Last week, my biggest project was a household affair that I’ve been putting off for literally over a decade: shampooing my carpets. I am certain that the length of time that elapsed from the last time we had the carpets cleaned (which when we moved into this house 12 years ago) will gross some of you out, and for that I probably should apologize, but I’m not going to because I do clean the high-traffic areas very frequently, and I am often told how tidy and organized my house is. I even have a monthly housecleaning rotation schedule that we follow to keep us (mostly) honest.
As for the carpets, I have gotten a little less faithful with the weekly vacuuming over the past year or so, but spills are attended to immediately and the floors are swept with acceptable regularity. The rub with carpet cleaning has always come with the cost of having it done professionally (strike 1) and the idea of inviting service folks into my home (strike 2) and having them bring in noisy machinery (strike 3) to clean my carpet while they tear up my nest to do so (strike 4). As part of No Nonsense November, I decided to stop getting by with a lick and a promise and to do the thing right(ish)…myself.
My mom happens to have a Hoover Steam Vac that she has owned for 10 years and used exactly once herself to scrub off her deck. (I should stress again that my people are tidy, but are not avid cleaners.) The machine has the appearance of an overgrown vacuum cleaner, so it’s compact for getting around corners and into tight-ish spaces, and it wasn’t hard to lug inside, which was a major plus over renting a larger machine and trying to navigate it into my Tiny House. (And my house is truly tiny – about 1100 square feet, if I recall correctly – just enough space for the Trio, Vinnie the Giant Metal Chicken, Carl Best the incredibly-long-lived Beta fish, and our computers to live in quite cozily.)
The most pressing issue to start was what to do with All The Stuff. Anyone who has seen my Tiny House knows that this abode is filled to bursting with the things we need to hibernaculate, with all our furniture basically forming a tight perimeter around the interior of the premises and each room having a barely decent amount of blank space in the middle available for the art of moving about. I decided when I started that I didn’t want to mess with moving the furniture because much of it has never been moved before and I like it right where it is. I realize that there are probably dust bunnies larger than Labrador retrievers under my couch because I have literally moved fewer than 5 pieces of furniture larger than a student bookcase into, out of, or around my house in the space of the 12 years we’ve been here, but once I’ve nested, that is how the room stays for eternity. This no-moving decision eased up the task of carpet cleaning tremendously – focusing just on the high-traffic walkways and living spaces cut down on a lot of unnecessary effort.
Another issue was the timing of the cleaning to facilitate the drying of the carpet. I wanted to allow the rugs to dry overnight before we were stomping all over them getting ready for school and work, so I decided to do it after supper. It made for a long and tiring evening, but worked best for all involved.
The Husband (who was endlessly kind and agreed to help me pluck this wild hair) and I started cleaning at around 6:15 p.m. and finished at 8:30 – right around 2 hours, if you subtract the 15 minutes we burned looking for the manual to the carpet cleaner online so we could figure out how to operate the thing. We took turns running the beast and both worked to fill and empty the canisters of their clean and dirty water. And the water did come out quite dirty, which both pleased me and grossed me right out by highlighting how much gets missed when you vacuum.
I should note that I started out by trying a “natural” carpet cleaner comprised of vinegar, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide. I’m not convinced it did much except wet the carpet. The area I chose to test this on was one of the few non-high-traffic areas we cleaned, though, so it may have been more effective than I am giving it credit for, and at the least, it didn’t hurt the carpet. After this experiment, I fell back on the bottle of carpet shampoo my mom had sent over with the cleaner, noting with minor dismay that the bottle had a trademark of 1982 on it – yes, kids, I used 35-year-old carpet shampoo to half-assed clean my carpets. But you know what? The water we dumped out was much dirtier and our carpet looked better than where we’d used the “natural” version, so we’ll call that a win. It took us approximately 2 hours and 6 “empties” of the canister to clean our living room, hallway, and the walkways of 3 bedrooms.
The result? Slightly lighter-looking carpets and the knowledge that a whole lot of dirt was removed from my home. It was not a perfect solution by any means, but it was an imperfectly adequate way to make my living space a little nicer and still stick within my budget of time, energy, and shits to give about such things.
This endeavor helped establish several personal tenets that I plan to foster even beyond No Nonsense November:
- DO THE THING that needs doing when it needs doing. I’m told most homeowning adults clean their carpets more often than every 12 years or so. If I had cleaned it more often, it would’ve come out several shades lighter, I’m sure, and I do intend to do this at least every FIVE years now instead of letting a decade go by, but I’m taking what I got and calling it a win.
- STOP SPENDING MONEY on services that you can do yourself. If I had gone with Stanley Steemer or the like, this job would’ve cost me at least $115 (more if they moved the furniture and done it “right”). By using Mom’s carpet cleaner and 35-year-old soap, however, all this cost me was water, electricity, husband-patience-points, and a few days of soreness. When I started, I had no clue how to run a carpet cleaner other than to treat it like a vacuum with a few extra buttons – but again, it WORKED. I looked up what I needed to know and I tried it and it worked. Other homeownery things can work that way, too.
- RESPECT YOUR THRESHHOLD FOR NONSENSE, and when you reach it, do something to change it. I learned that while I do not have the need to have a sparklingly spotless house, I also do not like having a carpet so dirty that our socks are filthy in the wash week after week. Since I didn’t like that, I fixed it. Go me.
- RESPECT YOUR GIVE-A-SHIT BUDGET. I learned that it is imperfectly adequate to half-assedly decide to clean just the high-traffic areas of your carpet because frankly, anybody who is looking under your furniture is either being far too nosy or is intimate enough with you to understand your hatred of ever moving any furniture ever and will willingly overlook the adulting transgression. The Trio is happy ignoring that obedient Labrador of a dust bunny – those who love us and enter the hibernaculum can get on board and ignore him, too. 🙂