Tag Archives: Housekeeping

My house is messy.

Well, that depends on who you ask. I am perfectly fine with the state of my house. My grandmother would probably be appalled, however. Her house was always immaculate.

I don’t clean with any kind of frequency. As long as my feet don’t stick to the floor too badly, I’m fine. So far, no one has really complained, probably because I don’t invite anyone to my house. It’s just easier that way. Plus, I don’t like most people.

I usually start cleaning when I come home and realize I’d be embarrassed to see my home on an episode of COPS. This is something I’ve only developed in my recent adult years; in college, I only cleaned when I moved. Sometimes, I cleaned when I moved in, which just goes to show there are some people out there worse than I am (I once used a putty knife to clean the wall beside the toilet in an apartment I rented. Because it’s true – men have trouble aiming). I usually stop cleaning when I’ve achieved a level of sufficient cleanliness that if anyone does stop by, I can say, “Oh excuse the mess, I didn’t have time to clean!”

In my own defense, I’m not a dirty person, really. No more than anyone else, I think. Or maybe I’m just accustomed to my own filth and can’t see it any more. I do have a bad habit of generating clutter and not allocating enough time to eradicate the collected detritus. I tend to stack things, and when the stacks get out of hand, I put the stacks in boxes; and when the boxes get out of hand, I put the boxes in storage. I have boxes in storage that I have not looked at since I moved six years ago. I was too busy cleaning to unpack them. Empty houses are easier to clean. Except for those people moving out, apparently.

These days, I don’t always have enough time to clean. With my schedule, I’m lucky to find time to run the dishwasher when the dishes pile in the sink high enough that I can’t reach the faucet to get water for the coffee maker. This is known as an emergency. In an emergency situation such as this, the tub can be used to fill the coffee machine, and the jelly jars in the back of the cupboard can be used for the coffee.

Like you’ve never done that.

What’s strange is that I love cleaning products. A different kind of spray cleanser or scrub brush makes me actually look forward to cleaning, but the novelty wears off quickly. The solution for my lack of excitement for cleaning is probably to always start with a brand new, different kind of mop. Or to have my grandmother move in. She’d like that; there are lots of different cleaning products from which to choose. All barely used.

Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to get a day off, usually (maybe) on a major holiday. Frequently, this will coincide with my home being in a reality-show state of disarray, and so I will start at one end of the house and clean until I reach the other end, usually becoming progressively less thorough as the day passes and I become more tired and less interested in the latest neon-colored bottle of goo (Chemicals clean better when they look like nuclear waste, apparently). These cleaning sprees mostly involve wiping off surfaces and shuffling around stacks and boxes in a bizarre floral-scented game of mancala. There have been times when my home has ended the day cleaner, but even messier than it was before. And I can’t find anything.

The cat enjoys these days, because I also often go on marathon laundry sprees as well, meaning he can sleep on one of his favorite locations – the top of the running clothes dryer. It’s warm, and gently vibrates, and lulls him into a sleep deep enough that one can almost pet his tummy without feeling pain. Almost. He probably just doesn’t want me to use him to dust.

I’ve made some discoveries over the years, like how well toilet bowl cleaner removes black soap scum from bathtubs; that sprinkle-powder carpet cleaner never really vacuums up all the way; that streak-free shines only matter to TV commercial people; and that freshly mopped floors can be explosively nauseating to dogs. And they don’t care which end explodes.

I’ve also discovered that the more likely an item is to be either machine washable or dishwasher safe, the happier I am and the more frequently it will be cleaned. Surprisingly, there are many, many things that are dishwasher safe that aren’t advertised as such. I really think marketing companies are missing out by not addressing the very important demographic of Busy Bachelors.

I’ve put car parts through the dishwasher as well as trim from my house; computer cases and lamp shades; hand tools and shaving razors. Heck, even my toilet seat is detachable for cleaning, and it’s the perfect size to fit in my dishwasher. If only the selling company had had the foresight to market this much-used household item as dishwasher safe, I’d feel less guilty when the time comes and I finally do run it through my machine.

Because, someday, I know that I will. No matter how hard I fight this urge, I will inevitably succumb.

And I’ll use the pots and pans setting, no less.

Indoor plumbing is one of those conveniences that frequently get taken for granted, like electricity, telephones, and pre-baked pies, until that moment when the convenience suddenly goes away, leading to the huge inconvenience of trying to determine exactly how one is supposed to finish his shower when the water has suddenly stopped spraying over his body.

When I say “his,” I mean me; and when I say “body,” I mean that giant-freak-of-nature-potato-shaped thing I live in that I occasionally have to stand on its head in the shower to make sure the undercarriage gets good and cleaned. Except in instances such as this when the cleaning apparatus has suddenly failed, and the bathroom shower automatic spray cleaner is empty, ruining plan B.

I’m not exactly a handyman, although I’m at least a step above the level of a former roommate who tried to change out a light switch without turning off the power circuit, because he just figured he’d “do it quick.” He’s a former roommate only because he no longer lives with me, not because of a fatal lack of quickness, although it turns out that powerful electric shocks actually are a remarkably good negative-reinforcement training method.

I’ve especially never had a knack for plumbing, although I have been told I have the crack for it. More importantly, however, I am fairly good at solving problems logically. In this instance, while the water to the shower had failed, the tub spigot still flowed, indicating a problem between it and the shower head. This led to a true Archimedes moment, as just like him, my eureka-inspiring discovery came while I was wet and soapy.

After splash-rinsing and toweling off, I consulted the foremost repository of household repairs knowledge that I know of: my father.

When I was a child, my dad always seemed to know exactly what he was doing around the house, and I’ve been waiting and anticipating that point in my life when the mystical gift of “Dad Knowledge” is bestowed upon me as well. But it’s never happened. Maybe because I’ve never had kids. Or maybe because the real secret is to just bluff your way through the situation and when it turns out okay, pretend you knew what you were doing all along. If it doesn’t turn out okay, blame your kids. I guess I’ll have to blame the dog. That’s easy, because he doesn’t have thumbs, and tends to drop tools anyway.

After listening to my description of the problem, my father told me that to fix this, I would need to rip it all apart, find what was wrong, replace it, and put everything back together again.

As usual, his zen-like wisdom was impossible to argue with, so I consulted the second-most repository of household repairs knowledge I know of: YouTube. After watching several videos involving men fixing every conceivable bathroom plumbing problem in under 30 seconds with nothing more than a butter knife and a nutcracker while having the forethought to wear a belt yet speaking as though they carried their tools in their mouths, I finally determined what I needed to do to fix the problem: I would need to rip it all apart, find what was wrong, replace it, and put everything back together again.

I read years ago that home improvement projects involve exactly three trips to a hardware store, usually to purchase tools that are a lot like algebra: you use them once, then never again in your entire life. My first trip to the hardware store was to buy a hexagon-shaped tube used to remove the retaining nuts from the valves that I needed to replace. I discovered this after an hour of frustration with a crescent wrench and a few more 30-second videos on YouTube, which I wish were subtitled.

(Throughout the course of this column, I will use words that may invoke giggles in those 13 years of age or younger. If you are reading this and you are 13 years of age or younger: first of all, thank you; second of all, please read the following out loud and get it all out of your system now. If you are over 13, you may also read this aloud and pretend you’re not amused: Pipe; Tube; Nuts; Tool; Caulk; Wankel Rotary Engine. Thank you. Please continue when you’ve recovered.)

Back at home with the correct tool, I turned off the water to the house, and slowly and methodically disassembled the three valves in the tub. This was actually somewhat enjoyable, hearkening back to childhood experiences of taking things apart to see how they worked. Except this time, I knew I would have to re-assemble the parts myself, instead of relying on the all-knowing Dad.

I arrived for the second time at the hardware store with a bag full of wet, corroded plumbing parts; my current, electrical-wiring avoiding roommate; and a total lack of clues as to what to do next. We managed to find our way to the plumbing section, and then stared blankly at the various components hanging around us. I figured our only course of action was to take old pieces individually and search the racks until we found their counterparts.

For the next 45 minutes we did just that, with the assistance of the helpful hardware clerk named Steve. Finally, as Steve located the last needed washer and I tried to gather up the remarkably large pile of new parts, my roommate quietly pointed to the lowest shelf and a box kit that included everything we needed, including instructions, and at a lower price than the individual parts combined.

I admonished him for not seeing this sooner, told him to go play in the electrical department, apologized to Steve (who took it graciously and even offered to put away the pile of parts we no longer needed,) blamed the dog (who wasn’t even there but I think I got away with it,) checked out, gathered my roommate (who had refused to go play with the light switches and sockets because apparently that electrical shock had been powerful enough that it was felt by all the roommates I’ll ever have,) and headed home.

I started reassembling the parts, and quickly realized that I now had more parts to go in than I had originally taken out. This led me to discover tiny little plumbing thingamabobs on the pipes that led me to make my third and final trip to the hardware store for yet another algebraic thingamabob-removing tool.

An hour after that, with the newly installed shower fittings reflecting the heavenly glow of my success, I sent my roommate to turn on the water main while I remained to watch for any sudden, massive fountains of water erupting from my handiwork. Which, surprisingly, did not happen. My roommate joined me in admiring the new fixtures, as well as expressing his appreciation that I was finally finished, because he needed to use the bathroom and had been holding it for hours. I told him he really shouldn’t have waited, because we could have just let the yellow mellow, so to speak. He said he couldn’t for two reasons: #1- That’s not what he needed to do; and #2- That’s what he needed to do.

I finished up with a few new beads of caulk around the tub. As I put away my tools, new and old, I reflected upon what I’d learned: Dad knows what’s he’s talking about even if it doesn’t always make sense; plumbing is easier than it looks especially if you get really lucky; and it seems like I really do have at least a little bit of “Dad Knowledge” already. I would like to rely on that as frequently as I need to rely on algebra around the house, however.

Oh, and one final thing I almost forgot- Wankel Rotary Engine.

We can never finish an entire can of corn.

When I say we, I mean myself and my two roommates. A can of corn opened as a side dish with dinner always ends up having too little corn remaining to make a serving, but just enough left to be too much to throw away. I dutifully put it in a plastic container to wait until the next time I serve corn, when I add another can and the cycle continues. I’m fairly certain we occasionally eat some corn that was first opened while Clinton was in office.

Corn does not have the same status as macaroni & cheese in our household. No matter how little is left over when mac & cheese is served, it disappears from the fridge quickly; usually becoming someone’s breakfast of champions. But not corn. Corn usually makes its reappearance in a completely different way the following morning.

I suppose I could eliminate some of the problem by mixing the corn with the mac & cheese. But not only am I unsure that I’m ready for a creamy crunch with every mouthful, I also feel that it’s dangerous to start down the slippery slope that is “all food ends up in the same place anyway.” I imagine if I served meat loaf stuffed with mac & corn & cheese and topped with cherry pie filling, I may soon be looking for a new place to live.

So for now, my never-ending supply of leftover corn will remain in the refrigerator, along with the other various and sundry unmarked plastic containers holding other various and sundry less-than-one-serving of leftovers. And the occasional plastic container of dog food. Those occasionally disappear as well, and I really hope they’re ending up in the dog’s stomach.

The refrigerator is also home to mysterious puddles and drips that just seem to appear no matter how frequently I clean. Sometimes, I worry about leaving the house for too long, in case these puddles and drips continue to spontaneously appear and collect until a veritable pond swamps the kitchen.

Whomever it was that invented the self-cleaning oven must have died before he could continue the next logical step by inventing the self-cleaning fridge. Many people I’m sure would enjoy being able to close the door on their refrigerator at night and open it in the morning to a sparkling fresh interior. The closest my fridge has come to this is by creating its own form of life from the primordial soup of leftovers that then rampages through the shelves eating everything in its path.

Upon further thought, this may be a bit of a far-fetched idea; more likely it’s one of my roommates that wakes early in the morning and sweeps all the contents of the plastic containers into his gaping zombie-like maw.

Including the dog food.

But sadly, never the corn.