Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Snow Globe


Photo courtesy Flickr

Over Christmas break, there was a rare clear December day. Sun streamed in through the study window at the low solstice angle, and I folded a lap robe after I got up off the couch.

I happened to be facing the window as I did so, and the cloud of dust raised by the gentle flapping of the robe was appalling. Out of morbid curiosity, I flapped the cover again and realized that I might as well not have bothered to vacuum the day before.

On Sundays I try to pretend housework doesn’t exist, but getting the study clean felt like a lab experiment, so I fetched the vacuum to vacuum things, a HEPA air filter to vacuum the air, and a battery of tools to trouble the dust: a photographer’s equipment brush that looks like a shaving brush on steroids, several high-tech dust cloths, and a small equestrian currying brush that just fits my hand.

It might have been wise to pull out a respirator. Using the sunlight as an indicator and holding the vacuum’s hose in one hand (a trick I learned from watching a carpenter use a sander in a living room), I judiciously batted, flapped, and dusted my way around the room, keeping in mind the English National Trust Manual of Housekeeping's warning that most damage to furnishings happens during cleaning. Several rounds of gently percussive whipping up of sediment yielded a fresh space.

Hospitality professionals think of cleaning as “diluting” dirt. That’s a sane approach for a domestic interior. There’s another industry term that’s useful, the concept of a “sink”, or space where dirt accumulates. A dry puddle shows the process, as does a basement floor or the corners of a sofa.

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