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A Clean Sweep : It's a dirty job, but someone has to get rid of household grit and grime. What a way to spend a weekend!


It must be really latent spring fever. The urge to purge comes over me and I want to fling open my closets, throw out the old and get everything in perfect order.

It's a remnant of my childhood, no doubt. I grew up in Texas, where they have seasons.

Here in Southern California, though, land of eternal summer, there is no spring and, consequently, no spring cleaning.

But my internal clock knows better. So, when Daylight Saving Time arrives, I know it's time.

This year, however, I made too many false starts. It's part of being single, I think.

One of the comforts of singlehood is knowing that every speck of dirt and grime at home can be traced to me. So, if I'm carving a life out of chaos, at least it is my chaos.

Finally, the fever is too strong. I must clean. I designate a Saturday as my official cleanup day.

I look forward to it. I plan for it.

It is going to be a major event in any weekend.

Saturday, 9:15 a.m.: It's gray outside and in. Finally, I'm awake. I can't believe it's this late. But I'm sleepy and shut my eyes for a few more seconds. . . .

10:45 a.m.: I swing groggily out of bed and try to get going.

11:20 a.m.: I'm showered and dressed in sneakers, T-shirt and leggings. The outfit is comfortable and colorful (to perk up my sagging energy level). Because I'm so late, I decide to skip breakfast and go directly to work.

11:25 a.m.: As a precaution, I strip the bed. I remove the horrible bed ruffle that keeps traveling up the mattress, but I decide I won't take on the mattress in hand-to-hand combat and turn it.

11:49 a.m.: On to the bathroom.

I use a dishpan to store the cosmetics and toiletries that line the bathtub and vanity. I toss out empties and near-empties.

Halfway through, I decide to do an inventory. I could really use some Post-Its at a time like this, but naturally I can't find them. I settle for an empty envelope taped to the refrigerator. Periodically I dash to the kitchen to add something to the list.

12:30 p.m.: I abandon the taped music in favor of KJLH and Marvin Gaye. I'm tired of changing the cassettes. I am well on my way to blitzing through the bathroom: I have cleaned the tub (twice--first with tub-and-tile cleanser and then with scouring powder); washed the surrounding tiles and walls, rinsed out the shower head and cleaned the top of the vanity.

I have attacked mildew and stains in the tile and around the vanity faucet with a toothbrush; I am amazed at how well it scrubs and scours.

12:55 p.m.: I attack the shower curtain with a vengeance. There is a big glop of blue goop on it. I recognize it as hair conditioner that migrated during one of my shampoos.

The sight of the glop and the general condition of the curtain remind me that an ex-boyfriend (a real clean freak) still owns the same shower curtain he had when we were in graduate school. How does he do it?

I run to the kitchen to add a shower curtain to the list of things I need.

1:25 p.m.: The phone rings. It is he-of-the-perpetual-shower-curtain returning my call of two days earlier. After a chat, I announce that I am in the middle of my cleaning fling and am about to clean the toilet.

"What" he says, "you only clean your toilet once a year?" In his voice, I hear a silent prayer of thanksgiving that he never married me.

No, I explain, I clean the toilet regularly, but this is going to be the ultimate scrub .

I clean it inside, outside, top to bottom. I clean the walls around it and behind it and more wall tiles.

I clean the moldings. I clean the mirrors. I mop.

The bathroom is done.

2 p.m.: I am way behind schedule. I decide to take on an easy room. But first I take a break.

2:05 p.m.: I pause for a Diet Coke--just for the caffeine of it. I need some quick reinforcement, so I move to the dining room, where the tasks are mainly clear and clean.

While removing newspapers and books from the dining room table, I unearth two pairs of sunglasses.

The papers and books have been sorted into two piles. One pile is headed straight for the trash. The other pile is placed in a container for sorting later.

3:20 p.m.: The dining room is decluttered, swept and the area rug vacuumed. I have stripped the two waterproof tablecloths from the table and rearranged the dining room chairs around it. For the first time in months, the dining room looks like a dining room. I resolve to buy fresh flowers for the table and get a new area rug. I add them to the list.

As a quick bonus accomplishment, I sweep the hallway.

I feel a headache coming, so I decide it's a good time for lunch. I pop a frozen meal into the microwave, but while I'm waiting, I'm straightening up the kitchen and sweeping.

3:45 p.m.: I'm back to work. This is becoming addictive. Almost.

Since I'm seeking another quick-fix room, I head for the den.

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