For Better or For Dirt

My husband is always working hard and in a hurry. I used to try to match his pace, which meant frequent (sometimes twice a day) vacuuming because he doesn’t have time to remove his footwear.

How I hated it: the horrid roar, the musty dusty smell, the sweat-inducing struggle to drag a contraption that’s always tipped over or trapped behind furniture. Plus, I was forever changing bags, and the hose popped off and resisted reattachment like the canister was rejecting a body part.  

When I was finally ready to admit I couldn’t win the fight for clean, it was time for a solo intervention to curb the fretting and resentment that were taking over my thinking. No more woe-is-me, I announced. The vacuum train had left the station and wouldn’t return for a week. 

It tested my mettle, barring myself from the utility closet where the thing lurked, deceptively quiet and upright. 

Waiting for the weekend, brought several not-quite-under-my-breath utterances about my husband being inconsiderate, bringing his preventable mess hastily striding through the front door. His retort: the pets bring in more crap than the bottoms of his shoes. (Although I considered that debatable, I was trying to move on, and I let the comment slide.) 

For several months, I held fast to the new vacuuming schedule, and when we eventually replaced the catch-all carpet with slate floors. Was it that the stone’s natural camouflage made it harder to spot unwanted clumps of crud – or had my standards begun a more lasting downhill slide?

With more home-improvement projects, dirt and sawdust continued to make forays across the threshold. It was irritating, but, lips stiff and jaws locked, I stuck to the schedule. Unless he did something about it, debris on floors and furniture remained unchecked for six days at a time.

Slowly, I slacked off even more. 

When it’s not cleaning time, I no longer hang up his lounging jackets and jeans. I kick his stray shoes under the bed. I leave neatly folded stacks of his clothes in the laundry room until he gets around to dealing with them. 

I don’t bother to wipe away the soap (or is it toothpaste?) that smudges his side of the bathroom mirror. I hardly ever dust. I have even dropped nightly stovetop scrubbing. And I’m getting better at ignoring jam smears on the fridge handle and the sticky juice residue inside.

It can all wait – usually.

Granted, my inner fussbudget occasionally flares to life and gripes through an ill-timed clean-as-you-go frenzy. But it’s rare.

Thankfully, we don’t have a lot of spontaneous I-was-just-in-the-neighbourhood-and-thought-I’d-drop-by visitors. With lowered day-to-day standards, there’s a frantic scurry when we’re expecting guests. Most people come back though, willing to pit their immune system against whatever we don’t manage to whisk away in those dust ups.

My husband doesn’t complain. He has his priorities right. Having forsaken unproductive cleaning, I am finally reading books that have gathered dust since the 1990s. There’s more gardening, more walks, more fun with pets, more music, more living.

And in my less-harried state, I have renewed appreciation for the man’s extraordinary drive, focus and ability. He’s my superhero. Really.

And I’m a mere mortal farming free-range dust bunnies.

Now, I just have to forget about the splatters on the inside of the microwave. 

Who will ever know?


Julie Ann Luoma is happy to share quirky conclusions drawn from life’s little dramas.