Monday, December 29, 2008

get your house in order

My grandmothers were very clean people. My mother thoroughly enjoys cleaning, though she doesn't quite hit the same level my grandmothers were on. I don't enjoy cleaning, but I do like things to be clean. I've almost given up on neatness.

One thing that they all instilled in me is the crazy concept that your house must be in order before you go somewhere big - like a vacation or something. After all, you could die in a car crash or have to go to the hospital, and then people would go into your house and find it in a terrible mess. Who wants to be remembered by that?

So up until this past year, I would sometimes be up almost all night not only trying to get things packed up, but also trying to totally clean house as well. Or should I say, make the house presentable?

The Chinese had a horrible superstition that my mother and grandparents would have enjoyed. Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year based on the lunar calendar) required EVERYTHING to be cleaned top to bottom before the new year began. After all, it was exceptionally bad luck to take old dirt into the new year. The ladies would clean like mad and almost wear themselves into a frazzle cleaning before the big event. And my students were mortified to find we didn't have such a custom. Many of them assumed that was why we took such a long Christmas break in clean for the New Year.

I've thought about both of those traditions/customs off and on the past few days. Partly because I actually had several days off of work, thanks to Christmas and the weekend falling back to back, and I used some of that time to actually straighten up some things that were in desperate need of attention. I've actually cleaned out five kitchen drawers (and yes, I crazily tend to ignore the big things like sweeping and mopping and go for the minute details that no one else will see).

I was supposed to clean Grandma White's house the weekend before she entered the hospital for a routine surgery, but due to various reasons it didn't happen. She told me we got it clean enough the last time and it wasn't how she wanted to leave it but it would have to do. She had other things in the house to get in order. She died in the recovery room. My other Granny, whom we called Rea-Rea, died in her sleep. They said her house was meticulous. The dishes were washed and in the drainer with the cloth over them as she taught us, the broom was in the hallway, and as always, everything was spotless. They both had their houses in order. Me? I've left instructions that when I die no one is to enter the house until someone comes in to clean.

I don't think I'll ever reach the "cleanliness is next to godliness" mantra. I'll probably never once reach the Chinese level of cleanliness before a New Year. But I might actually manage to finish cleaning out all the kitchen cabinets. So if I die and you come to my house to weep and mourn, overlook the floors and dust, but you can check out my organized kitchen cabinets and pantry!


sara's art house said...

Good for you!!!!! That kind of cleaning is more important anyway. Clean cupboards last longer than a clean floor :)

Jennifer said...

you saw my house the other night didn't you??????

Monica said...

Um, Jen, your kitchen table was clean! Bobby likes to crack jokes that he forgets ours is made of wood because he so seldom can see it!

Jennifer said...

yeah, the table might have been clean, but the rest of the kitchen was messy....dirty clothes everywhere, things out, etc etc etc. Even though I was sick, I was so embarrassed!

gypsy@Hebrews11:13 said...

Oh, should see my bedroom/bathroom right now. Gross.

rabryan said...

You are too funny! I was so impressed with your house because I was walking in unannounced and it was so presentable!!!