My mother was an excellent housekeeper. The woman never once wrote her name in the dust on a piece of furniture to decide if she needed to clean.
Nor did she ever stand on a chair to make herself the height of a tall son-in-law to see if she should wipe down the top of the refrigerator.
She had a few surgeries over the years, and before each one she’d have my father move the stove out from the wall so she could clean behind it. Who can relax under a general anesthetic if you know there might be dust balls lurking behind the stove?
The entire house was neat and organized. Even the kitchen junk drawer knew better than to slouch in disarray. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place.
We had a clothesline in the backyard of our first house. Mom would hang the sheets outside for maximum clean and freshness. If storm clouds gathered, she would fly to the backyard, race down the lines, rip pins off and throw the sheets in the bag, then race back to the house as the rain started, satisfied that a major catastrophe had been averted.
We were spoiled rotten with fresh bedding, fresh linens and cookies fresh from the oven. There is a compelling allure to fresh: the beginning of a school year, the start of a marriage, the birth of a child, moving to a new place, starting a new job.
Fresh is the draw of the new year — turning the calendar to a new beginning that is not yet muddled and cluttered, marked with rings from coffee cups and neglected To Do lists scrawled in the margins.
A new year will dawn fresh. It always does. The question is — will I?
Maybe I need to do some housekeeping myself. A good sweeping would find some interesting tidbits in the dust pan — a lazy habit or two and new challenges that fell by the wayside.
How about that layer of dust building? The sort you can write your name in. The dust goes by the name resentment, and it is time for it to go.
Maybe it’s time to clean out all those drawers crammed with junk — the ones holding old tapes that replay the things I regret doing and the things I wish I had done.
I could use some polish as well — a readiness to listen more than I talk. Glass cleaner is in order, too — something to remove the smudges for a clearer view of the things that matter and things that don’t.
Cleaning is rarely my first choice of activities, but I have my broom, dustpan and furniture polish in hand, ready to go. Here’s to fresh starts and a new year.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.