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It’s easier to enjoy the Outer Banks when you have a clean house to come home to afterward.

By the time mid-August rolled around, I was more than ready for a break—and not just from everyday life.

Preparing for vacation was wearing me out.

I do this to myself every year, but things seemed especially intense this summer. I had begun to look at every event, chore and assignment through a singular lens: Did it need to be done before Aug. 17, when we planned to head to the beach for two weeks, or could it wait until we got back?

Household tasks that I might do on a regular basis were pushed off until the week before departure. Why bother to polish the furniture in late July, I reasoned, when I’d give everything a good cleaning before we struck out for the Outer Banks?

(And thank goodness we were able to get back before Dorian arrived. Our thoughts are with all those who suffered property damage or lost precious vacation time.)

So as the days ticked off until we loaded the truck with fishing poles and good beach reads, my little brain came close to exploding. It was filled with stories that needed to be written, items to be packed and what kind of shape I wanted to leave the house in.

It’s not like we live in a pigsty. We don’t have little ones around—and they can mess up a place almost as fast as a Category 3 hurricane—nor do we neglect to pick up after ourselves. We’re fairly tidy people.

But I don’t regularly take on the kind of deep-cleaning I felt compelled to do before we left for the beach. For instance, we noticed the couch was looking the worse for wear and borrowed my daughter’s carpet cleaner.

It did such a great job on the furniture, I thought: Why not shampoo the carpets in every room?

So I did.

Once I got out the Swiffer and Pledge, I not only cleaned the regular surfaces, but also picked up every knickknack, dusted it and polished the area under it. We probably have hundreds of such pieces, between the chicken figurines in the kitchen, the wooden safari animals on the bedroom shelf and the dozens of framed photographs that fill our home.

When I started looking for shorts and swimsuits I hadn’t worn since last August, I noticed other items I hadn’t touched in twice that time, so I purged a few dresser drawers.

Then, one evening as we sat outside on the carport, I noticed how many spiders had made webs—and insects had left their mark—on the siding. This was the only outside part that needed cleaning, so instead of hauling out the power washer, we got a ladder, scrub brush and antibacterial wipes and removed all traces of bugs.

I asked a few co-workers if they suffer from the same pre-vacation frenzy. Do we simply want to make sure things are in order before we relax? Or do we harbor some morbid fear that we might not make it back from vacation and we want things to be spick-and-span for the poor soul who has to go through our belongings?

My friend Tara put it best. She said she wants to come home to a clean house, to know there are no chores waiting after vacation other than unpacking.

I have to agree. It was great to walk through a home that had been closed up for two weeks and smell freshly cleaned carpets.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425


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