Weekend Wanderer: Don’t Be So Quick to Clean That Damned Spot


There is pen ink on the living room lampshade. Oil paint is ground into the family room carpet. A weird goo is crusted into the hallway floor.

And a throw pillow is missing.

A year into the pandemic forcing us home, my house is battered. Even our outdoor space has seen better days. The garage door is crooked on its track. The deck railing is broken. The shed looks like somewhere a serial killer stashes the bodies.

This article from The Washington Post plied me with tips for correcting all the pandemic damage. But I discounted the advice when I realized none of it involved a bulldozer, a match, or faking my death.

Is there really any point in fixing the damage while we’re still all jammed together? We’re like the stacks of toilet paper hoarded in my linen closet – overflowing, bumping up against each other, occupying a space too small for all it contains. What’s the point in correcting when each day brings a new stain?

Take, for example, the sofa. Our cat scratched gaping holes in the upholstery. She died last year. By the time furniture stores reopened, the cushions had become speckled with paint and what I’m hoping is chocolate.

What if that had been a new sofa? Do you know what happens when you try to get oil paint out of fabric? It spreads. You can almost hear it laughing at you.

I suppose I could just paint the sofa with more of that same paint. But I’m pretty sure the rest of the paint is what’s staining the carpet.

There is, of course, damage I can’t just leave alone. The night my beagle disinterred my dead cat, rolled in her corpse, then tumbled around my family room carpet required immediate action. It’s not every girl who gets to scrub a carpet and beagle free of dead cat juice at three in the morning. I’m part of a privileged few.

Then there’s the oven. Two weeks ago, my middle schooler decided to make soft pretzels. He worked the dough. Turned on the oven. Dabbled on a glaze of butter.

If only he had removed the pretzels from the plastic cutting board before putting them in the hot oven. Melted plastic dripped, fusing to the heating element. Mounds of flour on the oven floor had to be sucked out with my new wet/dry vac.

That part was OK. I love to vacuum. Everything in life should be as satisfying as vacuuming.

My appliance repair guy comes this week. He’s hoping he can salvage the oven. I’m not optimistic.

The blogger Design Mom recently told The Washington Post the key to living through the disasters wrought on your home by the pandemic is to keep a singular space clean and clutter-free. This is your retreat – your escape when the paint and flour and dead cat juice get to be too much.

I guess my bedroom qualifies. It’s a little difficult to think of my bedroom as an oasis when I have to pick my way around hunting equipment, which for some reason is kept in our bedroom, not the shed.

Maybe the bodies take up too much room.

There’s new bedding, and I bought something called a foam roller. It’s supposed to smooth out your fascia. All it really does is befuddle my husband and dog, who usually follow me to my sanctuary because they don’t read Design Mom interviews in The Washington Post.

And I don’t have the heart to tell them I’m trying to evade their slovenly, Pig Pen selves.

I rather envy the moms who have given themselves over to the stains, rips, and hunting equipment, like this one in The New York Times. Maybe I should – could – just let go of anything short of decomposed cat juice and plasticized ovens.

Although I’m not really good at letting go. People who love to vacuum are generally not good at letting go of things.

I had to replace the cutting board, right? I can’t just pretend the cutting board is like the sofa, replacing it only once the pandemic ends. I’m barely surviving the lampshade inked by pen.

But that inability to let go means I didn’t stop at the cutting board.

I bought new drinking glasses too.

One warm day last week, my children sunned themselves in our driveway. They chalked pictures along its length. They ate cookies and made sun tea. It was lovely to see them relax, free from pandemic schooling for an afternoon.

That was when I heard the unmistakable tinkle of breaking glass. The shouted apology for the new drinking glass that had shattered in the driveway.

“I don’t know what you were thinking,” my husband sighed.

Me either. But I know what I’m thinking now.

I’m thinking wet/dry vacs might be ideal for sucking broken glass from the driveway.

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