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November 2, 2009

Procrasticleaning for the masses

I completely missed my calling as a peeping tom. If only peeping tom didn't have such a negative connotation, what with the perversity and sneakiness and dirty-old-man-in-raincoat and so on, because really I do love looking inside people's lives. I like to see their houses and what's on their kitchen tables, and how they managed to make their TV set look always somehow better than mine does in my own living room. I often stare at my TV set and wonder why it never seems to look right in the room, no matter where I put it.

Mostly I am speaking of a decorator peeping tom here. Like, more of a peeping Nate Berkus. I think this has something to do with my deep desire to be living some other life, with the fantasy all-white kitchen and the matching sofas which seem to repel cat hair. I haven’t figured out how famous people never seem to have any pet hair on their sofas or chairs. Do they hire someone special to come in each day and lint-roll the furniture? Or is everything covered in plastic all day like my Aunt Mattie's house? Maybe they just quickly remove the plastic coverings right before the photographer shows up.

And famous people don't seem to have a junk drawer. I would love to do a peeping tom expose on the Junk Drawers of the Rich and Famous. My junk drawer started out as a junk closet, a junk room, and a junk garage. A few months after I moved into the little tiny house of post-divorce, I began the long and arduous process of scaling down. It was a necessity since I couldn't move in my office with boxes stacked floor-to-ceiling and I couldn't find anything, and I feared that an earthquake would come and bury me, my cats, and eleventy hundred pairs of shoes in a tomb of accumulations.

In the first two years I lived in that little house, I managed to pare down my stuff by almost half. Half! And I don't miss any of it, which surprised me. I had one big final garage sale with all my friends and then the hardcore decluttering kind of stopped. But I wasn't really done. I was just at a place where I could stand still for a while without junk nibbling at my ankles. My plan is to keep chipping away at Mt. Cluttermanjaro, scaling down until I reach a place where it is no longer hard to clean my house and where I can move to another house or city without requiring assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers. This last move about did me in.

I have noticed that since the initial Great Clutter Removal I seem to experience fits of organizational ennui or a deep desire to clean most often as a method of procrastination. In fact, I may be the world’s leading foremost authority on Procrasticleaning.

My house can be a pit of cat-hair tumbleweeds and dirty laundry for days, and then when I have a big deadline or something I ardently want to avoid, I become the finest cleaner in the west, vacuuming the toaster and disinfecting the ice-cube trays and trying new and unique ways to make the wood floors shine like glass.

Procrasticleaning is the natural offspring of the dreaded Deadline. My house is never cleaner of shinier of more fresh-smelling than when I have a looming deadline. The night before my taxes are due, for example, I can usually be found deep-cleaning the oven or re-arranging the contents of my freezer and carefully labeling each container with perfectly printed-out sticky labels.

A week before a manuscript deadline you will find me in a frenzy, an orgy of lemon-scented cleaning and Magic Erasers scrubbed across all spots and stains, both real and imagined. Instead of finishing those last 12,000 words, I’m removing the lime scale from the showerhead or lint-rolling everything in the closet or cleaning the blades of each ceiling fan with a damp dust cloth.

During the downtimes in my life when no deadlines or tasks or time-sensitive duties are hovering over me like a cloud of anxiety, my house reverts back to its normal cat-hair encrusted state with rumpled sheets and smudged windows and mysterious hairy growing things in the fridge. I dread deadlines and timelines, but if it weren’t for them my fridge might never get cleaned out, disinfected with a special procrasticleaning mix of tea-tree oil and soapy water.

This is probably not how the Rich and Famous do it, but without tax day or I-promised-to-do-so-and-so dates circled on the calendar, my floors would forever be unmopped, my sheets always rumpled and my sofa perpetually encrusted in a layer of fur. At least I haven’t resorted to covering everything in plastic.


Posted by laurie at November 2, 2009 1:16 PM