Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Tidying Festival

Cleaning is masturbation for the people on Prozac.

M.D. friends, I am due for a consult.

In the meantime, my apartment looks spectacular. The floors and the windowsills glimmer and beam.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.
On Amazon.
Essential reading for eager cleaners is of course, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo’s unrivalled passion for keeping immaculate house began at the age of five, when the kindergartner felt compelled to devour housewives magazines. By junior high, she had embarked upon an “earnest” study of tidying, and each afternoon she’d come home from school, infused with enthusiasm and the resolve to tidy a different location. The fifth of every month was “living room day.” Another day would be, “pantry cleaning day.” Or perhaps she would “conquer the cupboards.” This woman has devoted an unimaginable number of hours devoted to creating a magical, clutter-free home. Her zealousness has led to the invention of the KonMari method, the key to abolishing mess and disorder for the rest of your life. Marie Kondo promises that her technique works for everyone, and even her laziest clients who suffered the most extreme cases of hoarding did not experience the dreaded “rebound” back to a disastrous living space. Her steadfast conviction fills me with such hope. As though life can be solved through fancy folding techniques and giving away your extra Mason jars you don’t need.

The heart of the KonMari method lies is determining what you should discard and what you should keep. After gathering all your items from a single category, you must handle each item lovingly, one by one. With careful consideration, you must ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” According to Marie Kondo, everything you own must spark joy. If it doesn’t spark joy, it doesn’t belong in your home. Good luck with the toilet brush, folks!

For objects that don’t pass the joy sparking test, Marie Kondo recommends expressing gratitude for everything they once brought you. You might also wish them well as they embark on their new journey, to the dumpster or to the Salvation Army.

In my new room, the sparks are a little sparse, not due to a hoarding problem but because I am down to about three and a half suitcases worth of possessions. At the risk of being spark-less, and/or nude, I figured I couldn’t afford to throw out too many objects. I did, however, part with the threesome tights on my last moving day. Strangely enough, I saw some woman wearing them down the street from me. I hope they spark deep joy in her heart. But all this is to say that I did not spend that much time considering the joy-sparking capacities of my few possessions. I feel rather joyful about my new room slash Erica Museum.  That said, as I proceeded with my Tidying Festival, I discovered I had an enormous amount to learn about folding.

Perhaps like the old me, you believe that folding is no fun. To this Marie Kondo insists that “you have not discovered the impact of folding.” Folding must be done with great heart. As we fold, we should thank “our clothes for protecting our bodies. Folding is really a dialogue with our clothing.”

Marie Kondo believes that, “Every piece of clothing has its own ‘sweet spot’ where it feels just right – a folded state that best suits that item.” She maintains that, “There is nothing more satisfying than finding that ‘sweet spot.’ The piece of clothing keeps its shape when stood on edge and feels just right when held in your hand. It’s like a sudden revelation – so this is how you always wanted to be folded! – a special moment in which your mind and the piece of clothing connect.”

In Kondo’s mind, “to go through life without knowing how to fold is a huge loss.” At the same time, I can testify that spending Sunday morning talking to your clothing in attempts to discover how each item would prefer to be folded is somewhat frightening. Even more frightening is trying to master KonMari folding without first watching the Youtube video. I tried this and my clothes ended up spending four days in fat vertical rectangle shapes instead of in the way they always wanted – micro-thin and horizontal. My poor clothes were not grateful. Fortunately, I was able to make it up to them yesterday. The result is impeccable. Each item exudes comfort and appreciation. Having never been a neat freak, this is one of the most unlikely things I have ever done.
My Grateful Clothes
Also unlikely, last Wednesday a lovely pregnant woman hired me to clean her house.  I was really excited because she has a darling big black dog. For new friends and fans who haven’t read the archives, I used to have a Big Black Dog when I lived in Halifax. His name was Eliot and for a solid two years, he was a big star of the blog, and a highlight of my life. 
Eliot, the Old Big Black Dog. 
Although I derive immense delight from dusting and mopping, I expected that the pregnant lady’s adorable big black dog would be the highlight of my day of housework.

As it happened, the day turned out to be quite performative.

One of my friends who is writing a novel wanted to know what it’s like being a cleaning lady. I would say that it is similar to cleaning your own house except you don’t know where anything is. And if you are the sort of person who feels disgusted by your own mess, other people’s dust usually feels less personal.

People always say that children are easier when they’re your own. I’m not sure I believe them. But mess is usually easier when it’s other people’s. Unless you are on Prozac, in which case all forms of cleaning can serve as your new masturbation replacement.

I am on Prozac, and last Wednesday, I was ready to be invigorated via dust eradication. With exuberance and determination, I prepared myself to tackle the dust and the corners and the big black dog hair. My serotonin leapt at the kitchen counter’s newfound luminosity. Windex in hand, at around 11 o’clock, I went outside on the patio to conquer the dirt on the glass table.

(In truth the best technique for cleaning glass is vinegar and newspaper, but in a pinch, Windex will do.)

The Big Black Dog, whose fake name is a toss-up between Michael and Jeremy came outside with me. He promptly lay down to bask in the sun on the patio shingles. Before I finished with the table, I thought I saw MJ return to the house. Summer is sweltering for big black dogs. Once the table was done, I went inside to scrub the bathroom sink. Soon it would be time for vacuuming. I felt highly satisfied with my level of efficiency. I transferred the sheets from the washer to the dryer, and threw in a load of curtains.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had not seen Michael-Jeremy for some time.
To protect Michael-Jeremy's anonymity, photos of the old Big Black Dog 
have been used to evoke canine images in your head.
“Michael slash Jeremy?” I called out. No answer. The apartment was not enormous and it took me seven and a half minutes to make three thorough searches and realize that Michael/Jeremy the Big Black Dog was nowhere to be found. Had I forgotten him on the patio? Nope, not there.

Now I had lost the lovely pregnant woman’s dog. Worst fail ever. I imagined him jumping off the side of the terrace, and his injured body being lugged away by horrified animal rights activists. Or he had simply slipped away, soon to fall into the hands of irate city inspectors.

I happened to have a picture of M-J on my phone from a picnic the previous weekend.

“Mile End,” I posted on Facebook. “Has anyone seen this dog? Let me know.” I messaged my phD friend who is always drinking decaf lattes somewhere in the neighbourhood. No answer. I like to call my phD friend, The Mayor of Mile End. Calling out for Michael-Jeremy on the way, I went to Chez Boris CafĂ© to see if the Mayor of Mile End was taking advantage of Boris’s excellent doughnuts, and if he had come across the Big Black Dog. But alas, my phD Mayor of Mile End Friend wasn’t there.

I felt quite devastated. It was the first of June. June was supposed to be a month of explosive and transformative creativity, and now I was failing as a maid. Even though I am a thirty-year-old grown up, I decided to call my mother and shed some performative tears.

My mother recommended calling the pregnant woman despite my fear that this would result in long-term trauma. Maybe the pregnant lady would have an idea of where M-J had gone. I called and left the most serene message I could pull off on the answering machine. Highly performative.

For the next twenty minutes, I wandered around alleyways and asked random people if they had seen a big black dog. Nobody had. Finally the pregnant lady called back.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “It was the dog walker. I forgot to tell him you were coming. You must have missed each other.”

My life is an ecstatic adventure. Tidying up is a special event. The rest of the afternoon involved rather extensive wars with the vacuum cleaner and its multiple fancy attachments. For fear the machine was not to be conquered, I went back to my apartment to get our dirt devil.  I hope the sight of me in my short shorts hauling a bright red dirt devil through Mile End sparked joy in several people’s hearts.

Eventually, at least the bottom half of the fancy vacuum became willing to suck dirt up. Victory was mine.

If you’d like me to be part of your Tidying Festival, let me know.

The End.

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