Thursday, August 2, 2012

holy mackerel!

we cleaned and cleaned, and still there's more to clean.  the liters of vinegar are beginning to blur together, as are the apple cores i gleefully toss into a side garden.  i get a kick out of watching them disappear into the undergrowth, like being sucked into quicksand.  i think that's because it's different from staring at a floorboard or wringing out a rag.

clean, clean, eat an apple, toss, clean, clean.

greg was with me today, edging along the walls, vacuuming.  he pulled back a floor mat in the front hallway only to find a trap door.  he opened it up.

"what is it?" i asked.

"a place to vacuum," he said.

that really did seem to be the only purpose for its existence... tied into the fact that it serves as the perfect hiding spot for that 1970 summer house smell... which is slowly, slowly disappearing from parts of the house.  but in our uncovering of hidden spots, we also uncovered other hidden smells.  like pulling the refrigerator away from the wall to discover a spill that no one had ever bothered to clean up... until we did... which awakened from hibernation a smell much like popular danish cheeses.

while we were working we listened to the 'this american life' episode entitled 'house on loon lake.'  maybe you've heard it.  it's  about an abandoned house.  at one point the narrator's mother is expressing her anguish...

'...that it was so overwhelmingly abandoned by everybody... that here was a carcass, a carcass of a house, of a life... and nobody cared to pick it up and give it a proper burial.  i thought that it was important that somebody should care.'

of course our house can't compare to the house on loon lake.  people loved our house as little as two years ago.  and we're trying to revive it, not bury it.  but as i pour bucket upon bucket of dirty water out into the shallow laundry room sink, as we peer into the horrifying return vent, and scrape old glue and grease off the floor under the stove... i think that this is more than just a child who needs his nose wiped.  this is a poor, neglected child who needs more than love.  this kid needs services.  professional services.  that probably don't exist in denmark.  like where they come and vacuum out all the ducts.  because this house is a rare gem in that it has a fan and a heat exchanger.  most danish houses have radiators.  i don't think anyone who's ever lived in this house has thought much about changing filters or keeping vents clean.  so here we are, cleaning out as much of the gunk as we can from all the little corners.  i will be wiping down baseboards in my sleep for a week, but we will do it.  the good news: the landlord's paying for the paint.

and all of this has made me realize how good housing turnover is from a dirt elimination perspective.  houses need people with fresh energy to come in and clean them up every now and then.  maybe the previous occupant was going to do it at some point, but, well, for whatever reason, he didn't.  and i guess we could have just as easily been tenants who hadn't noticed or cared to scrub everything down, so it's not going to work every time, but i have to think that with so many people unable to sell their homes right now, we're collectively living with a lot more dirt.  maybe everybody needs to play the 'let's pretend we're moving' game and see what they can uncover.  though where does all this dirt really go?  where does it end up?  after i pour it down the drain and it becomes the leftover sludge at the wastewater treatment plant and maybe gets dried out or whatever it is that happens... where does it go then?  to a landfill?  i don't know.  maybe you do and you can tell me.

fortunately our status as parents of dependent children prevents us from spending all our time and energy over at the house or thinking about dirt (wait, no, we're still thinking about dirt or at least wiping it out of our kids' mouths).  the breaks are good.  unfortunately the olfactory system couldn't seem to catch one today with henry coming home smelling of mackerel and william insisting that i smell the cow horn bracelet he'd sawed off at the county fair.

at least henry could take a shower.  the mackerel smell could go down the drain like all the dirt, or wherever smells go that get washed away.


Lee I said...

I've read of the virtues of using vinegar for cleaning and I hauled found a bottle in a cabinet, but I'm unsure exactly how to apply it With water? Soggy rags? Wet mops? Spray bottles and dry towels?

I usually have a lady who cleans for me who likes her favorite products, but she's under the weather for now and I am meanwhile taking stabs at cleaning.

nina said...

Lee I -- I'll let regan chime in as she's the cleaning superstar, but I'll say this: I use vinegar for floor cleaning because it's natural and does the job! If the floor is just normal-dirty -- I mix it with water. For tough spots, pour it on! Ed and I just got tough iron stains off our shower curtain with a vinegar soak. It also cleans (effectively!) calcium stains off of chrome. It's really the best all purpose cleaner out there! Yay vinegar!

greg|regan said...

Hi Lee,

For floors-- I don't measure-- just pour some of the bottle of vinegar into the bucket and add more water than vinegar to it. For the first two days I was using cold water and that seemed to work just fine. Then, I like (or... feel it does a better job) to wash the floor with a rag, down on hands and knees, as opposed to a mop. A better workout too. I change out the water whenever it starts to look grimy.
For countertops, sinks, toilet bowls-- I don't measure-- just shake some baking soda onto the surface or in the toilet bowl, pour some vinegar over top, then, if you're using a rag, get it wet and scrub away. Then I rinse it with water (just run over it again with the wet but not vinegary and baking soda-y rag) because otherwise the baking soda leaves white streaks.
For mirrors and glass-- I just use water. That's all you need and it won't streak. I usually do the same for countertops-- just water-- just wipe them down with a dish cloth.
I don't spray on anything for dusting-- just wipe it away-- maybe not the best practice, but good enough for this household!
And I love the vacuum-- even for wood or tile floors-- seems to pick up so much more than a broom.
My cleaning tips!

Lee I said...

Thank you both! (now if only I can decipher the security secret words)