Clearing Out Before the FallAhh, spring cleaning. A wonderful tradition dating back to the dawn of mankind. Me? I gave it up years ago. The tradition basically ended with the dawn of womankind. The whole idea gives me the creeps. The lovely Lesbian Housewyfe’s relieving factor is, of course, Lesbian Law #20: Household duties are to be divided equally among all members of the residence unless heavy lifting is involved in which case this particular job falls under the domain of the butchy babe. Makes me glad to be a June.

Anyway, when spring finally rolls in, I want to open all the windows and let the outdoors in. I garden, I play, I go to the park. I want to be outside! Spring fever hits with a passion unseen since…well, since the previous spring. I don’t hold myself back. Chores fall by the wayside. It becomes rare that I enter the house without dirt on the soles of my shoes and under my fingernails. Evil little thoughts scratch their way through my defenses: “It will just get dirty again,” “I can blame that on the dog,” and “I’m outside slaving in the garden so we can have good food this winter and you want me to clean the house too?!!!” That last one, when verbalized, may be exchanged for at least one full bathroom cleaning by the unfortunate partner of your choice.

But now, after an entire spring and summer of allowing the outside to unabashedly recline in my living room, guilt overwhelms me and I find that it’s time to do the fall cleaning. My sweet honey goes off to face another load of idiot children (I mean students) and I am left at home to face my end of the summer cleaning spree. It always traps me when I am alone and defenseless. After being wrestled to the ground, I cry “UNCLE!” helplessly, continuously regretting the time I spent drinking margaritas and playing in my garden while it was surely lifting weights, preparing for this moment. What was I thinking?

My method in the pursuit of cleanliness has three different stages. The first stage I see as a warming up period, making that slow move from gardening lush to busy housewyfe. I call it “Piddling.”

Piddling is sort of like extended doodling. One is piddling when one wanders about the house giving too much time to many little things that you need to get done and you’re feeling kind of lazy ’cause summer slacker activities do tend to take it out of you and you end up taking two weeks to finish a closet but you have lots of fun doing it.

I am the champion of piddlers. My mother is a piddler as was her mother before her. We are a proud people.

The Piddler stage usually takes the majority of the fall cleaning time. My piddling stage is now at its sixth week. My mother-in-law who lives with us (this is a whole other story) has gone through a variety of fall flower arrangements. My sweet Stephie is in full swing with her little kidlets (midterms, y’know). I have organized the CD’s, the videos, all the bathroom literature in the household (Martha Stewart and design magazines go into a file and everything else is recycled) and the pantry. I even found room for all my jellies, or rather syrups, that I canned. The plants are in and in place and our bedroom closet has been stripped of summer clothes.

Activities like these will probably continue until just before Thanksgiving when we enter the “Panic ‘Cause the Family will be Here in a Week” stage. Family, by the way, being defined under Lesbian Law #5: Your true family is chosen. Remember, there are exceptions to every law. Mine is my embarrassing Uncle Hubert who I came out to in full regalia during his church’s monthly potluck supper. Have you ever noticed that churchgoers and lesbians have certain things in common? But I digress….

The house turns completely upside down with deep cleaning. We work from the top down starting with the cobwebs on the ceiling and ending with a generous swabbing of all the hardwood floors. In between, we vacuum rugs, dust mantles, wash windows, launder furniture coverings, and deep clean everything that isn’t nailed down or is nailed down and helplessly exposed.

The whole thing coagulates just as old Aunt Janine walks through the door on the day before Thanksgiving. She shows up early because she wants to “help.” We set her to making holiday decorations and tell her that her duty is really to entertain. She believes us and slurps down another glass of wine.

After everything has been thoroughly cleaned, it’s time for the third and final step, “Decorating.” Since we started cleaning in the fall, we get to start our decorating just in time for Christmas!!!!

That’s right.

I am a Christmas-aholic.

I have it under control. I don’t start up the Christmas music until after the appearance of Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Fortunately, one can pull together the decor before then. Everything has to be ready for Thanksgiving Dinner. This really is my favorite time of year.

As a slightly nontraditional preachers’ daughter, I start by decorating for Advent, the time in which Christians prepare for the birth of Christ. I would like to say that my spirit feeds on that connection with the past but the real truth is I love purple and gold candles. That’s right! One uses purple, pink, white, and gold in decorating for Advent. What a great excuse this makes, especially with my discovery of Lesbian Law #6: Celebrate diversity in all its forms. Since the general look is most important to me at this point, I also add silver and green and a subtle touch of deep red.

My favorite decoration for Thanksgiving is my Advent Wreath which takes prominence on the dining table. Advent wreathes, for those of you who don’t know, are a circle of three purple candles and one pink candle, symbolizing the apostles, surrounding one tall white candle, the Christ Candle, which must rise above the rest. I’m always a little early but I do love it so, and it gives me a great excuse to avoid dead leaves and those mutant ceramic pilgrims who are always out of proportion with the little plaster turkey. Frankly, I just say no to that brown and orange color scheme. (Can you believe that seventies orange trend is coming back? God help us! No wonder there are so many suicides over the holidays.) A traditional wreath graces the front door. Further decorations are introduced after Thanksgiving Day but we won’t go into those yet except to say that reindeer and a strange little Christmas tree made entirely of vacuum tubes, Christmas lights, and an inverted terracotta pot avec rick-rack are definitely involved.

In total, my fall cleanup takes about three months, starting with Labor Day and ending at Thanksgiving. Party season begins officially on that sweet November Thursday. So, start your engines and open those broom closets!

And remember Lesbian Law #1: Never Underestimate the Power of a Lesbian Housewyfe.

But first, sit down and enjoy a cup of hot cider.


With our entire house mired in the chaos of remodeling, I can see this freight train headed down the rails toward me. By the time we get to fall this year, the house should (HA! Should!) be far enough along in the process that a thorough cleaning won’t feel like an exercise in futility.


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