Housecleaning in the Time of Corona

When I left my office job, I also parted ways with my adored cleaning lady. (I really did adore her. Whenever my husband complained about the intrusion on his privacy, I always replied: “Don’t make me choose between you.”) But I couldn’t justify the indulgence anymore after I no longer had the excuse of being in the office all day or on the road all week. So I told myself I could handle it myself.

I couldn’t. I never developed good habits. What I did instead was a panicked flurry of cleaning whenever guests were expected. Since we usually entertained a few times a month, this seemed like a workable routine. The house usually looked pretty good.

Then came the pandemic and the lockdown. We haven’t entertained for four months, and––you guessed it––I haven’t really cleaned for four months either. Dust has gathered in the corners of our rooms much like a metaphor for what’s been happening in the corners of my mind. But did it matter? Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, if dirt accumulates in a house and no one comes over to see it, is it really dirty?

This week our kitchen faucet broke, necessitating a service call for the first time in months. As long as the plumber was coming, we figured we might as well upgrade a few showerheads, too. In pre-pandemic times, it sometimes took weeks to get the plumber out, but this time he had availability––today!

Because I can’t bear for anyone to form a bad opinion of me, even someone I may never see again, I lit into a panicked flurry of housecleaning. The kitchen, the baths, and every room he’d have to traverse. Then I had to clean up myself, too, and put on makeup, and finally a mask that obscured most of the makeup.

“You have a beautiful home,” the plumber said as he left, and I did a big mental Whew!

But here’s the irony: after he left, I had to do another deep-clean to remove any possibility of the virus.

So now I’m in a state of exhaustion, and our country is in a state of emergency, and it’s hard to avoid the moral of this story: with some thoughtful planning and preventive action, we could have avoided both.

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