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DIRT: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

dirt-rev-coverpreviewChildren really crank up the speed of the entropy machine, don’t they? In my former life,  I could make things orderly and they would stay that way very satisfactorily for days on end. It wasn’t that hard to be neat. Because there were no: globs of toothpaste on the toilet paper roll, Puffins squares crunching underfoot, used underpants draped along the banister, nor Pokemon cards, washed, shredded, and distributed evenly among the laundry in the dryer.

I’m not terribly interested in cleaning, but this new anthology, DIRT: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House had me utterly engrossed.  In this book, over thirty writers share their stories of keeping house. Whether they’re slobs, cleanliness overachievers, or something in between, each shares a story we can all relate to. It’s not just disorder–it’s life, and it’s interesting to get some perspective on how we each deal with it in our own ways. Scrubbing and drying the sink before going to sleep each night is not a requirement, and it indicates something more than a fondness for gleaming porcelain. Likewise, there’s more to a crusty sinkful of dishes than merely a relaxed outlook.

In DIRT, Rhode Island’s own Ann Hood addresses how she came from the “uber clean” household of her childhood to a home of her own, where she washes the floor only when it leaves the bottoms of her bare feet black. Rebecca Walker writes about the effect the birth of her son has on her fastidiousness, and Patty Dann describes how her relationship to her son changes, and how each of them uses cleaning to express grief, after her husband dies. It’s moving stuff, collected from the repetitive drudgery of vacuuming and the fresh start of clean sheets.

This book will not help you keep house, but it will take your mind out of…whatever it is your mind turns to as you wipe a son’s spattered urine from the toilet seat. And it is a perfect vacation book–especially if you’re staying somewhere on your vacation that you don’t have to clean.

The details:

DIRT: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House
Edited by Mindy Lewis
2009 Seal Press $15.95

The publisher provided a review copy for this article. Neither the publisher nor Kidoinfo has received any monetary compensation for this review and we have no undisclosed relationship with the publisher.

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  • Ok, my story…when I’m mad I can clean the house like nobody’s business, I really need someone to make me angry right about now. I went away for a couple of days and I came home to a clean house, it took us about 15 minutes for it to become utter chaos. I’m still trying to stay calm from the disaster! I love the idea of this book.

  • Coincidentally, it’s our first day of school today, and I find myself moving furniture and lifting rugs to CLEAN. I read this book a while ago, and seeing it on Kidoinfo today made me laugh. I never clean like this. The emotional disturbance and ebullience of school starting are definitely expressing themselves through this extreme cleaning.