On the eve of our two-year anniversary in this apartment, I broke down and spent €3,60 at Hema (Dutch Target) on that Most Valuable Tool of Dutch homemakers: the squeegee.
Before we ever moved to or had any windows whatsoever in the Netherlands, my aunt advised me to keep my windows clean once we got to Holland. “They keep them spotless,” she informed me. (And as her husband and in-laws are Dutch, I figured she knew.)
One of the first cultural differences we noticed here was how much people want you to look into their homes. Curtains are flung wide, even at street level, inviting you to view the interior home aesthetic. I still love riding the train away from Delft and peeking in all the apartments at eye-level from the train tracks.
While families occupy much smaller dwellings than their American counterparts, the Dutch take a lot of pride in the way they decorate and design their homes—whether they’re renting or owning. Relatedly, as a renter, you’re allowed to do much more to a place than you generally are as a US tenant. Things that in the US we would have had to ask landlord permission for (and been denied) are basically OK here: hence our first real home project, undertaken this summer, and instigated by a friend’s gift of the giant frame.
Windows are a source of pride here, dating even to medieval times when residents paid tax by how many window panes were on their housefront. A wealthy Delftian would show off by having his windows created with many small panes; a more modest home would use one pane per window. Someone even told us once that they saw a government-sponsored ad aimed at squirreling out people who are illegally growing marijuana in their homes (you can buy it, but not grow it). The ad instructed neighbors to report houses where the curtains are frequently drawn– because such un-Dutch behavior can only mean suspicious things.
It is common to see either residents or hired hands meticulously washing the windows of homes or businesses. The first year we lived in our apartment, our landlord hired a company to do ours. We have a new landlord in year two, and recently he and I were standing in the street outside our apartment.
“Um, who cleans your windows?” he asked, squinting up at them. (The same windows that haven’t been cleaned at all in a year, so I doubt he was asking for a referral.) I guess not you, I thought sadly.
“I clean the interiors,” I offered, which was more of an optimistic statement than total fact.
In truth, the windows have seen clearer days. A massive fat pigeon once flew smack off the window near our IKEA dining room table. It was a really startling sound (and sight), but both of us immediately thought: Well, there’s no way he mistook it for open air.
Lately the situation worsened notably, largely due to my tried-and-true summer tactic of killing flies and fruit flies by waiting until they fly behind the blinds, and then smashing the blinds into the window. My record at this is proven. My record at thoroughly cleaning the window afterward… is spotty. Literally.
Some brilliant sunny days only (again, literally) shed light on the streaky, finger-smudged, dusty condition of all our glass portals. And, you know, we want to have some people over in November but once it gets cold outside there’s no way I’m cleaning any glass… Yes, the purchase of the squeegee was overdue and upon us.
A bucket, a load of paper towels, and some alarming gray drips later, I sat admiring the moon out our upstairs windows. It certainly seemed more shiny. One window came out pretty streaky, but I’m not rushing to redo it. The initial improvement is enough for me. It’s only been two years, after all.
The students are back and it’s fall again in Delft. Here’s to another year!