I recently dedicated a day’s work to cleaning my apartment. It’s something anybody who can’t afford a maid has to do every now and then. I don’t mean a simple tidying up, either. I mean a full day’s work of cleaning like my mother used to do. I got up around 9 am (early for a day off from work) and started with laundry. I started tackling the bathroom while the first load was in the wash. I scrubbed down most of the tile and the tub then it was time to transfer the wet clothes into the dryer. Now, the dryer in my place isn’t too efficient so I set it to run for about an hour and a half and finished in the bathroom. I took mine and my girlfriend’s toiletries off the shelf, cleaned the shelf, and put them all back neatly, I cleaned the window and mirror. I cleaned the sink, toilet, emptied the litter box and cleaned the floor. I moved onto the living room next.
In the living room, I tidied up, wiped down surfaces, and vacuumed. I recovered some broken chess pieces on a set I keep in the living room for decoration. The pieces were scattered because cats can be jerks sometimes. After things looked neat and tidy in the living room, I took the laundry out of the dryer. I bagged up another load and threw it in to wash, then came back in to fold the clean clothes I had just taken out. Once the clothes were put away, I hit the kitchen. I wiped down all the surfaces, including the top of the refrigerator where we keep our appliances, and washed all the dishes. I transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer and came back into the kitchen to organize all the shelves and clean the cats’ food and water bowls. I cleaned the floor and moved onto the bedroom. I made the bed, tidied up and organized our belongings and vacuumed. I took the laundry out of the dryer and started another load. There was a lot to do.
It felt great to do a detailed cleaning of the house. When you clean your living space and go through all of your belongings you get to know your space better. In getting to know your living space, you get to know yourself, the “you” that you’ve been lately. It helps to assess where you are and what you’ve been up to. I moved into this apartment with my girlfriend in January and in the amount of time we’ve been here, we’ve taken small steps towards making the place ours. Neither of us plan on living here forever but it’s good to personalize and make your place really feel like home. Doing a detailed cleaning has helped me out with this a great deal. I compare it to a farmer’s attachment to his plot of land.
A few months ago, I finished reading Steinbeck’s famous work The Grapes of Wrath in which an Oklahoman family is forced to leave their land and move west to California in search of work. I was struck by how difficult it was for the family to leave their home. It must be difficult for anyone to leave their home but it was particularly hard for the Joad family in Grapes of Wrath because that was land that they worked on. It was held by their family for several generations and they all worked hard on it. I’m not trying to say that anyone can have this sort of attachment to a place they rent for a few years but it is worth thinking about. When you put the work into moving your belongings around and cleaning small spaces you normally don’t pay any attention to, you start to develop a vested interest in that space because now you’re actively concerned with its upkeep. Some people spend a lot of time in their apartments and I bet it’s just like it was for the Joad family for anyone forced to leave their place of residence for whatever reason. Living in Brooklyn, I hear a lot of stories about people being bullied by landlords or being bought out or forced out to make room for tenants who will pay more money for the space that they occupy. It’s sad to hear about and it reveals how important a work Grapes of Wrath is. Steinbeck really understood something about the way the world works. It can be harsh and unsettling but it’s the world we live in and everyone has to find their way through it.
My main point is that cleaning your apartment is a good way to connect with your living space and better understand who you are today. We express ourselves in everything we do, especially in how we choose to decorate and maintain our homes and what we surround ourselves with. It seems obvious but these are things we don’t pay attention to on a daily basis and isn’t it nice to have a sense of who you are and where you stand? It’s such a fragile thing that is easy to lose track of. Take a day to get to know your living space and go through all your stuff. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff away if you have to. It’s important to understand who you are now. If your belongings don’t reflect that, get rid of them. Most things aren’t worth hoarding.