We had this theory that maybe you'd hate cleaning a little less if you did it while listening to something distractingly suspenseful. Or was it better to go with inspiring and supportive? Let's see how it all worked out.By Kara CutruzzulaApr 7, 2017 10:43 AM
I mean, I love that book — it did change my life. Or at least I’m pleased every time I open my dresser and glimpse my shirts stacked in tight little rolls, like they’re cigars just shipped back from Cuba. But I am not a person who approaches a cleaning weekend with a sunshiney disposition and tons of energy. I have to be coerced and then distracted the entire time so I don’t realize I’m wasting precious hours of my life sorting mail and tossing UFOs (Unidentified Freezer Objects).
That’s why, when I tackled a long weekend of spring cleaning, I queued up Behind Her Eyes, a popular psychological thriller that I heard had a killer twist ending.
“This is our fresh start,” said a wife about her husband. “Our new beginning.” Sure, she was talking about resuming their lives after doing something horrific, but I couldn’t help but apply these maxims to my own life. I mean, if they could clean up carnage, surely I could take my recycling to the curb?
Then, a dark turn. “I sometimes wonder if he wants to kill me and be done with it all. Get rid of the albatross around his neck.” Finally. Someone put into words how I felt about those untouched cookbooks in my kitchen. They were my albatrosses, and so I gently removed them from my apartment and placed them on the sidewalk, where some unsuspecting — or grateful — passerby might scoop them up.
Curious if my thriller success was just a fluke, I put on The Dry, which is being called the Gone Girl of Australian crime fiction. (Reese Witherspoon’s production company optioned film rights.) But its brilliantly knotted plot and whiplash turns made me put down the toilet brush and pay attention. Fine … time to take a break, anyway.
I mean, if they could clean up carnage, surely I could take my recycling to the curb?
The next day I was ready to accept that I was cleaning, so I tried something more directly related: L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less. “Simplicity offers the solution to so many problems,” said the narrator in a soothing tone that made me instantly want to give up everything I’d ever owned and live only with a single toothbrush. The author, who took up a minimalistic way of life after decades of living in Japan, writes that “Simplicity means possessing little, clearing the way for the bare necessities, the quintessence of things. Simplicity is beautiful because it brings hidden joys.” And then the kicker: “The less we have, the greater our sense of freedom.”
I wanted freedom! I wanted simplicity!
Cut to two hours and four bulging trash bags later. Oh, it was on.
Since France had the simplicity message down, I hopped to nearby Denmark for The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Immediately, one major cobweb was cleared: I finally knew how to pronounce “hygge” (it’s hoo-gah). Okay, so hygge promotes the virtues of living comfy and taking breaks and wearing fuzzy socks, which doesn’t exactly jibe with a tornado cleaning spree. But then author and narrator Meik Wiking, who is also CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, said that “hygge is an atmosphere or experience, rather than being about things.” That was welcome news, since I was determined to throw out 99% of my things.
To get me through the last push of my hellacious cleaning spree, I turned to the two happiest men on the planet: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I was barely into the The Book of Joy, which chronicles a weeklong meeting between these two “mischievous spiritual brothers,”before realizing that complaining about spring cleaning is like complaining about food being too hot; I should be lucky I have an apartment to clean.
Their exuberance was evident from the start: “Every day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday!” Well, if every day is truly my birthday, what’s the point in spending one of them cooped up indoors vacuuming my rug and cursing its deep plush pile that captures every cracker crumb in Brooklyn?
And yet. If every day truly ismy birthday, might tomorrow’s “birthday” be even better if I woke up to clean dishes, neatly folded clothes, and a sink blissfully free of soap scum? Perhaps that would kick off the best day of all, one in which life unfolds a little more easily, or I was at least slightly more organized. Maybe that’s the real purpose of a deep spring cleaning: to finish something hard so that tomorrow you can begin again.
So which did I find the better cleaning companion: a murdery suspense, inspiring lessons for simpler living, or an uplifting attitude adjuster? Honestly, a little from each column. As I take a look around my much neater and more livable apartment, I can’t believe how much I accomplished without really noticing.