A New Way To Think About Cleaning

A New Way to Think About Cleaning

This year, Thanksgiving was an all new experience for me. My husband and I decided to make the 13 hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky, with our 1 and 3 year old children. We were invited by husband’s Aunt and Uncle.

The weather was crisp; just right for a coat, without being bitterly cold. The home we stayed in was beautiful and the hospitality we experienced was relaxing and abundant.

One thing that made this home so enjoyable, beyond its aesthetic beauty, was its ever-tidiness. After a couple of days, I realized how dedicated our hosts were to cleaning up after every occasion. In a house of 13+ people, it seemed like a logical decision to leave the leftovers on the counter, in the event that someone else coming to the kitchen in the next 20 minutes would want to eat too. But in those minutes, while I stuffed my face, Aunt or Uncle always seemed to sweep through and quietly return things to the fridge. Dishes were never in the sink more than 5 minutes, and someone was always grabbing the broom to quickly bring the crumbs to order.

Things were tidied with such remarkable persistence that I was lead to ponder it all in wonder. Their house had 3 times the occupancy of mine, and yet was 3 times cleaner than mine! I felt challenged to make some adjustments in my own home.

Maybe it was the holiday, or the cool November air, but the rhythm of coming and going, taking out and putting away, dirtying and cleaning things brought with it a sort of nostalgia. It was then that I realized what made their cleaning seem so very unlike the cleaning I dread.

The process was as much a part of the experience as the result.

There was a slowness and ceremony to the kitchen prep, the covering of leftovers, the wiping of counters, and the dishes. They didn’t corral the dirty dishes into the sink to be addressed later, in order to sit down and enjoy the hot meal. Everything was attended to in its proper sequence, and arrangements were made to keep dishes warm so that when things were set right, the fruit of their labor could still be enjoyed.

Nothing was procrastinated, and surprisingly, though that meant more work and more waiting on the front end, it resulted in more enjoyment and rest in the long run.

In a culture where everything is fast-paced, instant, and ever-changing, it is hard to content oneself with getting the kitchen in order. We are antsy. In the one minute it takes to clear the kitchen table, we’ve thought of 3 other things we want to do besides clean the kitchen. We have to slow down. I’ve realized this is true for me in other areas of life too. It is so easy to accept the premise that “busy” is just our M.O., but, it is actually pretty liberating when you limit yourself to doing one thing thoroughly and well.

A New Way to Think About Cleaning | Read Cook Devour | Slow Living

I took to sweeping the kitchen floor one day while in Louisville, and was surprised to find it rather effortless and fun. I thought it was likely just the fact that it was someone else’s floor, and not my own. Regardless, I needed something—anything—to give me fresh motivation to keep my floors clean. Having dark wood floors and two children, this is a battle quickly lost, thus my defeatist state. So, when I returned home, I sought out a broom like the one Aunt and Uncle kept. Fortunately I found one at Target. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t entirely circumstantial, and that this O-Cedar broom was, in fact, a little special. Centered between the bristles is a foam piece that explains why it was so easy to guide every particle of dust into a pile. Bonus feature: it comes apart and is designed to be washable! I also find a stand-up dust pan to be super convenient.

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  1. I love to read everything you write. Doesn’t matter the subject. Sounds like your Louisville trip was not only very enjoyable, but educational in a very helpful way. Thanks for sharing…it made me think about ways to improve my “home care.” I love a clean kitchen and it is hard to do in a “one butt” kitchen. But maybe that is just an excuse. Thanks for sharing. Like I said, I always just enjoy your amazing ability to express yourself. You are gifted in so many ways.

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