Monday, February 04, 2013

Domesticity, Yet Again

Robert Benchley, talking of an overseas trip, mentions a quaint little Spanish town, whose residents he describes as “simple, childish people, to whom cleanliness is next to a broken hip.” And oh, Lord, I identify with those people!

I’m not talking personal cleanliness…I am not a stranger to soap, water, a toothbrush, or a comb…but to my living conditions. I’ve touched on this subject before but was reminded of it yet again this morning when I was wondering where to install the feeding trough when I saw just what a pigsty my bathroom floor is. It is a very small bathroom: I can stand in the center of it and easily touch all four walls just by raising one arm not quite 90 degrees. It has a tile floor, and I do have a small throw rug. The cat litter box is under the sink. And I try to keep it clean. Really, I do. I have gotten on my hands and knees with a scrub brush and pail of water with Spic and Span, and PineSol, and SoftScrub and God knows what else. I have scrubbed until my arms feel about to fall off. But trying to clean in the tight confines around the toilet bowl (especially when I cannot raise my head to see what I’m doing) is a total effort in futility. When I finish, apart from having removed various spots and smudges, it is still a mess.

The entire apartment has the same tile floor—the exposed square footage of tile in the entry, the kitchen, and the bedroom are each only slightly larger than the bathroom. I mentioned earlier, I think, having been conned into buying a spray-cleaner Swiffer, which like all things advertised on TV looks like the best thing since sliced bread. Swish-swish, put on sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the gleaming, spotless floors. Right. The button to release the spray is conveniently located right under your thumb, so that when you push or pull the mop, your thumb cannot avoid hitting the button, and you end up spraying far more than you intended.

Each time I am foolish enough to use it—stubbornly refusing to remember the fiasco of the last time I used it—the only real difference I can tell between “before” and “after” is that my feet stick to the floor when I try to walk on it.

God knows when I last dusted. I simply am not aware of it. I never think of it. Every waking hour is filled with something, and dusting not only is not high on my list of things that must be done, it isn’t even in the footnotes. When I do dust, resenting having to take time away from more important things, within ten minutes I’ve forgotten that I’ve done it, and the next time I look, everything’s dusty again.

Living alone helps, I’m sure, as does having no visitors. My friend Gary comes up for coffee every now and again, but clean-freak though he is, he bears his disgust in silence. Had I someone to be domestic for, perhaps my attitudes might change, but I doubt it. When, in the past, I have lived with someone, I was generally lucky enough to have the other person be far more aware of such things and willing to take on the responsibilities. I have, regrettably, aged myself out of the likelihood of ever being so lucky again. Perhaps I could consider hiring a cleaning person, but I could not expect them to do much about the floors, which I see as a lost cause under any circumstances.

I really don’t enjoy being a slob. Truly I don’t. And I sincerely am ashamed of myself for being one. But it is easier to be ashamed of myself than to do much about it. Each of us must set his or her own priorities, and I have set mine. Cleaning my apartment is not one of them. Sorry about that.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

I know a Peter Benchley who once described a wonderful fishing/resort town off the east coast of the US. Fortunately for them, they never worried about cleaning or domesticity. Unfortunately, several of the residents were getting eaten by a great white shark. Peter had a unique sense of humor. Did you ever read his work?

Dorien/Roger said...

Being Robert Benchley's son, I'm sure Peter based his story on his father's description. And yes, I enjoy both Benchleys.