There’s a Rolled-Up Kleenex Somewhere In Your Apartment And You Will Never Find It
And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.
“It’s Spring Cleaning Time. What’s the best way to get started?” — Clean Dean
I’ve never understood clean people or the need to celebrate the coming of Spring by moving everything around. People who care about cleanliness already dominate the airwaves with their advice about having to be insanely clean at all times. Like if you drop a sock somewhere it must be put in a Tupperware container labeled “Dropped Socks.” And then filed somewhere under “Found Socks: Not My Socks.” With some kind of triplicate paperwork to be filled out.
There are whole rooms of my apartment I don’t go in because I’m afraid raccoons may be in them. We used to have a cat that would warn us when things were awry in our living conditions. Now we think the cat is on their side. It’s all very mysterious.
If I were to clean, it would be because I was looking for a Gumby costume or something. Then I clean only enough to find the Gumby suit under all the other crap I have all over the place. There is a layer of laundry that covers all things in my part of the apartment. Which is weird because I’m usually naked whenever I’m walking around. Sometimes I alternate nudity with trying on different things, seeing if they still fit. Frowning at a sombrero that used to fit me when my head was less swollen from eating cheese. Putting my Lost Dharma Initiative jumpsuit. Sighing that it is a little tight.
If you’re going to clean you should really spend at least two, possibly three, days in bed contemplating the task in the dark with the covers pulled up all the way over your eyes. I cannot find the covers because my apartment is pretty messy, so I use whatever is close at hand. If you still feel like cleaning after those days are up then something must be pretty serious. Your roommate may be trapped under a falling couch. Or you have misplaced a pizza under a pile of old copies of The Economist. In these cases natural instinct just takes over. You dig and dig until you find pizza or bone.
But any other attempt at straightening should not be entered into lightly. While placing something in a closet, you displace the spot for another thing. If you put old clothes in a box, you will find, inevitably, another clothes somewhere else. It is like a Möbius strip of things. And somehow you are always the one who has to do something about the clothes. There is no one else. There used to be a character named Mommy that would help you with such projects. She’s in Arizona. And doesn’t like coming to your apartment because your choices “make her sad.” And yet someone every year for the holidays buys you a giant bag of sweaters and underpants. It’s all very confusing. And should not be contemplated while being upright.
I also clean sometimes when I need enough change for the bus in the morning or quarters to do the laundry. This can be quite fulfilling when it goes right. See, all of this was worth something after all. Saving me from a trip to the ATM, these dimes and nickels. Nickels! They are so thick. And yet so easily discarded. Like tiny, worthless, broken dreams.
The energy you spend scrubbing your abode could be spent contemplating the mysteries of the universe, one at a time. Dust is always falling. Falling over the laundry and and the issues of The Economist. Falling over the $50 life-sized singing Santa I left in the corner. Falling over the Christmas tree that is still up in the very next room. Falling over the living and the pizza. There’s nothing you can do, no amount of scrubbing or organizing you can complete that will change the direction of the falling dust. It is falling when you sleep, when you are at work, when you have slipped into a coma.
If you do have a room that you think needs a little help just push everything off all of the furniture and then push the larger and larger pile of stuff into another room. Perhaps the room you have abandoned to the wild beasts you think might live there. Just push it right into the corner. And then never go in that room again. Unless you are looking for that Gumby suit. Which is apparently just nowhere. Gumby!!
Don’t clean your apartment. Spend the time and the effort clearing your mind of banal, meaningless tasks. Someday we’ll all be dead. Possibly from raccoon bites. Or because we eventually got buried by the crap in our homes. And couldn’t open the front door any more. When that time comes, maybe then and only then should we spend time worrying about cleaning. The rest of the time, just throw it over there. Do you smell pizza? Yeah, so do I.
Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.