Editing Life

I hired Christie to clean our house. I expected shiny floors and a dose of guilt. After all, I’ve read Nickle and Dimed.

Christie has tackled our home like a need editor. She eliminates stray modifiers. She polishes up dull places. She rearranges so things flow better.

The first time she and her crew descended on our house, I hung around to make sure that our dogs kept their thoughts and grumbles to themselves. Commanded by Christie, the women went at it with cheerful, buzzing determination. Christie kept the delicate jobs for herself. I found her standing in front of a shelf of small sculptures. She proceeded to pick up a couple of pieces at a time and arrange them. She’d stand back, eyeball her work, and move the pieces about. She wasn’t done until she had them to her liking.

Months passed and we became accustomed to the amusing, sometimes annoying, reshuffling of our possessions. We would arrive home from work and scout the rooms. My husband is definitely less OCD than me. I like to think it’s just my sense of decor, but when I’m brutally honest, I admit that it makes me nuts if things are out of what I consider to be their proper place.

Since we both work two jobs–writers with day jobs–we decided that paying a professional to keep the house livable makes sense. Still, Christie sometimes mystifies us. One week she suggested we pay her extra to clean the inside of our cabinets.  Really? Who looks in there?

Twice a month, the rearranging continues. The scatter rugs in our bedroom move around like magic carpets. Dog toys can be found only if we search hard enough. Garlic bulbs leave the fruit bowl and find their own special dish. The couch in front of the TV slides several feet and flings itself in different directions, like a plant reaching for sun.

I can handle creative criticism. Writers get that from editors. When we’re lucky we get really good ones. I’ve had quite a few: Gerry Shanahan, back at The New York Times; Sally Ryder Brady advising on my fiction; John Breen when I was learning journalism at UCONN; Lucia Donnelly, southern belle with a smoker’s rasp and sharp pen, at The Westport News.

This week, I came home bleary-eyed from a long day topped by heavy commuter traffic. Lemon and Lysol scent tickled my nose as I opened the front door. The dogs met me with joyful relief. My husband called hello from the kitchen.

“What’s new?”  I meant in Christie world.  He pointed towards the screened porch that becomes our prime living space in warm weather. It is the perfect place to relax on the worst of days, and the best.

Table and chairs were no longer centered under the ceiling fan. Christie had pushed them to the far side of the room for a better view of the goldfish pool. Wicker couch and chair were pulled forward, leaving an expanse of mahogany floor — a floor that I had long ceased to notice. The room was airier — if that’s possible for a room that is already open on three sides. It was more inviting.  It was … better. It was good editing.



One thought on “Editing Life

  1. LOL. We have a mantelpiece on our fireplace that features the stuffed mascots of the football teams that Penn State plays each season, in the order that they play us. At the beginning of the season, all mascots are standing. Then, if we win a game, the mascot spends the year on the mantelpiece lying on its back. If we lose a game, the mascot gets to remain standing for the year. It’s a quick look for us at our win-loss record for each year. Every two weeks our cleaners come, and they re-arrange, stand the mascots up, etc. It’s funny. They don’t get our system and they never ask. But that’s about it in terms of rearrangement and it’s a small price to pay for the inconvenience. Your article reminded me of that! Thanks.

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