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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Housecleaning

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer



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Something about housecleaning is a big stress reducer for me. Nearly every Saturday morning I kick off my weekend by doing an end-to-end house cleaning. This has always been part of my routine except for a few years when my children were small and my hours at work long - during that time, I had a once a week cleaning helper. While it freed up time for admittedly more important family activities, I missed my ritual. After a week of people-intensive and intellectually-taxing work at my “day job,” the tasks of cleaning that I can do while I mull over some problem or think about some opportunity are most welcome on the weekend.

Since our kids are grown and gone, I don’t have the sticky floor spills or smears on the walls and cupboards to deal with any more, but we have plenty of house pets, so hair is plentiful. I call the big balls of hair I eradicate “spare cats.” The bathrooms get scrubbed, the kitchen counters get a good cleaning and all floors vacuumed. Meanwhile the washer and drier churn away on the laundry. I always have a big glass of ice water at hand, a scented candle burning, and I love the sense of achievement when it’s all done and gleaming for another week.

When I was small my mother had a similar ritual but she did her tasks by day - one day was for vacuuming, one for stripping and waxing the kitchen floor, one for laundry. Spreading it out made sense, since everything took longer in those days. Clothes were hung outside on a line on all but the most inclement days.

Can you imagine stripping and reapplying wax to floors these days? Hands and knees work, followed by a very irritating hour or two for floor drying, during which the bathroom was inaccessible - luckily we still had the farm’s original outhouse for dire emergencies. And the ironing! Hours of ironing.

The history of housekeeping is reflected in the now quaint terms of “spring” and “fall” housecleaning. Busy farm wives of 100 years ago had no time to be cleaning house every week - their time was consumed with raising and canning produce, making soap and cheese, and sewing clothing for the family. Most likely it was truly a twice a year push to clean house - airing out the months of woodsmoke smell from the heating unit in the spring, and washing and airing out the featherbeds and quilts at the approach of cold weather. Unlikely anyone worried too much about washing windows, or “sanitizing” countertops with a pre-moistened bleach wipe.

I don’t think of housecleaning as “woman’s work.” It’s my work, I have value for it, and I enjoy it. But I probably wouldn’t enjoy it if it meant hours of ironing, floor waxing, or hauling clothes outside to hang.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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