self esteem which is the real crime here.
I can't tell you how nice it was to shower in my odor free bathroom and crawl between fresh clean sheets after he left with the girls. When I was a kid I remember hearing a story about a boy who was applying for a job. Before he arrived the foreman scattered some sawdust and a couple nails on the floor. The boy came in, swept them up and was hired. Another boy who was applying for the same job came in, saw the dust and nails, and just left them there. I saw this frequently when I was the manager at a restaurant and when I worked at food places before I was in charge. There was the good looking football stud who got out of as much work as he could and management never said a thing to him about it either. None of the rest of us wanted to work with him. He wanted to wait tables instead of working at the salad bar so he was a jerk to us and didn't do his job which made more work for the rest of us. It was clean behind that bar after I finished mopping and I actually got dirt and grime off the greasy floors that were constantly being drenched with salad dressing and residue from fried foods.
I've read that you won't take care of big things if you aren't taking care of little things so going forward I'm really going to be paying attention to how people approach those little things in life. Last night they left the take out containers sitting on my counter. My ex left his sweatshirt and his badge laying over a stool. Fortunately he didn't need it, but if he had, he would have had to take extra time out of his schedule to come here and get it. I asked my daughter to mow the other day, but she chose to go to her dad's place and watch movies instead. It's driving me crazy that those girls are sitting inside with the blinds pulled and the lights and TV on and not just because I have to pay for the utilities there. The new book was very empowering. Don is a feminist who appreciates women and as an author, he was way ahead of his time. His book says that part of the reason women are so frustrated with housework is most of it is generated by people who aren't cleaning up after themselves. I'm paraphrasing so if you read the book and don't get that impression it's my fault, not his. Don elevates home making to the art and grind that it can be.
This morning after my walk I stood on the porch and surveyed the driveway. I had asked Jill to remove the weeds from the cracks. She didn't finish and shame on me for letting her go when the task was unfinished. In my mind removing the dying plants and dirt that inevitably accompanies them is part of the job, but she left all of that for someone else to clean up after her. I probably would have been angrier had I realized how much her undone project was going to cost me in terms of my time and energy, but I headed into the garage for a broom brimming with naive optimism. I have roughly fourteen panels on the driveway. I think they're eight by ten, but they might be eight by eight. Regardless, you get the idea, I have a lot of driveway to sweep. Update - I just went out and measured. Most of them are ten by eleven and that doesn't include the partial panels near the garage or the sidewalk that leads up to my front porch. Don says that the majority of dirt can be stopped before it enters the home if proper matting is used. I'm going to invest in some janitor grade mats and I'm excited about the prospect of less dirt and dust inside of my home.
The amount of effort it took to sweep the driveway was pretty incredible. Sweeping is a great workout that I can recommend to anyone who wants the satisfaction of a cleaner surface. Sweeping is a cleaning task I've never minded, but today's job was a reminder that being smart beats being a hard worker in many cases. Be smart about it and then work hard to get the job done. Don recommends a North, South, East, and West pattern when cleaning. I attempted this on the driveway and by the time I was done I was in a groove and working much more efficiently than I had when I started. I tend to be a left handed sweeper when I have a broom in my hand. I shoot pool that way too, but since Don recommends becoming a switch hitting cleaner I tried changing my hands. This does two things in almost any area you try it in, first it seems very awkward and difficult to use your other hand, but you challenge yourself and then the thing you're used to doing with your dominant hand suddenly seems that much easier.
This might be easier for someone like me who is fairly ambidexterous, but it's a good idea to use both sides of your body when you can. You'll fatigue less quickly and build up some strength and increase coordination which can only benefit you from that point forward. Another idea Don had, and I've heard this before, is to pour boiling water down the drains. I can't remember the logic behind this, but I set a pot on the stove and poured part of it down my bathroom sink and whatever was left down the drain in the tub. I figure it can't hurt anything and I fear plumbing problems so if this helps I'm all for it and will put it on my calendar so it's part of a scheduled maintenance routine instead of a when I think of it thing as those rarely last. I thought of a way to make a path back to my patio using pallets so that's another project on my list, but he has the big car today so that's going to have to wait. Don says that sealing garage and basement floors will keep them from bleeding dust and debris and make cleaning them easier. I seriously can't say enough good things about this book, it's completely revolutionalized the way I'm going to approach a lot of things going forward.
I could keep writing today, I'm in the mood for it, but I'm going to set the computer aside for now and get to work on some of these other things I want done. Yesterday I moved an ivory table out of the back bedroom and put it in my living room next to my blue chair. I set out three small ceramic flowerpots, dropped my keys in one, loose change in another, and I might try and use the third one for my phone, we'll have to see how that goes. Several months ago I bought vertical hanging files that were on sale at the office supply store. I didn't use them right away. I couldn't find a way to hang them or a place to put them where they were functional instead of an extra thing in my living space, but yesterday I rested one of them against the wall on the table and suddenly I had a place for my yearly calendar. My monthly calendar is still on the other side of the wall and so is my cork board. Things are coming together. It's going to take time, but that was really exciting. I don't think I've ever had a place to put things like that and have them all in one place. It was a small thing that made me happy so that was my moment of fabulous from yesterday and I'm going to use that to carry me through today. Big breakthroughs are coming, I can feel it.