I have a confession to make. I was one of those insane mothers who try to make sure their kids never come in contact with a particle of dirt. This meant about half of everyday, usually while the babies were asleep, was spent scrubbing floors and moving furniture to vacuum behind. On a rough estimate, that probably cost me a good 10 or so books by the age of 35. It was probably — oh, heck, surely — excessive.
Kids who came to play with my kids, even well into elementary, used to say things like “Your house is so clean.”
Then we moved to this house. I’ve talked about before how this house seems to have a cloud of dolce far niente over it. Which could be very nice, if we had maids and stuff (or staff.)
However, in retrospect I’m not even sure that’s true. I mean, that there is a cloud of dolce far niente over the house.
What happened is that we moved here in 03, when I’d been informed my first series hadn’t done “as well as expected” (which, speaking of pure evil and Random Penguins is funny considering within two years I’d outearned the advance for both number one and number two. Since the advance back then were an estimation of what the book would make the author, saying books that earned royalties over the advance didn’t do as well as expected is duck speak. The translation is actually this “You earned more than we expected you to, given the crappy non-support and publicity we gave you – but you didn’t become a miraculous bestseller, so we’re dropping you.”)
Anyway, because burning the publishing district was not an option even if it would have made me feel much better, and because I’m a human wave AUTHOR – meaning I behave like a human wave character – I said “like h*ll you’ll fire me.* and spent the next couple of years furiously running just to stay in print. The running included writing a lot of proposals, halves of some novels (that will now get finished) and apparently an entire medieval romance I have no memory of writing and I’m afraid of reading. There was also a couple of stints in work for hire and ghosting. I will not lie – I would have quit writing – probably – sometime in the next two years when things weren’t BREAKING except that we were paying double mortgage, as we were still getting the other house ready to sell, then selling it. So, I needed money for the double mortgage, which included a year where I made 5k from short stories. (Do the math at around $300 each story.)
Because all my free time, I was working on the house in Manitou, to get it ready for sale, I wasn’t unpacking/cleaning. I did the minimal unpacking to get the house functional but that was all.
Then we had the year of crisis with middle school and Number Two Son.
At the end of that, a certain pattern of living in this house had set in. And unfortunately it wasn’t a very GOOD pattern.
I cleaned every week because I’m allergic to household dust, but furniture didn’t get moved, you didn’t look in drawers (except I organize my closet twice a year, otherwise I can’t find clothes) stuff just got piled in closets and the attic remained a disaster area.
And then I started getting ill – a lot – which meant fewer books got written and the cleaning was even more neglected.
Well… there is a possibility we will have to move in the next year or so – and it would be sane to downsize if/when the boys leave. (Though the advantage of this house for the times we live in is that it can easily fit two families. – three would be a bit cramped.)
So I started, desultorily, going through stuff, since the first order of business is “cull crap” – mostly paper books, since we now have a lot of them in electronic format, which thank G-d can’t collect dust.
And I’ve found that maybe the problem is not with the house, but with ourselves. I.e., we took so long to get settled/get things started here, that by the time we did the clutter was well-night hopeless. After five years the accumulation of dust in places I couldn’t reach without major reorganization started making me ill more often, and besides we were spending money to buy things we already had because we couldn’t find anything. (Look, there might be a logical reason to have a collection of drill bits in my desk drawer of my writing desk. Perhaps a character had told me she wanted to get drilled, who knows? BUT when I needed those drill bits to fix the kitchen stool… well… I never thought to look there. There were also two visa gift cards for the kids, given to us around the time we moved, which ended up at the back of my bedside table drawer, behind my weight in pens and about ten thousand hair clips.)
Now, I’m not going to tell you that I’m about to become the world’s best housekeeper. I think my fans would rather I do three or four more books a year. And G-d knows this is the last thing I wanted to be doing right now. (And I have to do guest blogging today and tomorrow. I just do.) But those who have engaged in this type of work – possibly not as epic – will understand what I mean when I say that having lifted a corner of the mess, I now must continue until it’s done.
A lot of this, really, is “moving in” and making this house functional to live in, as it never was. Depending on whether or not it looks like re: staying or having to move, there might be wall painting this summer. But for now, it’s just getting rid of furniture we don’t need. Getting rid of stuff we no longer use (though the hair clips are a kludge. I used them when I had hair so long I could – and did, by accident – sit on it. Now I have it somewhere above my shoulders, so I don’t have that much use for … fifty different ways to confine my hair. I don’t intend to grow my hair that long again – but then I never did, I just forgot to have it cut. That’s what the first four years in this house were like. I don’t have anywhere to store them, and no clue what to do with them.)
Now, I think I’m about at the point that I can relegate this to weekends – I.e. do my usual lick and promise in the normal areas, but add one room that gets unpacked/organized/decluttered. Which is good. It means I can go back to doing the stuff all of us enjoy more.
The idea is that if I do this for a couple of months, then it will be easier to maintain the house and keep from getting sick, and finally fight off the lassitude of “I can’t find anything and why bother. At least that’s the idea.
However – right now – remember it’s been ten years of my not doing this, it means both the kids and the cats seem to think I’ve been possessed by a cleaning demon which has now spread to Dan who spent yesterday organizing his office, as the kids looked in horror.
Bear with me through late postings and such. This is health related, though not in the normal way. (For one, since there was mildew in the humidifier, I need to clean any place stuff might grow in the rest of the house.)
And I’m just trying to make time for the writing.