Spring cleaning

I went missing for a couple of days into the deep, dark jungle of southern Ohio, to a place they call “Greasy Ridge.” Greasy Ridge is the longest unbroken ridge in Ohio. It’s where my in-laws live in a house they built when they retired, on the site where my father-in-law’s family home stood on fourteen acres, plus another eight acres they bought from a neighbor’s children when their parents both passed. There’s no internet or cell phone service there. They do have a satellite dish that we provide for them. They’re getting old. My mother-in-law will be 88 in May, and my father-in-law is 84. Carl is very active. He does a lot of outside work—mowing in the summer, cutting wood with his younger (by forty years) friend and neighbor, feeding the birds and deer, doing little odd jobs for friends and family. He was an electrician by trade.

My mother-in-law Phyllis isn’t as physically able as she was a few years ago. She is mentally sharp and follows politics with a passion, loves reading of all kinds. She read Anna Karenina this winter! Their small-town newspapers don’t provide much Ohio coverage, so I always save our Columbus Dispatch papers for her when I know we’ll be visiting. She pores over every single article of political news and legislative happenings, and works all of the crossword and other word puzzles. It’s getting harder for her to read because of cataracts. They aren’t bad enough yet to warrant surgery, so I guess she will have to put up with it until they are.

Phyllis isn’t able to clean as well as she used to, so I decided I needed to go down there and do some more thorough cleaning, spring cleaning, if you will. Does anyone do that anymore? Probably just us older women. I don’t do it the way I used to when I was younger. I would take two weeks and clean each room from top to bottom, including washing the walls. I don’t have time or the energy for it anymore. This winter my house has mostly gotten a lick and a promise and hitting the high spots. Just keeping up with laundry and cooking is a full-time job around here.

On day one I managed to thoroughly clean the two upstairs bedrooms and bath, except for curtain washing, which will have to wait. Their washer and dryer went kaput, and they were waiting delivery on new ones. Every time I passed Phyllis, she urged me to just visit and rest, saying that I was doing too much. I just smiled and said I was fine. I only worked in the morning, and then visited my niece Debbie who works as a barber in her son’s shop. It was a pretty quiet afternoon, until school let out and people started bringing in their boys for haircuts, so I left and went to the library and got Phyllis a few large-print books to keep her going until our next visit. After supper, I visited one of my best friends, who happens to be married to David’s first cousin. I got to meet her newest grandson, a real cutie-pie.

Day two was the most daunting. They are both pack rats, and never throw away anything. The whole house, but especially the downstairs, is filled with tchotchkes and pictures and general clutter over every inch of space. They haven’t broken over into hoarder category, but it’s kind of worrying. I did manage to rid them of about 500 wire hangers that were just cluttering up the closets, a bag of discarded clothing that Phyllis wanted to have donated, an old lamp that wasn’t in use and was just a dust magnet, plus some old telephones that no longer work, and empty boxes of long-gone small appliances.

I was only able to thoroughly clean the bathroom and the master bedroom, and hit the rest with the vacuum cleaner in the middle, and mop the kitchen floor, which Carl managed to track mud onto five minutes after it dried. He never takes his shoes off when he comes in the house. I had to get back home, so I told them I would come back in a couple of weeks to finish the rest. I think it will take me that long to recuperate. After spending four hours cleaning and another four driving, I was too tired to cook when I got home, so we went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. I love their lime chicken street tacos, and Joshie loves the salsa. He actually picks up the little bowl and drinks it. It’s so cute.

Thank goodness my inner voice isn’t telling me that I need to do spring cleaning here. I think I would tell it to shut up.

13 thoughts on “Spring cleaning

  1. You are something. I don’t do spring cleaning anymore. This house certainly needs it, but I doubt it will get it unless a fairy housekeeper shows up.

    My father was a hoarder. We had to clean and paint his house before we brought him home from the long-term care facility. It tool three weeks. Just hauling the stuff to the curb for bulk pickup was a considerable job.

    We purge periodically around here, about twice a year – closets, attic, etc. There are two types of people: the ones who hang on to everything as they get older and the ones who feel the need to relinquish personal possessions. I’m in the second category.

    I read Anna Karenina last year. My hat’s off to your MIL.

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    • When we moved last year, that was the biggest purging we’ve ever done. My plan is to never, ever let it get that deep again. I told my in-laws that the trash pickers are going to have a field day when they’re gone, because most of it is going to the side of the road after the estate sale, because I don’t have anywhere to put it all.

      I pick up Anna Karenina periodically and try to read it, but usually put it back down after the first two pages. It’s all those confusing gender-based names. I can’t tell who is whom.

      I don’t do spring cleaning either. I just try to pick a room occasionally and clean it better than when I’m trying to get the whole house done at once. This house is so big I can only do one floor at a time. We’re definitely down-sizing when the time is right.

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  2. Wow. I’m impressed. I don’t have a vacuum. (Don’t think badly of me — I used to but it broke.) Every two weeks or when they remember my cleaning couple comes and does wonders. But going deep? Not so much. I need Bella’s fairy housekeeper.

    I’m not a hoarder (except art supplies, sets of china and holiday things) but I’m not a good tosser so part of my recent life has been getting the stuff ready for goodwill or whomever will come and get it. I work and work and no one can tell, even me, really. I’m trying to make a real effort. When the basement is done, then the upstairs. l get too sentimental but I’m trying to be a little more ruthless than before. I told Rick at my funeral he has to take the Christmas (and other holiday) things and give them to people as party favors. Maybe they should just have it here and folks can walk through…

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    • I like your idea of just letting the family and friends walk through the house and take what appeals to them. I doubt my kids will want anything but the family pictures. Well, that’s not completely true. Jaye will probably want to keep every scrap of paper, being an historian, that’s what he does.

      I would never think badly of you for not having a vacuum cleaner. If you have people who come in and clean, why have something that just takes up space?

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    • I’m definitely not a candidate for sainthood, AGMA! I’m trying to make up for the first few years of my marriage when we would go to dinner at my in-laws every Sunday and I would sit on my lazy butt and not do anything to help out. I’ve been trying to overcome my shame for 40 years. Hopefully, I’m in a better place now. Ha! That sounded like I’m dead. Not yet. Not yet.

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  3. Spring cleaning is what I’ve been thinking about all day. The rain stopped, it warmed up, the breezes started to blow, and the windows flew open. I didn’t get far, but I did clean out the outside storage closet, got it swept and the shelves washed, threw out all the old garden supplies and solidified paint, and etc.

    I really do think about things like washing woodwork and moving things like refrigerators (!) to clean behind them. I just got my bedspread back from the cleaners, where I took it to be washed. Twenty dollars for a queen sized is reasonable, and even the cat seems happy with it.

    I’m not a keeper now, although I have been. But I got started about three years ago, and the more I get rid of, the happier I am. What’s so amazing is that I keep shoveling stuff out of here, and as far as my life goes, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. There’s not a lot to dispense with now, although once I get some weight off and keep it off, it will be time to go through the clothes.

    Just don’t try to get my tumbleweed or my collection of birds’ nests away from me. A girl has her limits.

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  4. I would never try to take off with your tumbleweed or birds’ nests! I know which lines to cross, and which ones not to mess with!

    My biggest problem right now is finding people to give magazines to. I get a bunch (3 weekly ones!), because we had some frequent flier miles that were due to expire and there weren’t enough to go anywhere, so they offer magazine subscriptions. They don’t take them at the library anymore, so I’m always looking for other outlets. None of my friends seem to read them, or they already take the ones that I get. Oh, well. First world problems, right?

    I usually take the big comforters to the laundromat where they have one of those enormous washers. It usually takes me about $10 to wash mine, and another $3 to dry it. It wouldn’t be that much more to have them do it, but I enjoy the peace and quiet and usually read while it’s going. It’s also kind of fun to people watch. I saw an older man put two pairs of Carharrt overalls in one of the big washers once. Then he proceeded to pour a whole bottle of dishwashing liquid into the receptacle. On top of that he poured in about half a gallon of bleach. I really wanted to say something to him, but it was already too late. I couldn’t stay long enough to find out the result of that extreme washing, but every time I go there I think of him. 🙂

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    • We’re clearly living in two different worlds. I no more would go to a laundromat than I’d meet someone behind the Speedy-Stop at midnight. For one thing, I can’t remember the last time I saw a laundromat around here. I’d have to drive to a different neighborhood. Then, I’d have to sit and wonder which of the neighborhood dealers was going to go after a bad debt and put me in the crossfire.

      As for magazines…. One of the most freeing experiences of my life was tossing a read-and-unread stack of about sixty “New Yorkers” into our trash bin. Whoosh!!! Free at last, free at last! (You don’t need a pile of “Cooking Light,” do you?)

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  5. I am so tired after reading this.

    You are a really, really nice person, Susie. Big-hearted and more. (Just shaddup and listen). I know you didn’t write about this to get your strokes, btw, but to shine a little light on what it’s like to be old and hanging on and needing help with this and that. It makes you realise how difficult it would be for an old couple of cope if they didn’t have a support system. I always say I’ll never expect my kids to look after me, but maybe despite my best intentions that’ll be the way it is. Hmm. Just random thoughts, really, while I listen to a very animated French argument in the background….

    Anyway, good luck with the clutter, my dear. People get so attached to their stuff and it’s a mindset that resists logical intervention. It sounds like you’re pretty diplomatic about it – not like me, just tossing things when P’s back is turned :).

    Put your feet up tonight, willya?

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    • Well, my in-laws have always treated me very well, so I’m trying to repay their kindnesses over the years. I tried hiring someone a few years ago to come and clean for them every couple of weeks, but she didn’t last long. I have no idea what happened. Probably my FIL’s incessant talking drove her mad, or she thought he was flirting with her, or something ridiculous. It’s hard to trust anyone down there, too. There is so much drug abuse in the area, due to the over-medicating with pain pills and the high unemployment rate, that anyone you might find to take on the job might be doing it so they can send their boyfriend or husband back to rob the place in the future. I wouldn’t trust anyone these days. I read in the paper when I was there, that one of the neighboring counties had already had 18 drug overdose deaths this year, and March isn’t even over. So sad. I wouldn’t live there again if they gave me the whole county. We keep trying to get them to sell out and move closer to us or to Anita, but my FIL is one stubborn old man. The only way he’s leaving is under a sheet on a gurney.

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