Dirt doesn't scare me.
In fact, generally speaking, I like dirt.
Dirt under my fingernails means I've been working in the garden.
Dirt on my dog's nose means she's been happily digging for her hidden treasure — bones — in the backyard.
According to my mother, when I was a little kid, my favorite kind of gum was the dirty kind – the kind I'd scrape up off the sidewalk or sneak from under the church pew when the sermon got boring. Yes, I chewed it all, and I'm still alive to tell about it. None of that dirt did me any harm.
In fact, my theory is that my family and I are as healthy as we are because we've eaten so much dirt growing up. Our stomachs seem to be made of steel – after all, once you've eaten dirt and lived to brag about it, what can possibly take you down?
I share my passion for dirt with you today because it's March — spring cleaning season — and people are about to start on a total tear about every mote of dust and mark of grime within eye-shot.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think everything should be dirty. I think clean has its place, no doubt about it. I prefer eating on clean dishes to dirty ones, I usually prefer wearing clean clothes to ones that stink (unless, of course, I'm gardening), and I like sleeping in a clean bed.
But I don't think everything has to be clean all the time. And I certainly don't think that "clean" means antiseptic, germ-free, and smelling like roses or whatever darn synthetic fragrance is in the air fresheners being marketed today to make us feel like our homes just popped out of a spic-and-span bottle.
In fact, I take issue with the glorification of "clean" that goes on, as if cleanliness were next to godliness. I'm pretty sure it's not. Cleanliness is next to the cash register, at least in the minds of most companies that produce cleaning products — which is exactly why they produce them.
What I find particularly annoying is that we're subject to billions of dollars of advertising messages every year exhorting us to clean clean clean – and to use, ironically, products that often contain toxic ingredients that actually make our houses dirty dirty dirty and us sick sick sick.
Take, for example, products that kill germs. We've been made to fear modern "germs," as if they were the ancient bubonic plague. Having eaten probably trillions of germs in dirt over the years with nary even a stomach ache, I resent the fear marketers try to instill in consumers about the dang things.
A lot of doctors do, too. Dr. Stuart Levy, Director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, says, "No current data demonstrate any health benefits from having antibacterial containing (i.e., germ killing) cleansers in a healthy household."
Or consider "extra strength" cleansers, especially the ones that include nasty ingredients like phthalates, ammonia, and chlorine bleach.
Whatever happened to good old soap and water? Water carved the Grand Canyon, for goodness' sake. Surely, it can tackle the dirt on my kitchen floor!
Yes, I dust my tables and sweep the floors. I vacuum the carpets and wash out the toilet, too. But I certainly don't obsess about it, and I try like all get-out not to succumb to the marketing madness that has led to creation of a different cleanser for virtually every surface in our homes. (Mostly I use mild soap, water, baking soda, and vinegar. You can check out my DIY cleaning recipes here.)
If we're going to focus on cleaning anything up this spring, I think it should be our attitude about dirt. Thank goodness the Green Moms Carnival is tackling this topic. You think I've got an attitude? Wait til you check out their posts!