Skip to content

Out of the Blue

Batting Cleanup

Spotless . . . in the eye of the beholder

By Deborah Salomon

By June, “spring cleaning” should be done and dusted . . . right? The windows gleam, the carpet wafts shampoo. Begone dust bunnies that overwintered under the bureau. Same to soap scum ringing the tub and spilled jam glued to the refrigerator. The sofa has been moved, revealing kitty’s favorite toy and some petrified Halloween candy. All the shelves Swiffered, even the highest, uprooting a mosquito graveyard.

These tasks were accomplished on a sunny Saturday by family members, conscripted, cajoled or bribed.

Pizza for lunch, maybe?

Ah, spring cleaning, that archaic rite which, it seems, survives in name only. Because “clean” is a touchy subject — everybody wants clean surroundings, but nobody wants to do it.

I wanted to do it. Having three children in three-and-a-half years — then adding a rambunctious Airedale puppy — interfered. Nevertheless, every morning I gave the bathrooms a once-over, and late every afternoon, with most of the toys put away, I managed to vacuum, which gave the illusion of clean when Daddy came home to a hot supper. Then baths, stories, bedtime and collapse.

That’s just the way we did things in the ’60s.

Finally, I hired a “cleaning lady” who came every second Friday, from 9 to 3. Anna had emigrated from Eastern Europe to Canada after World War II. I assumed she flew in from heaven on huge white wings, to ease my travail. Anna, well into her 50s, was big, strong, energetic. She tuned her transistor radio to a Polish language station and attacked my house with a vengeance, I think in gratitude for the lunches: a big bowl of hearty homemade soup, rye bread for dunking, a meat sandwich, and garlicky coleslaw from a European deli. She finished off with a bearclaw (Danish filled with almond paste) and strong tea.

Food talks, even inspires.

After lunch I went out grocery shopping. When I returned, Anna was gone and the house smelled like Ajax and Pledge — more glorious than Chanel.

Anna demonstrated that cleaning isn’t just a profession or a necessity. It can be an art.

After she retired I hired helpers, since I was working full time, then gave up. They weren’t any more energetic than I was. Their clean didn’t squeak. They weren’t Anna.

Now, cleaning services are the mode. A crew of young men and women spill out of a truck with a snazzy logo. They bring supplies and implements, breeze through a big house in an hour or so, collect the cash and fly away, like Mary Poppins on her aeronautical umbrella.

They definitely don’t want lunch.

Some folks take clean to an obsession. I envy them, sort of. They are a ready market for Roomba (self-propelling vacuum) as well as Swiffer diversifications for wet and dry floors, blinds, hard to reach tchotchkes, et al. They remove stains with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and suck up spills with Bounty paper towels. The aromas wafting through their hallways come from plug-ins, not meatloaf.

Others are neat freaks, where everything has its place and the kitchen harbors no junk drawer spilling over with twist ties, rubber bands, birthday candles and packets of soy sauce.

How do you live without a junk drawer? I have two.

Age has sapped my energy. The kitty and I don’t make much mess in our small apartment. I’m still fussy about the (one) bathroom and (tiny) kitchen. I push the carpet sweeper more often than the vacuum. The oven cleans itself, and I don’t keep jam in the refrigerator. Maybe books and magazines pile up, but so what? Makes me look literary. True, sometimes the late afternoon sun reveals a film of dust on the coffee table where I keep stylized animal figurines, collected over many years, many miles. So I close the blinds and the dust disappears.

Spring cleaning? Never got around to it. I’ll wait till fall.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at