To dust, perchance to sneeze…

George Carlin on dusting

How often do you dust?

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

The question was posed on a writer’s forum. As it happens, I’ve been noticing a thick ridge of dust on the edges of the ceiling fan above my bed, and thinking I should get up there and wipe the blades. So far, I haven’t progressed beyond noticing. In general, I’m with the late columnist Erma Bombeck who wrote: “My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”

“I am reading a book in which a woman dusts weekly,” wrote the initiator of the discussion thread. “One day she does low dusting, another she does high dusting…my goal is once a month. I should do it more, but just can’t bring myself to and I don’t have the time.”

In one paragraph, she sums up 50 years of domestic history, taking us from June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver to Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond; from aprons and pearls to sweatpants and tee-shirts. Despite the gains of the women’s movement, there is still the immutable, inescapable, inevitable reality of dust.

The question is a verbal dust-bunny of life’s dilemma: Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Should I be doing more?

“I shoot for once a week, but often don’t stick to it. It’s funny you mention this today, as I’ve been wondering whether a dust (or dust mite) allergy is contributing to bad post nasal drip.”

“Dusting floors with the Swiffer, 2-3 times per week. We have all wood floors and only a few throw rugs. The dust / hair / lint build up is crazy. … “

How often do you dust? How often should you dust? These are two of life’s existential questions. Our answers to them are as good as any other clue to who we are and what we value, aren’t they?

“Every other weekend. My husband and I do a top-to-bottom cleaning of the whole house. We both loathe it, but he would never agree to having someone else come clean for us. … But I shouldn’t complain, since he does all the bathroom cleaning, leaving me with dusting and floors.

“Um…. well….. when it gets to the point that I notice it and then I wait until it annoys me?”

I once interviewed the wife of a Mafia capo  who felt very guilty because she neglected to dust behind the family’s television. So she failed to discover an electronic bug planted there by the FBI.

History is writ in such motes of dust. If she had cleaned more diligently, the FBI couldn’t have persuaded her husband to testify against his mob boss. On the other hand, the agents were kind enough to inform the capo that he was next on the boss’ hit list and put the family into witness protection.

To dust, or not to dust, that is the question—
whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the jibes and titters of outrageous gossip,
or to take arms against a sea of dust mites,
and by opposing, end them?

To dust, to Swiffer—
no more; and by our vow, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural germs
that homes are heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. … Aye, there’s the itch.

(With apologies to Wm. Shakespeare)

The Resale Evangelista is dedicated to simplifying, clarifying and creating a more artful life. She hardly ever dusts.

6 thoughts on “To dust, perchance to sneeze…

  1. laurievincent

    Good news: Most dust is NOT human skin. Bad news: Most is animal dander, sand, insect waste, flour (in the kitchen – though not mine), and of course lots of good, old-fashioned dirt.


  2. Susan at Resale Evangelista Post author

    From my friend Mike:
    I think you’ve hit on a strangely telling subject matter, dust and dusting. You left out Sherlock Holmes, angry that his maid cleaned his apartment, because he used the various thicknesses of dust to determine the age of any given stack of paperwork.
    I don’t dust ever. Which is not to say I don’t clean my TV or computer screens. I sometimes notice a collection of rocks on a tabletop, say, and seeing them covered in dust, figure they have not been appreciated for a long time. If not thrown out, they at least get dumped into a box and shoved aside. I’m big on showcases because they minimize the collection of dust and maximize viewing time. Same for glass domes. When my stereo or keyboard are dirty, I wipe ’em off.
    If something is “collecting dust” it’s time to get rid of it. I have a similar work ethic with tools. If I can’t find a tool, I may as well not own it. Usually this comes up in the midst of a project. If I can’t find the screwdriver, it’s time to stop working and clean up. Textiles covered in dust might cause allergies. That’s why carpets are such a bad idea. Slump down on a couch in a raking light and from the particles in the air, it’s a wonder one can breathe at all. But dust on shelves and whatnot- is that dangerous? After all, it WAS in the air. Now it’s safely deposited on a surface. I must say I’m big on vacuuming. I find the visual clutter (that leads to mental clutter) of bits of this and that on the floor is annoying.



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