The Joy of Dust

My whole house looks like this now.

Dust has never had a good reputation.  It aggravates allergies, looks ugly, turns sofa cushions and mattresses into vile powder puffs.  It harbors mites that under a microscope look like horror movie nightmares.  It inspires random taggers to write “wash me.”

But over the past few week fighting dust has been a losing battle here.  Contractors have been ripping out our old stairway and installing new treads and railings, and a new floor upstairs.  The process has released clouds of dust into our home; much of it dwelled deep under the matted green carpeting that covered our stairway and hallway for more than 30 years.  The imprisoned dust, freed from Azkaban, has gleefully flown throughout our home, taking over every planed surface – floors, newer rugs, furniture, countertops.  Joining it was newer dust created by our contractor’s power saw.

Dust brings many unwelcome visitors, such as these dust mites (photo from

At first I relentlessly chased the invading dust army, vacuum cleaner and Pledge Grab-it in hand, trying to round up every speck.  But as new swarms of dust particles arose from the dead every day, I realized its fruitlessness soon enough and within a few days tolerated it.  And finally, I reveled in it.

It is incredibly freeing to give up on chasing dust and dirt and to realize that nothing that you can do will matter.   Once you reach this stage it is a small step to embrace other messy but soul-satisfying pursuits that you have avoided for fear of making a mess that you don’t want to clean up.

So over the past few weeks I’ve taken on sewing projects that cover the carpeting with a confetti of snipped threads; baked with copious amounts of flour, which sends up its own clouds of dust; and cooked meals that require several pots.  I’ve tracked dirt into the house and left shoes where I should not leave them.  Two days ago I blew my hair dry in the bathroom rather than my bedroom and admired every uprooted hair strand on the white tile.  Just yesterday, while admiring a wide swath of dust on my dark wood kitchen floor, I spied a few random Cheerios under the heating register and greeted them like old friends, just letting them be.  It felt so good to be a slob.

Within a day or two the guys installing our new stairs will vacuum up our front hallway, pack up their tools, collect their final check and drive away.  Where 30-year-old, matted, ugly, gray-green wall-to-wall carpeting once lay will be freshly varnished wood treads, a stately new post and bright white risers and spindles.

So why do I feel a touch of melancholy amid the thrill of beholding our beautiful new stairway?  Quite simply:  I will miss the dust and the messier and more creative me it unleashed.