The bathroom sink in the last Brooklyn apartment I lived in had a flat bottom. This meant that I received no help from gravity, when coaxing debris down the drain. The sink was designed to be sleek and sexy – it was not designed to be easy to clean. I’ve yet to encounter a home with this value built in.
I lay the blame on a gender divide: Most people who design homes – including furniture, appliances, and the like – are men; most people who clean said homes are women. (Institutions, on the other hand, are more likely to be cleaned by men – and more likely to be designed with ease of cleaning in mind.)
If men cleaned the world, I’m guessing, the world would be far easier to clean.
I dream of slatted floors, with gaps beneath them, into which dirt and dust could be swept. Faucet housings free of slime-filled valleys to their rears. Toilets with smooth exteriors. Window frames without schmutz-collecting moats.
A lovely thing about the wood stove we used to cook dinner at Medicine Wheel was its cast-iron top, which never had to be wiped because any residue it acquired quickly burned off.
Maybe the answer is not seeking advantage in the war on dirt, by streamlining living spaces for ease of cleaning, but ending the conflict, by bringing the outdoors in.
What is dirt, anyway? What is dust? How did we grow so determined to sequester ourselves within gleaming, spotless boxes? How did our domestic tools and materials come to need such protection? And how did we conclude that it’s perfectly reasonable for couples to occupy entire houses by themselves?
At Medicine Wheel, at least, there’s just one kitchen, one shower room, one indoor toilet – which substantially decreases the average cleaning burden. And cleaning is often done collectively, or at least in company. Everyone cleans up after dinner; when cleaning the common areas solo, you’re at least likely to have someone to talk to, if you want that. Plus, a house filled with unrelated adults (as opposed to a single couple) is more likely to include at least one or two people who actually like to clean.