The Importance Of Unseen Clean

Regarding the main stair, there is, once again, an intermediate landing along the east wall. Soon, the original three oak steps leading from the landing up to the second-floor will be reinstalled in their original location. In preparation of this exciting event, I wanted to assure that what was UNDER was all nice and clean. So, I pulled up some 1894 sub-flooring and discovered…this. To the left, I have already picked up as much debris as I could. To the right is a mess untouched since the 1929 alterations to the house. Oh, the horror.


Via some effort, and a shop vac, was was disturbing…is no longer.


New sub-flooring will soon go in.

Then new oak finished flooring will go in.

Then the original 3-steps will be reinstalled.

And nobody will, quite likely, ever again look into the joist cavity to ascertain tidiness.

But…I will know.

And you will, too.


I think this kind of effort, somehow, makes a difference. Yes, it sounds crazy, but I believe that the house, somehow, responds to this kind of loving attention. I believe that the energy of Earth, somehow, responds to this kind of loving attention. I believe that the universe, somehow, responds to this kind of loving attention.

In short, it is karma: the energy you put out…returns.

And, once again, in a tiny tiny tiny way, amidst all the madness, something is better.

Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.






  1. David Gervais on March 4, 2021 at 11:28 pm

    Since this is under stair treads, an option is to put Sonobatts into the cavity. It looks like fibreglass insulation, but white. If the steps ever develop a creak or just daily footfalls will be less transmitted to the rest of the house.

  2. Heather Morley on March 5, 2021 at 1:34 am

    Sooo satisfying!

  3. Leigh on March 5, 2021 at 3:27 am

    Cleaning up even unseen / sealed areas? The Cross house is an ideal place to stay for people with dust allergies!

  4. Dan Goodall-Williams on March 5, 2021 at 6:24 am

    I agree with this method Ross.

  5. Pam on March 5, 2021 at 6:48 am

    I understand your reasoning Ross. When I put in a new kitchen in my apartment in Brooklyn they took down a wall and in the wall were 6 gallon size, partly full paint cans, newspaper, and other garbage from another reno. I was really angry at the sloppiness and disregard for future residents. I felt at peace when all that was properly discarded.

    • Ragnar on March 5, 2021 at 6:35 pm

      My cousin once asked me to help with his renovation and we ended up redoing some alterations that had been done about 20 years prior. The major part was removing knotty pine panelling that covered two doors and included a new frame for another because it covered the original.

      Behind that pine we found two beautiful original doors cut to small bits with a few missing, empty cigarette packs, plenty of cigarette butts, plastic bags, empty food wrappers, dried food leftovers, basically a whole lot of garbage.

  6. Mike on March 5, 2021 at 8:37 am

    I agree 100%; when we hired a contractor to replace sheetrock a room, I made the crew go to lunch for an hour while I cleaned out the wall cavities. And I really like your quote, Contact was a movie that I connected with…the belief that we are all here to help one another…

  7. Tim on March 5, 2021 at 10:01 am

    Rock wool insulation is the best for sound insullation.

  8. Julie on March 5, 2021 at 10:35 am

    When I bought my little house, it needed a new roof. The main part of the house had an attic, and said attic was full of pine needles, dirt, corn cobs (I kid you not) various small critter skeletons, nut shells, pine cones, and tons of busted wood shingles, as well as some left-overs of the families that had lived here.

    My kids and I spent EIGHT HOURS bagging up all that stuff to take to the dump, and I vacuumed the attic. Every inch of it.

    And while the roofing crew ate lunch, I borrowed their compressor, and blew out the attic while the roof was open. The clouds of dust looked like something out of a movie!

    And then I vacuumed again.

    I have repeated this process many times, in walls, in ceilings ( we found a mummified cat in the kitchen ceiling!) under floors, etc. And it is always so satisfying to know something is clean, even if no one sees it.

    And I second Tim’s comment on rock wool. It’s also great as insulation in general. I will never use anything else! It’s super easy to install, doesn’t itch like fiberglass, and if it gets wet it will dry out without losing it’s insulating quality. IMO it’s very very much worth the few extra dollars it costs.

  9. Barb Sanford on March 5, 2021 at 10:52 am

    Wow. Lots of good tips in here for me, if we ever open up a floor, wall, or ceiling in our house. I would also want everything clean and tidy before I put back the walls. That junk looks like perfect critter habitat to me, and who needs that in their house?

  10. Jake on March 5, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I have to agree with your thinking Ross and have done the same many times over!

  11. Debbie Stevens on March 5, 2021 at 11:20 am

    That would just drive me nuts! I owned a housecleaning business for 10 years and I’m known to be insane about cleaning. My contractors have tried to do that and I’ve made them clean up their mess. 🙂

  12. Stewart McLean on March 5, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Why don’t you put a copy of this post in an envelope in the space as a sort of tome capsule.

  13. Tony Bianchini on March 5, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    I know this seems odd, but on some level I’m a little sad that the debris has left its snug nest of some 92 years! Now it’ll live out eternity in a miscellaneous dump. Just looking at this 360 degrees.

  14. glenn on March 5, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    It sucks to find unexpected garbage, trust me. In forty years of carpentry work, I’ve found enough scrap drywall in stud cavities to drywall an entire house. But it was a lot easier and cheaper to stick it there than try to dispose of it at a dump, so I get it.
    And I think that we all owe our houses something for loving in them, more than just paying the mortgage and the upkeep and whatever. I guess you could call that karma.

    • glenn on March 5, 2021 at 2:04 pm

      ooops. LIVING in them.

  15. Brita on March 5, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    I always clean those unseen places too. It drives me absolutely bonkers when I watch a renovation show where they do stuff like not finishing the walls behind the kitchen cabinets. The other day I saw kitchen cabinets go in over construction debris along the baseboard area. Jeez, how tough is it to grab a broom? That stuff is going to be there forever!

    • glenn on March 5, 2021 at 7:04 pm

      It’s not that it’s so tough to grab a broom, but a lot of the time the installers are being paid by the cabinet, and if you have to install 3 kitchens a day to make a living, who’s going to take the time to clean, especially when it’s the builders responsibility?

      • Brita on March 6, 2021 at 6:38 am

        These are DIY! And there is a camera! The whole world could be watching and its recorded for posterity! grab a broom

  16. Linda A. on March 5, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    Aaah ..I love clean.🤗 No matter where it is!
    This is the 2nd time this week I heard about rock wool insulation. I have never heard if it until now but it sounds like a great product.

  17. Brian A on March 5, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    This addresses one of the things that sometimes creeps me out about old houses: not knowing what ghastly inanimate objects (never mind living creatures) might be lurking in the walls or other unseen spaces that have been closed up for so many years. Bravo for cleaning the unseen!

  18. Justin on March 5, 2021 at 11:06 pm

    I sort of like to leave some debris behind when I close things up, I enjoy finding the 100 year old debris in my house, I clean most of it but leave some of it there, and maybe a little extra for whoever finds it in the future, renovating my renovations.

    • Mike on March 6, 2021 at 8:35 am

      I don’t leave debris, but I have left a lot of items in walls for future discovery…dates, our names, etc. We filled in a non-original doorway between the rear parlor and the kitchen, and inside the wall is a large Tyvek envelope containing a copy of a 1903 picture of the house, pictures of the exterior and interior in 2017 (along with some family pics), a history of the house, and letter to whoever finds the envelope some day telling them some of our personal experience in the old house. I did it all in duplicate and have instructed my family that when I am gone, it is to stay with the house. My 10 year old granddaughter loves the house, and often says that she wants to live here some day; I hope that she doesn’t change her mind, I would love to think that it will remain in the family.

      • Grandmere Louise on March 15, 2021 at 2:26 pm

        And if the folks at Lengberg Castle in the east Tyrol hadn’t used random bits in the 15th century to fill in a space when they added a second floor we wouldn’t have some fascinating bits of fabric today. I understand not wanting to leave debris but putting things in there on purpose will make the archaeologists and amateur historians of the future very happy. And one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about sorting?

  19. Mary Sniegowski on March 6, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    Love your blog, just found it last week and read it all the way through. The house is gorgeous

    • Ross on March 7, 2021 at 1:58 am

      Nice to meet you, Mary! And thank you!

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