Thursday, June 30, 2016

When the dust settles

Let’s talk about dust. As in, how much dust is socially acceptable? Or, how much dust is acceptable by health standards? Or, how much dust can you get away with and still feel … civilized?

I’m not talking allergies or asthma. I’m talking plain old dust tolerance. What’s okay in the world of dust levels? Like, does everyone have to blow on the tops of books they remove from their bookcases?

Way back in my First Third, I was in my first apartment with my first job, and I called my mother. “How did you manage to clean a house, hold a job, raise four kids? This is killing me, and I don’t have kids.”

“It’s easy,” she said. “Get a dust mop. Every morning, swish it around under the bed and around the floors. It will make your weekly vacuuming much easier.”
There were so many things in that conversation that just didn’t compute: Daily anything? What would be left to vacuum if you dusted daily? And who vacuums weekly; I was already moving from monthly to quarterly. I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t have to blow on the tops of books on her bookshelves. I know she complained about the dust bunnies that blew out of my sister’s and my room; we offered to lay towels under the door rather than vacuum.

When Sophie was little, our house was mostly clean. It was fun to clean with her, and I’d heard that you should start cleaning behavior when kids are little and think it’s fun rather than wait till they’re teenagers and whine. Sophie loved mopping floors. One day, she came to me and asked if she could mop using water. “Sure,” I said.

A little while later, Tim came downstairs and said, “Why is Sophie mopping the floor naked?” I had no idea.

“I’m mopping like Mommy. She gets hot and takes off her shirt. Then she gets hotter and takes off her pants.” Tim looked at me. “I mop in my underwear. I’m not naked,” I explained. But, I admit, I did teach Sophie that we clean the tub from the inside … naked. (Tim put a stop to that: “Do you know how much cleanser she’s using???”)
I digress. I do not dust naked. In my Third Third, I’ve pretty much abandoned dusting entirely. I just can’t fathom how I once worked a regular job, raised a kid, managed a household, had fun, and still dusted. I polished the wood! Now, in my Third Third, I have knocked out half those things and there is no time ever to dust. (Well, I do the obvious shelf in the dining room whenever people come over.)
It’s not like I own tchotchkes; they were de-cluttered a long time ago. It’s just now, as we readied the house for the elusive carpet guys, we moved lamps, bookshelves, couches, chairs. The rungs of the chairs have dust! The lampshades have dust! The games on the game shelf have dust! The tops of paintings have dust!
Aiiieee! Is this acceptable???

I must admit, it is very satisfying to vacuum, dust, and polish all this stuff now. Once something becomes a Big Job, you can see the accomplishment. There are pleasurable psychological rewards. As opposed to mere maintenance, which is an abominable sinkhole of time yielding no visible satisfaction whatsoever because it’s “preventive.”

Before you say it, No, I do not want anyone professionally cleaning my house. It’s my nest and my responsibility. The only time I had someone clean for me was when I had two broken legs. I’m a little too anal retentive and controlling to let someone else move my shit around.

So now this is my question: when I put all this clean, dusted, polished stuff back; how long before I have to do it again? Do they call it spring cleaning because it’s an annual thing?

I just want to know: what are the dust rules?


  1. Never look at the top of the fridge.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I think the frequency of dusting is a very individual thing, so you just have to decide what your own comfort level is. I recommend Swiffer Dusters. They work really well, they are easy to use, and they make dusting more satisfying.

  4. So, if I were still trying to determine whether my dusting was in the ballpark of acceptable standards, I need to know how often other people do it. Some people are telling me never. How about never -- is never good for you?


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