Editor’s note: We’ve spent the week on the Tiki Tiki talking about decluttering, organizing and cleaning from the inside out. Be sure to read the other essays and share your story, tips and ideas.
When I was a young girl, we lived with my great-grandmother on my mom’s side of the familia. She was the epitome of your Latina viejita and spent all day alternately cleaning, cooking, and praying – sometimes all three at once. And she found tremendous joy in doing it. I can remember sitting down at the dining room table eating a bowl of her mind-blowing fideo and watching her mop the kitchen floor with one hand, give a quick stir to a pot of frijoles with the other, all while singing a church song (in Spanish).
I sometimes wonder (a bit woefully) how that gene got lost before it reached me.
Especially considering that the urge to clean is not limited to my mother’s side of the familia. In fact, it is quite strong on my father’s, as well. Every time I visit him and other family members in Spain, I am just amazed at how perfectly clean they keep their homes.
My father’s casa is spotless (thanks to my stepmother) and when I go to visit my Tía Visi, I eventually find myself tiptoeing around her apartment and checking the bathroom floor for any hairs that fall out of my head. (It doesn’t matter – she immediately sweeps after I’ve been in there more than five seconds.) She’s also one of those rare women who cleans as she cooks, so that everything is washed and put away 10 minutes after the meal is over.
The homes there don’t usually have carpeting – probably because tile is easier to keep clean. And when you walk along the cobblestone roads in the towns and cities, it is not uncommon to see the abuelitas throwing their mop water into the street, or sweeping the little sidewalk that runs in front of their house.
I think of these things when I look around my house with sad eyes and see the toys laying around the floor, or the pile of folded – though clean! – clothes laying on the banister waiting for someone to take them upstairs and put them away in their allotted drawers. I can see my abuela’s finger wagging in disapproval when yesterday’s mail on the dining room table seems like mountains of paper eagerly awaiting a small earthquake so that they can escape in a shower down to my (carpeted!) floor. And I can hear the tsk-tsking of my Tía’s tongue when carpet stains from dropped play-dough, grape juice or spaghetti keep growing in size..
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been feeling that ancestral urge to clean my house from top to bottom. So I have to make haste while I can, before the feeling fades away, smothered by the hectic reality that is mi vida.
¿Y tu? Do you have a beautifully kept house? Does it smell of Pine Sol or bleach? Are your whites perfectly folded and sparkling? Or are you like me: granddaughter of a cleaning diva who does a little here and there as time permits?
My goal for 2011? Organize it. Cada cosa en su sitio.
Just like abuela.
Monica Olivera Hazelton homeschools her two children and writes about it at Mommy Maestra. She also publishes the The Latin Baby Book Club and is the owner of Latin Baby, an online boutique catering to Latino families.