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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time of spring cleaning: this ain’t Martha’s house!

By Lee Simpson

When it comes to household cleanliness, I am definitely a “good enough” kind of gal. Like the biblical  Mary, the partner of that other Martha, I have better things to do with my mind and time. I was reminded of the rightness of this when I read the latest Martha Stewart Living (at the library, of course). In that magazine, a writer explained the death-defying lengths he reached, cleaning each inch of every window of his high-rise nest. His lyricism on the topic indicated that he was thrilled by the risks involved and felt it worthwhile. Hmmpph, you will never catch me waxing eloquent about waxing!

Let’s be clear: we do not live in squalor. It is safe to accept an invite from me because I draw the line at a grubby kitchen. My tub gets scoured. But dust bunnies under the bed? As long as my book is engrossing when I lie down, I am happy. 

When it says “spring” on the calendar, but the ground outside remains unresponsive to my shovel, I stalwartly face indoor events. This is the time to dust more thoroughly than a flick of feathers will ever do. I am also resigned to scrubbing those floors I have been burying under boot mats. 

But how do I tackle these chores and still buy nothing?

Although I retain a few items from last year’s sanitizing binge, cleaning products were not stockpiled in advance. I am trying hard to avoid anything caustic or chemically floral in favour of genuinely safe cleansers. My daughter reminded me not to be bamboozled by the colour green and the word, “natural,” on the label of a chemical bomb cleverly marketed as an alternative. My rule of thumb is if I wouldn’t eat it, I’m not smearing it on my counter, not that I hanker after the taste of lemon juice and baking soda. But you get my point.

My life as an eco-friendly Molly Maid is complicated by an allergy to vinegar. So that excellent substitute is nixed. I am gratified, however, by how far I got in Round One with equal parts hot water, environmentally safe detergent and elbow grease. Armed with a rag bag, corn broom, feather duster and string mop, I tackled most of the big jobs. I shamefacedly admit to an affection for those Swiffer gadgets but recall no paper products. This urge was satisfied by tailoring rags and affixing them: after a good shake, they get rinsed and returned to drag out some more of the hairy hares from under chairs. My husband, king of the vacuumers, even does the coils on the back of the fridge — something I managed to ignore for years. We then dump the contents into a compost (dust to dust and all that).

Finally, with all bedding laundered and hung on the line, I turn to the verandah, feeling smug. But behold, a grease-encrusted monster. Imagine it: a barbecue grill in need of good cleaning, and me without my brillo. I sigh and face Round Two.


Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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