I am not a neat-freak, I am not tidy, I rarely deep clean anything, and I am not organized. Heck, I don’t even shower that often (I swear I wear deodorant and wash my hands after using the bathroom; I also brush my teeth). I think the cleanest my dwellings have ever been were upon moving in and maybe moving out, though the recent bill from my former stateside residence would argue otherwise… My places were also tidy when I lived with my mom because moms prefer everything clean. I suspect my ex-housemates have some horror stories of my lackadaisical house-keeping.
It’s not that I dislike cleaning. Really, I swear! Housekeeping just happens to fall into the group of tasks that I put off until some other time, perpetuated by the perma-procrastinators mantra “why do it today when you can do it tomorrow?” Once I start the cleaning process, the momentum builds and I find myself tolerating some tasks. We might even call it enjoying! I do appreciate having a clean kitchen, though it doesn’t have to be spotless; it’s not as if the public health inspector is going to drop in. I actually like doing the dishes as several years of working in kitchens has turned the task into a meditative experience for me. I don’t despise cleaning the bathroom, but I hate laundry with a passion. I only vacuum when something spills and I only sweep when I feel crunchy things while walking around. I mop when the mud is tracked in, otherwise a sponge and towel clean the hard floors. I never dust.
That, however, was my old way of cleaning: the pre-Argentina way of housekeeping (or lack thereof). Things are different now. Except for the laundry, because I still hate doing that.
My new fervor for cleanliness is spurred on by a tiny, ubiquitous enemy: dust. There is so much of it everywhere, silently building up on every surface. Necessity has made me develop a new routine of mopping twice a month, dusting once a week (which I can’t remember voluntarily doing after the age of 18), sweeping every three days, and wiping down my laptop daily. I am convinced that every piece of city dirt, dust, grime and grit sneaks into my apartment like it’s the Dirt Hostel of Capital Federal. Nuestro departamento se ensucia tanto!
We pulled out the bed this weekend to sweep underneath and the resulting pile of ick was about the size and fluffiness of a small kitten. Talk about dust bunnies! I get really grossed out when I think about what dust is composed of: dirt, pieces of fibers, plant matter, dead skin cells, and worse of all- the poop and dead bodies of mites. Ugh, disgusting!
Fer and I think that a lot of the crap we’ve been cleaning is actually part volcanic ash. The Chilean volcano Puyehue erupted on June 4th and has since been wreaking havoc on Argentina with its billowing ash clouds. Planes across South America (and as far as New Zealand) have been periodically grounded as the ash and air-borne volcanic material travel across the globe. The city’s populace has been affected as the grit drifts past every week or two, irritating our respiratory systems and leaving a fine layer on surfaces inside and out.
After the constant cleaning, the second most annoying thing about the dust is the need to wear shoes indoors. I was taught while growing up to remove my shoes at the door, and it is a habit that has stuck around. The concept of house slippers- whether it’s booties, soft slippers, even indoor flip-flops or sandals- has never taken hold with me; I prefer to pad around barefoot (or socked). On my preliminary trip here, Fernando immediately asked me if I wanted to buy some flip-flops. I mistakenly assumed he wanted me to get some lightweight summer shoes to use in lieu of my flats as it was hot outside. I kept trying to convince him that I don’t really like wearing flip-flops, but he persevered and
forced helped me pick out a cute pair of Havaianas. After wearing them around the house for a few days- he still hadn’t told me why he wanted me to get some- I accidentally left them on and headed out for some shopping. People looked at me funny while I learned that porteños, unlike Americans, tend to only use their ojotas at the beach/river or at home.
I have a theory that most of the itty-bitty particles procreate like rodents in the cracks of my laminate flooring and in the dark spaces under the furniture, while some lazily float throughout the city on brisas suaves at the same sixth-floor height as my windows, waiting to drift in. Incidentally, the city of Buenos Aires was not named under the pretext of particularly sweet and clean winds, but rather after the Virgin of Buen Ayre (wiki link in spanish), a model of the Virgin Mary used by Andalusian sailors as their patron saint. Who woulda thought?
And so I have learned to live with constant sweeping and a pair of inside shoes. It’s easiest to slip on some sandals rather than wiping and scrubbing after every step I take. Without entrecasa sandals my dirty little hippie feet leave black smudges all over the place. I track grit into the bed, leave marks on the bathtub, and footprint the white kitchen tiles: cleaning everything when just a dust and sweep will do goes against my habitual laziness.