‘When cleaning the bathroom, don’t forget to wipe down the walls with a damp cloth.’–Mom

Teaching small children to do the chores for you

Posted: December 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

When a child says to you, “Mommy, can I wash the walls?” your first reaction might be to shut off the water in the house and lock up all the sponges. But once the terror has passed, reason sets in. Why not let Atticus Jr. scrub things? You’re not going to do it. And what’s the worst that can happen? A bucket spills, the floorboards get all soapy and a little water drips into the basement? At least the house will smell nice (especially if you keep on hand a stash of lilac- or lemon-verbena-scented cleaning fluid). And you’ll also have a decent-sized patch of clean wall to stare at when you want to go to your happy place.

So when children want to clean—encourage them! Buy your daughter that feather duster for her birthday, and introduce her to the sheer joy of dusting her dollies and then maybe also the Heywood-Wakefield credenza.

Many a parent dreams that someday, their offspring will grow up to be neat freaks and start their own cleaning business. It’s a long shot, but if it doesn’t work out, there’s always Harvard as a backup.

Does Skype have a “curate” button?

Posted: April 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Skype is so squishily intimate. It’s disconcerting to conduct business with the same technology my four-year-old uses to make funny faces at her grandparents in Florida.

Being a journalist, I occasionally use Skype to interview folks. But I make a point to turn off the video because hey, I work from home and yes, sometimes I’m messy.

But today I forgot to turn off the video. Midway through the interview, I realized the camera was on and this editor in England was probably being treated to a panoramic view of a half-eaten doughnut and the exploded contents of a laundry hamper.

He, on the other hand, was sitting in front of a sea-green wall punctuated with a lovely painting of a springtime meadow.

I think I need to designate a Skype wall in the house that’s well-dusted and lined with important-sounding books.

I bet that as I type this, some clever entrepreneur is launching a Skype staging service, similar to the type realtors use for homes that don’t sell. Bring on the off-white paint and Pottery Barn knockoff couch!



My kind of therapy. Unfortunately, not my apartment.

Posted: April 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I love Apartment Therapy’s lite manifesto How to Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days. I love it so much that I printed it out and it’s been sitting on my desk, atop a mountain of forlorn paperwork, for nigh four months now.

I’ve taken the advice to heart: put stray stuff on a “landing strip” so you can pick it up later; wash the dishes after every meal (or in my case, have Richard do the dishes at 11 p.m.); do a little bit o’ laundry each day, instead of waiting until the pile becomes landfill-size; set a timer for 20 minutes–and see how much you accomplish!

Unfortunately, this article was not written for a couple with a superball-hoarding pre-kindergartener and a large dog that sheds his body weight in hair nightly. It was written for a stylishly mussed copywriting intern who owns a total of three dishes (all from CB2) and has a closet full of skinny jeans.

But I like to keep it on my desk anyway, so I can transport myself back to the minimalist youth I never had because I bought way too many used books and Pee Wee Herman action figures.

I think they should add one more tip, though: Leave the windows open so you can get a nice cross-breeze going. Maybe a particularly feisty gust will whisk away all your dust, ephemera, juvenilia, and Happy Meal toys.

The latest in passive-aggressive gifts

Posted: April 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Yesterday, a family member gave me a refrigerator magnet that reads in curlicued script:

Gardening forever, housework whenever.

At first, I thought it funny (I do enjoy gardening). But after a few days of looking at it holding up my daughter’s drawing of a witch next to a mountain, its harmless jokiness began to bug me. I began muttering dark declarations to myself like:

Just because every other woman in my family claims “cleaning” as a hobby doesn’t mean I should be the black sheep.

Sorry I don’t  vacuum the dog.

And finally, What was she thinking, giving me this? “Oh, I’ll get this for Laura. I get to play up her likes but tell her she’s not as clean as she should be.”

Apparently, she sees me as a loveably messy person who could slip into major slob territory if not kept in check with folksy refrigerator magnets.




The dog’s not gonna wash himself

Posted: May 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Someone who ran a community dog wash event once told me she’d encountered dogs that, she suspected, had never been washed before. That got me thinking. Maybe I could slack off more on washing the dog.

Standoff at Tryon Farm

Not that Ernie’s in any danger of a skin condition from frequent washing.I think the last time I scrubbed him was about nine months ago. Cleveland’s winters last about seven months, so that’s pretty good. I really can’t wash him in the cold weather, because that would involve using the bathtub. And then the bathtub becomes a hair bathtub.

Nobody wants to clean up that mess.

We’ll probably break down and give him a backyard bath in the next few weeks, and maybe a buzz cut. But I’m going to prolong it as long as I can.

One trick I’ve learned over the years to delay the inevitable: When the dog starts to get stinky, brush his teeth. That takes care of about 2/3s of the smell. Plus, it’s fun for kids to watch him smack his lips after he tastes the peppermint.

You could spring for chicken-flavored toothpaste at the pet store–but I recommend just using whatever you have in the medicine cabinet, then taking the money you’ve saved to buy him a nice chew toy. He’ll appreciate a squeaky plastic squirrel more than a hen amuse-bouche–and he’ll soon learn to embrace his minty-freshness.