Cleaning as a Way of Life



I’ve been living in my modest domicile for like what? A year? Two? (Christ, it has been two years!) And though it is not large enough or even remotely roomy, sorta more what money guzzling
San Francisco landlords in a cruel attempt at deception tend to describe as cozy or compact, so consequently there really isn’t that much to cleaning it and for the most part I do it on the regular and all. But a real problem has recently arisen and that has to do with the 6 by 8 foot section that I’ll designate as the “Bedroom” and its carpeting. This is in fact how I can distinguish it from the rest of the apartment: The rest – all five feet of the kitchen being laid out in a parody of tile inscribed linoleum or the institutional yellow non-slip surface of the bathroom/shower area, but that thankfully is behind its own imitation laminated wood door.

Now I’ve tried to keep up in a cleanly sort of way against the infernal soot that the elevated freeway spews in from the window as well as the dust that creeps in under the door from the hall. But after all this time, with nothing but a small brush and dustpan to sweep with the floor, well, the carpet to be exact has suffered. You can brush a carpet all that you want but there are fibers and twills and layers to contend with and it really doesn’t get very clean, and it’s not like I’ve been hovering over it with happy fingers as I eat tortilla chips in an imitation of a desert sandstorm or that I gleefully spit cherry pits across the room once I am done with the fruit, but the carpet is sort of thick with bits you might say—little strange pieces of life that have strayed on my foot from outside and landed here on my floor and into my rug. The question of what to do with them has now materialized.

You would think that in an apartment building whose numerous hallways are entirely covered in carpet, the management would see fit to lend a resident one of their many industrial grade vacuum cleaners. But no, apparently it’s against management’s wishes and there is what was described to me at the front desk as a “no go policy” which I can only interpret as that they are not going to lend one to me and anyway seeing what shambles my neighbors make of their own belongings not to mention their lives, I can hardly protest that I’m what? Different? And they should bend their rules and make an exception. But the idea of going out and buying a vacuum seems absurd just to clean a 6 by 8 foot section of floor, not to mention like just where in hell I am supposed to store the damn thing when it’s not in use. And for a quick second I thought that others in the building may be experiencing this same dilemma and that maybe I could organize a vacuum coalition where we as neighbors communally shared the use as well as the storage but then I’m back contemplating what neighbors are at hand and I think we’d have problems even deciding if we trusted the first one of us to store it or, as is my fear, just expect that person to go down to Sixth Street and pawn it.

At this point I am really nowhere near solving my problem, a problem that I never thought that I’d ever have. Who would have predicted that in the year 2004 that I’d have cultivated such a need for a vacuum or even be presiding over a rug in need of vacuuming for that matter? It wasn’t like in the years past I kept the cleanest of houses – all spotless and pristine with everything in place, nor had I pitched a tent in the midst of the city dump! However the acquiring of household appliances was never a forerunner of my unmet needs or something that I perused the Sunday paper’s ad supplements in order to obtain the best deal while going all ga-ga over the Millennium Hoover Model and checking its dirt absorption ratios and dust bag capacities.

This is just not how I saw my life back in the nineties. But then again I really didn’t see much of a future in the nineties, let alone do I really remember them either! It’s just all a sort of murky blur where I kinda recollect the highlights — if that is indeed what they were. But I’m pretty sure that I can safely say that vacuums were not on the top of my list of must-have items and that cleaning rugs was at best something that others did – those of whom actually had rugs and felt the need to clean them. It’s pretty safe to say that my priorities were a tad screwed up but does an obsession with a clean carpet necessitate that one’s life has taken a turn for the better? Or am I just bowing down to the accepted norm?

Meanwhile at this moment in time I am forced to take a look at just why this bacteria infested fiber floor covering annoys me so? Is it my urbane upbringing coming back to haunt me or do we all get overly fastidious about cleanliness once we’ve reached a certain age? And if the truth be told there were times not that long ago when I did actually have a spacious almost trendy garden apartment with wall to wall carpet and a vacuum and a girlfriend and a different life. But all those bits came unglued and sorta went their separate ways and who knows where the vacuum is now, let alone the girlfriend and besides I was sharing the apartment with someone that I thought was in love with me. So the reason to keep a clean environment was the mutual coexistence of sharing space with another not like now where it’s just me and the microwave watching DVD’s and me writing about shit all on the internet!

Ok, so obviously there’s a morsel of discontent here and the vacuum just sort of got stuck in the crossfire. And it has become all too apparent once I started conversing on the subject and after I announced that I didn’t have or need a vacuum or a future and then I allegedly did but it was in a life that I no longer have and now I seem to be endlessly lamenting and somewhat bitching about the pathetic bit of life that I do have. Could it be that obsessing over the floor is really a misplaced fixation in the name of cleanliness as a way to not address what is really screwed up in my life? Or more to the point – what I have screwed up in my life!

Damn I hate the soul searching drama of self-discovery that precedes an overt observation on my part. It would be so much easier to absent-mindedly come to the same conclusion while drinking coffee and reading the morning paper instead of dissecting my life one layer at a time until I expose the wounded interior to the bright light of day. It’s like waking up and realizing it’s morning and time to get up and start your daily routine and then just giving up to turn over and go back to sleep knowing that you’ll enjoy dreaming life a little better than the real thing.

But getting back to the matter at hand – I’m starting to get the feeling that in setting up my apartment, my life yet again has reached a rather repetitive and tedious point and having to buy things like a dish drying rack or a cutting board for the twentieth time is apparently taking its toll on my psyche and coming to the surface evolved as a soiled rug complex. What an analogy! Messed up life – dirty rug! Internal change – cleaning! It is a tad bit more acceptable intellectually to think that I’m preoccupied with the encrusted carpet because it is an exercise on getting my life together rather than admitting to an obsessive-compulsive disorder of the mind. But if that is so, well herein lies the rub – what exactly is the vacuum representing in this equation? The Eureka Whirlwind Bagless Cyclonic 4880D of self awareness or a little personality overhaul from the good folks down at Royal – “the first name in home care”?

I have often heard it said, well truthfully I only heard it said once and that was in some arcane foreign movie, but anyway here goes – that your home is the mirror of your soul. It may be way past time for some house cleaning on the galactic scale yet it is never too late to put in the work. Which brings to mind that esoteric Zen proverb “Chop wood, carry water” or the long explanation in English – find inner peace in the ordinary routine and once you have attained enlightenment life doesn’t stop. Obviously I still have so much work to do here and in the end my carpet is still as complete a mess as I am.

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