Tag Archives: housework

Paging Walter Mitty

This is what a writer thinks about while she’s washing clothes:

The neatly coiffed woman who gets her kicks by hanging out in the laundromat looking for people she can teach to fold their fitted sheets.

She thinks of metaphors for aptly describing characters in stories she’s writing only in her reverie.

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The upside of dirty laundry

When I returned to the community laundry room, I discovered I had 80 minutes left on my dryer.

Something was not right. It had already been running 40 minutes, and I know I only inserted enough quarters to send the dryer spinning for an hour, not two.

What kind of soaking wet clothes would require two hours of tumble?

A kindly older gentleman was tending to clothing in several washers.

“Hey, I’m never going to use all this time left on the dryer,” I said to him. “Somebody must have fed some quarters into it by mistake. You can throw your clothes into it if you want.”

Thus began a conversation I might never have otherwise with a 70-year-old man washing his clothes.

He was no laundry expert, he admitted. In fact, this was only the third time he’d done laundry after having someone else take care of it for 40 years.

“It’s a lot of work, those household chores,” he said. “I can see why women complain about it.”

Turns out, he was recently divorced.

“Oh, I never know if I should say, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘congratulations,'” I said, my face making a polite grimace.

“Oh, it’s OK,” he said. “I’m getting by. We got married when she was 23 and I was 30. I told he then our age difference might be a factor someday, but she dismissed me. I guess she changed her mind.”

“So you got divorced after being married 40 years?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yup,” he said without a hint of sorrow or bitterness. “She sat me down in November and said, ‘I’m not happy. I want a divorce.’ We sold everything off, and that was that.”

Something was not right.

What kind of woman married 40 years asks for a divorce?

“She was never really happy,” he said. “I mean I tried to help her. We talked about it. But sometimes she would just burst out crying for no reason.”

I didn’t know this man 15 minutes earlier. Maybe he was a perfectly fine husband, and his wife was just sad. It sure didn’t seem like he was airing dirty laundry. He was simply telling it like it is.

“Did she have a boyfriend?” I asked (yes, I asked).

“Oh, probably,” he shrugged. “I don’t really know. We still get along, though. In fact, I talked to her for 45 minutes today. No use being angry or bitter.”

Nope. No good in that.

“Unbelievable,” I said, shaking my head. “Forty years.”

We talked a bit more. I gathered up my warm, dry clothes, ready to depart. The washers he was using finished their job.

“Oh! Don’t forget the dryer — throw your clothes in that one,” I said. “Use up that time someone else paid for.”

“Yup, I will,” he said. “Somebody else’s loss is my gain.”

Psychiatrists side with newspaper hoarders, er, readers

Overlooked by mainstream media, a new disorder was added recently to the updated version of the American Psychiatric Association’s official guide to classifying mental illnesses: Cleaning Supplies Blindness.

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders,” to be officially released at the APA’s regularly scheduled annual meeting in San Francisco in May, now lists Cleaning Supplies Blindness between Obsessive Compulsive Behavior and Post-Traumatic Clutter Disorder. This change will significantly affect how patients are labeled and limit the number of cleaning supplies they may subscribe to at any one time.

cleaning suppliesCleaning Supplies Blindness is characterized by a frantic housekeeping session followed by the random distribution of cleaning supplies in open places. Patients often proclaim they are finished cleaning even when bottles of Fantastik, dispensers of dusting spray and used sponges can be observed in supposedly “clean” rooms. In severe cases, patients actually use cleaning supplies in their interior decorating schemes, such as aquamarine Windex bottles as table centerpieces in Art Deco rooms, mops used as door stops or Andy Warhol paintings of Tide. In patients beyond the point of no return, they actually venerate bottles of Lysol or Febreze.

A clear warning sign: Bottles of hand soap on the edge of the sink are joined by dishwashing liquid and irrational tirades about “dirty sinks” which are marred only by water spots.

Most troublesome for the loved ones of victims of Cleaning Supplies Blindness is the penchant of patients to rant and rave about stacks of books and piles of dog toys; sometimes patients actually secretly throw away old newspapers belonging to roommates and spouses, leaving dust rags and unused vacuum cleaner bags in their place. Patients are often considered highly hypocritical.

Patients who meet the criteria for having Cleaning Supplies Blindness are treated with exposure therapy, meaning they must cope for prolonged periods of time with clutter considered by other people to be useful and beautiful (like out-of-circulation slick magazines, recipes torn from periodicals and attractive baskets full of electronic device chargers). Unfortunately, effective treatments are rare and the associates of such patients must simply learn to accept and live with the diagnosis of Cleaning Supplies Blindness in their loved ones.

Cleaning Supplies Blindness previously was considered a part of the Anal-Retentive Spectrum of Behaviors. Dr. John Smith, who leads group therapy sessions for loved ones of victims in an effort to prevent explosive retaliation, says the change is based on extensive research that has been going since Procter and Gamble introduced Swiffer cleaning products in 1999.

“It’s something that we need to deal with,” he said, “because it contributes to self-delusions of cleaning superiority among its victims and it really has highly irritating effects for collateral players who simply appreciate easy access to unread newspaper and magazines, however high their piles get.”

Iron the sheets? Are you mad?!

As I was flipping through the latest issue of “Southern Living,” I almost spewed out my coffee when I ran across the story, “How do I make the perfect bed?”

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Southerners for knowing how to make fried chicken and a mean barbecue, but this is where we practical Midwesterners draw line between us and those slow-talking Southerners with the impeccable hospitality.

Beds are for sleeping, not for making.

I might be exaggerating, but Minnesotans don’t write letters to lifestyle magazines asking how to fold fitted sheets. We wad them up and stuff them in the linen closet and call it good. Really, Martha Stewart, who cares? They’re in a closet! One of those things with a closed door that only the rudest of guests would dare open?

Among the tips in this story on, cough, making the bed was this gem: “Iron the sheets. Whether you send them out to be pressed or do it yourself with plenty of starch, ironed sheets add a polished touch.”

Send them out to be pressed?! When did Southerners start living on another planet?

For me, the “polished touch” on the guest bed is clean sheets, not ironed ones.

Phoebe Howard, the southern etiquette master answering the magazine’s plaintive letters, added that she likes Washed Cotton Linen Water. What?! Tide. Tide is good. What is linen water?

I hate making the bed and I do it only when my mother or mother-in-law are visiting or I’ve washed the sheets (washed, not ironed). Why make the bed when it’s just going to get unmade again in 12-14 hours? I’m too busy for that. Or perhaps too lazy, but I can’t be the only Midwesterner with a strong-backed work ethic who would cop to that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go mix and match my charger plates and the tiny little plates to hold pats of butter called “butter pats” (another useful bit of hospitality advice shared in the magazine). Where are my butter pats anyway?

Spring (RV) cleaning

It’s amazing how dirty a 1983 RV can get while in winter storage.

My Beloved tackled the outside of the Pace Arrow today while assigning me the inside.

Here’s my report:

  • Murphy Oil Soap works better than Spic and Span. I used two buckets of each, and I was amazed at how dirty my water got. But the really amazing part was how clean my dirty rag got in the Murphy water.
  • Don’t miss cleaning the gasket on the refrigerator. Gross!
  • Disturbed three huge moths in various levels of hibernation. Triple gross! They’re all dead now.
  • Highly recommend storing all your drawers in sealed Rubbermaid containers. This step prevented mouse turds in the silverware.
  • Vacuuming is easier with the music turned up. And don’t forget the attachments.

Time commitment: Four hours. I earned that glass of red wine with my grilled rib eye.

The motor home is now ready for use.

If we can afford the gas.

A messy desk transformed into a clean slate

Before

I spent New Year’s Day mucking out my home office. Gone is a pile of dusty magazines from 2008, and my files now have folders for 2011. The reminders and inspirational quotes on my bulletin board might even remind me of things and inspire me.

Now I can get to work.

After

Shower grime: The bain, or bane, of my existence

What is it about shower floors?

Seriously.

Shower floors and bathtub bottoms are flooded with soap and water every day. Shouldn’t they stay clean?

What is up with that film of dirt on my shower floor? And that … ugh … mold growing down there. Come on. Why do I have scrub my shower floor?

My toilet, I get that. A sink, understood. The kitchen floor — sure, soap and water are rare finds on my kitchen floors. Scrubbing might occasionally be necessary. But my shower?

When I was in college, I remember when my boyfriend (who eventually became my fiance, then my husband, now my ex-husband) and his three college buddies moved out of an apartment they shared. To reclaim the damage deposit, everything — including the bottom of the tub — had to be cleaned. The dirty black film on the bottom of that tub was so inveterate, it was impossible to scrub clean. They tried everything and finally, someone made progress with a sharp-edged implement of some sort. Eventually, one of the roommates had scraped away enough dirt to reveal a message:

“Bite Me!”

They didn’t get their damage deposit back.

OK, so I understand how a college shower used by four generally untidy college-age men can get so dirty over the course of a school year. But my shower? Used possibly every other day by me and my fastidious husband? We work white-collar jobs, for goodness sake.

OK, well, it’s not so dirty you can scrape “Bite Me” in the grime, but it needs attention. And I guess by “attention” I mean more than a shampoo rinse.

Any ideas? Brand names and explicit tool descriptions will be gratefully accepted. Actual elbow grease in the cleaning process would be bonus.