Brotherton: ‘Tis the season to tidy up the house

A sign graces the fridge (Bill Brotherton)

There’s a sign on our fridge that says “Dull Women Have Immaculate Homes” and features an illustration of a grumpy housewife toting a mop and bucket. It always draws a laugh when friends visit our house. Even the feminists who grouse that the illustration should picture a man get a kick out of it.

The Brotherton manse isn’t the tidiest place around, nor does it resemble a pigsty. But often, my wife and I stare at the dust bunnies under our living room chairs and ask “Do you think we should clean this place?” The response is invariably, “Nah. Let’s go for a bike ride or a walk on the beach instead.” We’re both cool with our abode being a disheveled mess.

But we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner next week. That means we have no choice. We have to clean house. We have to declutter. The balls of dust that look like tumbleweeds in a John Ford western will have to be corralled and set free in the backyard.

First order of business: I have to retrieve the vacuum cleaner from the basement, where it’s been hidden away since the last holiday celebration. It, too, will be covered in spider webs and efflorescence from the fieldstone foundation and will need a deep cleaning. Without exception, the vacuum won’t suck, because the bag is full. After 30 minutes of frustration and futility trying to figure out how to remove the overstuffed bag, neither one of us can remember where we stored the replacements, so that necessitates a trip to the store. Thirty minutes later, I will have somehow stumbled onto the correct way to insert the new bag.

Finally, we are good to go. Like a well-oiled machine, we dust, polish, sweep, broom the cobwebs from the ceiling, scrub and wipe down appliances and cabinets and tables and chairs. We move furniture, being careful not to gouge the hardwood floor, and vacuum carpet and rugs. I usually take a break, not to rest but to endure a prolonged sneezing fit that rattles the windows, which will also have to be cleaned, inside and out.

My duties include the worst job of all: sanitizing and making the bathroom fit for our guests to use. Thank God we have only one. I scour the sink and Windex the mirror. I aggressively brush the toilet, determined to remove the limescale that has built up in the bowl. I scrub the tub and tiles and replace the shower curtain, because the one hanging there is cruddy on the bottom. I make sure we have enough Cottonelle, that our “good” hand towels are clean and that we have a fresh bottle of hand soap that hasn’t been watered down to extend its life.

The house is now spotless. We might have to spend a few days in a hotel to keep it that way, but it look great.

But wait! The front walkway is covered with leaves. And the boxwoods are taller than Jack’s beanstalk. And we haven’t started our food shopping yet.

And we’re both exhausted.

Let’s give thanks that Thanksgiving comes around only once a year.

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