Right tool for the job

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do I.

Vacuum cleaners may be the efficient way to remove dust and grime from your floors, but I prefer the physical labor and shush-shush resonance of a broom on hardwood. Plus, I can listen to Muddy Waters while I clean rather than wincing the whole time against the roar of forced air.

I feel the same way about lawn mowers. I use an old push mower than barely whispers when I give the grass a haircut. Not for me those blaring, polluting, gas-powered mowers. This stance was strengthened by my last encounter with a power mower, when I accidentally ran over a sprinkler head, sending dangerous shrapnel flying around the yard. I was uninjured; the mower wasn’t so lucky.

You probably haven’t given these matters much thought, but they’ve become philosophical positions for me since I left the corporate world to become a househusband. This proves either that: a) constant exposure to housework will lead to finding methods that work best, or b) I’ve got way too much time on my hands.

Maybe you’re thinking: Just like a man to overanalyze every little household chore.

Men love to solve problems and make decisions. It makes us feel important and competent and masculine. Most men would rather spend two hours figuring out an exotic labor-saving method for doing a job than the five minutes the actual job would’ve taken the old-fashioned way. Especially if the new solution involves power tools. Tim the Tool Man on TV’s “Home Improvement” makes men laugh because he hits so close to the truth.

No amount of technology or powerful chemicals does the job as well as elbow grease. And that, as women have known all along, is why it takes so much time. Most men think of housework as something you knock off in two hours on a Saturday. That’s because they’re not the ones doing it the rest of the time.

It’s easy to straighten up a house when the basics -- sweeping the floors and scrubbing the tub and doing the dishes -- are regularly kept up. Pick up a few toys, throw some newspapers in the recycle bin, fluff the pillows and -- voila! -- the house is clean.

But the basics are ignored at your own peril. Pretty soon, rambling herds of dust bunnies are running the place and you can’t go barefoot in your own home.

Men also tend to dismiss the amount of work involved because they suscribe to a cleaning philosophy best described thusly: "If you can’t see it, it ain’t dirty." Look under a bachelor’s sofa sometime. Brr.

The problem with being right here in the house all day, every day, is I’m always surrounded by the work. I start noticing things like dust. It’s a short hop from noticing filth to becoming obsessive about it. Pretty soon, I'm on my knees with an old toothbrush, trying to get the grime out of baseboard corners.

Oh, I can try to reach it with a vacuum cleaner, but that’s the coward’s way out and it never works anyway, even when I use one of those skinny corner attachments that look like a murder weapon. I can spend all day sitting and pondering, trying to come up with some high-tech answer. But to really get rid of dust and dirt, I’ve got to get close to it, become familiar with it, show it who’s boss.

And that’s hard, boring, physical work, which is why men find it easier to ignore dirt than to do something about it. And I don’t expect that to change, not unless more men end up working at home like me and paying way too much attention. Or, unless they invent a giant suction that strips dust, dirt, stains and old paint from the entire house with the flip of a switch.

Imagine how much power that baby would have. Ooh.

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