Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Clean Floor

Something I should admit: my house is filthy. Like, really filthy, can't walk on the floor without stepping on stuff filthy, filthy as in barely sanitary, filthy as in I'm always sort of vaguely fearing the sudden, unexpected visit of a social worker who would step in the doorway, take a look at the filthy living room, and snatch my babies away to foster care filthy. Sure, I want to clean, and sure, I do clean, every single day, but mostly I do other stuff--play with the girls, read books to the girls, do art projects with the girls, grade papers and create lesson plans, sew, read, garden with the girls, eat delicious things, goof around on the internet--you know, stuff.

But part of being committed to an environmental ethic is a commitment to not filth up your living space. How different is filthing up my own house to filthing up highway medians, or the oceans, or the atmosphere? It reflects and teaches my children an irresponsible attitude to one's living environment, and to one's possessions. Although it might not seem so, an environmental ethic should be very concerned with stuff--we should be mindful of our possessions as one of the many aspects of mindful living. We should, obviously, have few things, but those things that we do have should be really important to us. When something is important to us we keep it rather than disposing of it for a new or "better" something, and when something is important to us we take care of it, keeping it nice and in good repair so that we don't have to dispose of it and purchase new stuff.

So this morning I got disgusted with myself and my house and decided to make a change. In the morning, I took "before" photos of one filthy part of my home, and made a vow to straighten it, organize it, and clean it before bedtime. And so I give to you.....my study floor and the things it contains:

  • Pizza Express cup
  • construction paper
  • crayons
  • Legos
  • miniature bead path
  • lid for Tupperware container that's supposed to hold crayons
  • two books that show diagrams of the insides of stuff
  • paint pens
  • collage materials (ie. stuff)
  • foam letters and letter cut-outs
  • basket that's supposed to hold miniature racecars
  • pipe cleaners

  • cat
  • stickers
  • more construction paper
  • more crayons
  • Sydney's artwork of fingerpainting on construction paper
  • wool leftover from Fatty Stegasaurus creation
  • fleece blanket leftover from dino quilt creation
  • another Tupperware lid, this time for colored pencils
  • Ziploc bag of collage materials
  • Ziploc bag of stickers
  • cloth book of color recognition in French
  • Willow's artwork of stickers on construction paper
  • book cover separated from book in previous photo
  • record bowl
  • matching dinosaurs game piece
  • more construction paper
  • filing box holding computer equipment
  • more Legos
  • Longman's grammar
  • scooter
  • dinosaur
  • top of a racecar storage box
  • stacking tower pieces
  • purse for dress-up
  • cropped edges trimmed from photos
  • wrapping paper from purchased hook-and-latch kit
  • fleece blanket trimmed from dino quilt
  • more construction paper
  • miniature race cars
  • library books
  • My Pretty Pony from my childhood, now Willow's
  • romance novels leftover from a freshman comp class project
  • bottle of vinegar used for cleaning the glass in soldered pendants

I'm actually surprised to see that hardly any of this filth is actually mine. Hmm. So I worked away at the floor off and on all day, in between reading books and playing with the girls and going to the library for storytime and drawing on construction paper and making it into fans with the girls and telling each other "April Fools" and gardening out in the cold and working out at the YMCA and making dinner and eating dinner, and here's what I finally have:

Glorious. Mind you, the actual floor itself still looks like crap, partly because the previous owners had a really pissy dog or something and also didn't put down tarps when they painted the walls white and partly because the girls and I use the floor as our work surface for all sorts of projects and I'd just rather refinish the thing in ten years than harp at them over spilling paint or glue or being momentarily careless with markers or scissors--I'll get into my manifesto about children's art in today's society some other time.

And here's what happened literally five minutes after I'd finally finished:

Willow's rubber ball bounced under their art cubbies and Matt and the girls began scraping everything out from under the cubbies onto the floor in search of it. Just after this photo was taken, Matt turned to me and said, "You forgot to clean under this," and I replied something that is unprintable and is largely why Willow is able to swear so impressively, although I usually blame that on Matt's dad, a former Navy sailor. But then while I sat across the room and muttered to myself some things about husbands, Matt and the girls picked up all that stuff and put it away, which he certainly wouldn't have bothered to do if the floor had been otherwise covered in stuff, and later when Willow emptied all the crayons out of her big crayon box looking for chalk she put all the crayons back, another thing she definitely wouldn't have done if the floor had been filthy. Thus encouraged, tomorrow I tackle the livingroom table.

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