Lessons Learned from Extreme House Cleaning

Thanks to a small research project taking up the bulk of my week, our abode was looking even worse than usual. So bad, in fact, that when I told a friend to come over and take our extra Christmas tree, I added a caveat to the effect of ‘but do not come into our house under any circumstances because no one should see how we really live.’

Something like that.

So in an effort to address the hovel-ness of our home, I farmed out the youngest two to a babysitter yesterday morning.

With the clock ticking, and my tab increasing with every passing minute, I burst through our front door. Childless. On a mission.

I’d noticed what looked like ‘remains-of-exploded-cherry-tomatoes’ on the dining room baseboards and I intended to do something about it. (At last.) I don’t even know when was the last time we had cherry tomatoes. [I don’t know if that’s actually what I saw on the baseboards. But it’s the theory I’ll stick with because the alternative is just too scary.]

With scrub sponge in hand, I attacked the baseboards. And the floor. And the doorframes. And the walls. It was a snowball effect of sorts. Tackle one mess: find three more lurking in its proximity.

I’d set the timer on the oven to keep myself on track, and I panicked as I watched the minutes disappear and I was still standing in that (small!) dining room. Shouldn’t I be able to do all the laundry, and clean the entire house in two hours?

I started running – upstairs to the washing machine, downstairs to the basement – in an effort to maximize my time. ‘This can only lead to trouble,’ I thought to myself as I envisioned a thirtysomething mother falling down a flight of stairs. Because she was trying to clean her house too quickly.

With the dining room under control, and less than an hour remaining on the clock, I turned my attention to the living room. After vacuuming the carpet, I sped off towards the kitchen. To do who-knows-what. I ran as one with tunnel vision. Failing to see the enormous coffee table directly in my path. My left foot slammed into a lacquered piece of 2×4. (Maybe it’s not 2×4, I don’t really know.)

I screamed. So loud, in fact, that the professor who was holed up in his basement office, heard my screams and ran upstairs to find out what had happened.

Though nearly blind with pain, all I could think was ‘tick, tick, tick’. I was not paying a babysitter to watch my kids so I could lie on the couch with an ice pack. So I did what any reasonable-minded individual would do. I grabbed a bag of frozen edamame and bound it to my foot with saran wrap. And hobbled towards the front door so I could clean the floor.

While kneeling on the floor, scrubbing the baseboards, I noticed the front door was filthy. Apparently I don’t look at the front door all that much, because I’d never noticed the dirt and the cobwebs before.

With twenty minutes to go, I hobbled to the kitchen and washed the countertops. When I reached the toaster, I remembered a conversation I’d had with a couple of friends recently. We were talking about housecleaning and one of the women mentioned that she cleaned her toaster whenever she cleaned the kitchen.

I hadn’t cleaned my toaster in a very, very long time. It hadn’t even occurred to me to clean my toaster.

I unlatched the trays on the bottom of the neglected appliance and tried to pull them out. They were so full of crumbs, I almost could not remove them. There were chunks of pink pop-tart lying among the rubble. We haven’t had pink pop-tarts in a very, very long time.

‘Jason, when was the last time you cleaned the toaster,’ I yelled to the professor, who is the primary maker of toast and washer of dishes.


After much shaking and prying, the biggest of the charred chunks fell in the trash. And I had to re-sweep the entire floor. On account of all the crumbs.

I switched to the stove. And the advent-cookie-remains lying in the stove drawer. And the stains on the wall above the stove….presumably because there’s no oven-exhaust-fan-thing. I couldn’t reach the stains, so I grabbed a chair from the dining room.

With my new, elevated perspective, I was able to notice that the ceiling itself…was brown. Perplexed, I dabbed at it with the sponge. And unveiled a bright-ish piece of white ceiling. It was a large expanse of ceiling. And my arms were tired. And I was out of time.

And now you can really tell that the ceiling is dirty.

4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Extreme House Cleaning

  1. Super-klutz, more like. Tan, I did refreeze the Edamame. But only for future foot-icing purposes. Though I should add, I found a bag of VERY thawed corn in my office the other day. Apparently one of the little Johnsons had iced some sort of injury. I didn’t bother refreezing that. I bet Ray cleans the toaster…


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