Monday, February 11, 2008

Has your house had a check-up?

'House Days' are upon us! Our family recently took a good hard look at how things are accomplished (or not) around the house and what I'd been saying all along was discovered to be true. If we schedule time and stick to it projects like fixing the gate and deep cleaning the oven happen. Otherwise, it just slides into the "not immediately on fire" category and goes undone. The solution: declare 'House Days' and stick to 'em.

'House Days' are either a Saturday or Sunday and these are scheduled months in advance so that everyone can be at home. One of the main goals of this day is to give everyone time to focus on maintaining our life together and our connections to one another. Working together toward a common goal has always proved a strong bond builder and we're taking advantage of that. 'House Days' serve to give us a specific time for the necessary maintenance of our lives and our home, and also for some of the improvement projects we intend to do "some day." Our "some days" are a lot closer than they used to be! For a 'House Day,' I develop a list of small projects or one big project and make sure that any needed supplies (like the vapor barrier for under our house on #1) were already purchased and waiting. A great deal of time gets waisted setting up for projects, so I prepare as much as possible in advance of the day. Unfortunately, we've discovered that it is also necessary to schedule clean-up time either that day or on the following day. People just don't want to clean, sweep, or haul garbage when tired -- imagine! At the end of the day no one has to cook and we either order out or descend on one of our favorite local (and cheap) eateries.

'House Day' #1 was more like a monumental change of pace and the project was to clean the random stuff from beneath our home. This house has a dirt floor crawl space that is about 5' tall and nearly 1000 sq ft. Over the years the doors to that space have been opened, items, buckets, boxes, and even dishes (?!) thrown in and the doors slammed shut behind. The dirt floor was covered with a vapor barrier - a white-ish sheet of plastic that covers the entire floor. This keeps moisture out of the house, but our barrier had been kicked around and ripped and generally abused so in the process of cleaning up the boxes we also intended to lay down a new vapor barrier. (Some days I am so thankful that my early life involved construction sites. If you ever have the chance to understand how homes are built, take it!)

After the dust settled and the garbage was removed there were about 6 hard plastic tubs (with locking tops) under the house in the crawl space. These hold long term storage of childhood items, awards, file tubs of my teaching files, and a trunk of my husbands. On pallets on the opposite side of the now cavernous crawl space are the holiday decorations on pallets. The change is amazing, and a little awe inspiring.

When my husband started digging through the boxes, he discovered that much of the clutter had been created in cleaning frenzies before gatherings at our house. Before a party or cookout there would be that last momentary "oh great! Where do I put this?" and the answer would be to sweep much of it into a box and "under the house." Over the years the boxes have molded and the cloth that slipped in has mildewed. Standing in the midst of this and seeing the damage, I began to be more motivated to clean up our stuff. The mold and mildew are allergens for our entire family and can contribute to bouts of illness if left there to sneak into the heating and air system.

Anything that we wanted to keep was placed into a water tight container because you just never know when your previously dry basement will flood. The items being kept were scrutinized pretty harshly. If it has been under the house for 8 years, what is the likelihood that we really need it or will use it? Of course a few items we'd really been missing were found, but these were removed and placed with items in the lived-in portions of the house.

Now when I think about my home overall I find that the crawl space is just "under the house" and not nearly so scary. A full day was devoted to sorting through the boxes and their contents, and the great pile of "we don't need that" grew outside our home until it was too much for mere garbage men and the special hauling service had to be called. I am thrilled with the knowledge that hundreds of pounds of moldy, mildewed, and in some cases literally rotting items have been removed from proximity to my family. I am proud of everyone pitching in and sticking through the long, stinky, eww-y, gross process.

There's an added benefit beyond health. I know that when we sell our home in the next few years there will be less work to do, less stuff to move, and our space will be easier to manage during the transition. The deep shadowy depression of knowing about the mess and insanity in my basement will be lifted.

Not all 'House Day' projects are quite so large. 'House Day' #2 was much more laid back.

House Day #2 was a relaxing change comparatively and the list of things to do was decently long but not complicated. Each item was about a 45 minute task. These items included: Clean behind/under washer & dryer, clean under the dishwasher & refrigerator, scrub out grill & grease trap, dust and remove spider webs up high on ceiling, clear the items on deck to be stored under house (terra cotta pots, planting supplies), clean up living space downstairs, set up a scrapbooking area permenantly, remove the croquet set from front lawn (!). With the TV running old movies in the background we each picked a task and started just pushing through it. With no rush, no sweat, and no strain we managed to finish these items and get a nap by late afternoon.

The deep cleaning tasks leading the list (first five) were generated from my list of things to clean by month. This insures that at least once a year these things get done. The items for February are intended to prepare us for the upcoming Spring/Summer seasons. With warmer weather we'll be outside and doing inside jobs won't seem so much like a good idea. As weather warms there are also more jobs to be done with our home, so I get as much out of the way during the cold months as possible. I'm particularly pleased with these deep cleaning projects because the cleaning under appliances helps reduce the number of places bacteria can set up housekeeping and my family will breathe easier. The dust behind my dryer was disturbing and on that score I feel I've reduced the chances of a spark igniting the lint while I'm off at scouts one evening.

An added benefit of 'House Days' comes on all the other weekends of the month. Once the chores are done our family has more time to play. We may spend a day or most of one doing the responsible list of items to maintain our home and our lives, but other Saturdays are full of sleeping in and relaxing in the lulls between those days that only come once a month. There is a sense of calm in knowing that things are getting done and that today's schedule includes only one thing you MUST do: enjoy the benefits of all that hard work.

1 comment:

Matia said...

Interesting to know.