Making a Clean Sweep
One of the ways in which life has changed since I was a child is the number of pets people have, and particularly the number of those pets who live in the house.
I am among that number of people with pets in the house , and as such, I have spent years looking for a solution to what I think of as “my sweeping problem.”
At times I feel that I have single handedly kept the floorcare business afloat. I have a Dyson pet hair vacuum, a Shop Vac, a Roomba, two indoor brooms, two outdoor brooms, two dust mops — one, a fluffy e-cloth; the other having bright green “microfiber” fingers — and, finally, a Swiffer.
You might think that with this formidable artillery of floor cleaning devices at my disposal, I would have some of the cleanest floors around, but alas, all my floor cleaning accoutrements are no match for the fur, dander, and dust generated by my dog, Clooney, and my cat, Stripes.
In addition to Clooney’s Olympic level shedding prowess, he requires two walks a day which, while it allows him to do some of his shedding outdoors, results in the two of us bringing in more dirt and pollen than would otherwise end up in the house.
Then there is the cat, Stripes. Except for occasional forays onto the side patio when I am hanging up laundry, she lives exclusively indoors and likes to do most of her shedding on the furniture. Still large clumps of her coat float on the air and find their way to all parts of the house.
So as hard as I try, my efforts to have clean floors are a battle I have generally lost. That is, until recently.
A dream state
I have a class of memories that are nothing more than a single visual image with no context to give them any meaning.
In one memory, I see a single stuffed animal on a kind of end table with a lamp that is on. There is nothing more to the memory, but I know from my mother that the memory is tied to something I did as a toddler that involved a late night/early morning foray into the kitchen where I helped myself to cookies in the cookie jar.
In another, I am on a horse, but in this memory, as in the other, I am not on the horse, I am a good distance away watching someone who is on the horse. I mentioned this to a cousin as part of another story I was telling, and she immeditiately recalled the events around that vision in my head. My parents and I had been out to their ranch, and I had somehow ended up atop a horse named Candy; I had screamed the entire time.
A fruitful search
So one day, while I was pouring over pet hair and sweeping solutions on the internet, a vision from long ago of a sawdust covered floor came to me, but some how I knew it wasn’t saw dust — it was sweeping compound — and I immediately typed the words “sweeping compound” into the search bar of my browser.
As I read through the testimonials about the efficacy of sweeping compound, I was struck by one particularly effusive review of a wax-based product. The woman, like me, had multiple pets in the house, and she described (as I could have) how ordinary sweeping caused the fur and fluff to rise up into the air. I could feel the futility.
Then she used a wax-based sweeping compound, and her life was forever changed.
I looked locally for a wax-based product that I could walk into a store and buy, but could not find one, and I was reluctant to use a petroleum based product in the house. For reasons I can’t explain, the hurdle to ordering sweeping compound online was immense, but eventually, I mentioned it to my husband who, after some investigation, found me an “oil-free” and “environmentally friendly” sweeping compound. Within days a 10-pound bag of the stuff arrived at our door.
Despite its swift arrival, it lingered in a corner waiting for me to feel inspired.
I finally get inspired
I found the floor overwhelming, and as my previous sweeping and vacuuming efforts had been pyrrhic, I was not in any rush. As Steven King notes in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
Clearly I was an amateur, and if I wanted to up my sweeping game, I would have to get up and sweep.
So one day the dust and the fluff were too much, and I decided to go pro. I got out the bag of sweeping compound and read the directions. As I looked them over, I realized that I didn’t have the recommended push broom, but I decided that the sweeping had waited long enough, and I went rogue and used one of the four brooms I already had.
I started by sprinkling the compound on a very short hall that connects the laundry room to the rest of the house. There was dust, cat food, and all manner of animal hair. If the sweeping compound could get this area clean, it could probably do anything.
The instructions said not to let it sit for more than fifteen minutes, but there was no minimum time, so I left the sweeping compound for five minutes to do whatever magic it had to do, and then I took broom to floor.
And it was magic — well, at least a magic as a cleaning product can be.
I was able to get up the hair and the dust and the dander, and I at long last had an expanse (albeit small) of floor that was (for the moment), dust, hair, and dander free.
Nothing succeeds like success
That one small bit of floor inspired me to work on other larger expanses of floor, and while I have yet to move and sweep under every piece of furniture, I am, for the first time in months, making progress.
So what are my takeaways from all of this?
- One, it helps to have the right tools
- Two, even if you don’t have the right tools, it helps to get up and do something
- Three, sometimes you have to persist even when you’d rather give up
And now that I have the right attitude and tools, it’s easier to enjoy the shedding fur balls who have invited me to share their domicile.