So . . I was awakened by words no homeowner wants to hear,
“Mom, the refrigerator’s not working.”
Yes, sometime during the night my refrigerator just stopped. Slipped away quietly in our sleep. Peaceful, really. We should all go like that, except for that pesky spoiled food, two days after I’d gone grocery shopping for actual perishable food.
Oh there’s a chance of revival, of resurrection. But it will come at a cost. Possibly a deal with the devil, financed by American Express, or MasterCard, with a ridiculously high APR.
Now, I’ve made it clear how I feel about Open Floor Plans. And I don’t have one anymore, don’t want one. In my most popular post to date I only listed some of the reasons I don’t want one. There are more. And in many of my comments readers have pointed them out. But the reason that affects me right now is that because of HGTV and the Open Floor Plan we have all been conditioned — brainwashed — to desire and require fancy, shiny, state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances. Indeed, The Open Floor Plan, Granite Counter-Tops and Stainless Steel Appliances are the Holy Trinity of home improvement.
(I’ll wait for the moment of silence and for those religious folks to make the sign of the cross.)
But I just need a working refrigerator. The purpose of refrigerators is to keep some foods chilled and others frozen. That’s it. Now I know many refrigerators also serve as dispensers for water and ice. Okay, that’s cool (no pun intended). But other than that . . . we really just need them to keep food cold. The magic happens when the food comes out of these beasts and the chef, host, or hostess then does his or her thing.
Is it because so many of our kitchens and the ones showcased on TV are open for all to see that now we feel we must have costly granite counter-tops and state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances? And even worse, have we been conditioned to buy more than we need or spend more than we have even if we don’t have an open floor plan?
Now, it seems, we are supposed to want to show off our refrigerators, not just serve good food and make our guests feel welcome. We want to be the envy of our family and friends who should salivate over our appliances, not our dinner.
I get that some of the fancy refrigerators have neat features — don’t get me wrong — like keeping your drinks at a different temperature than your fruits or vegetables, or if there is easy access to the most used items . . . etc. But really? Those are amenities that happen inside a refrigerator.To show them off you have to have someone come into your kitchen –which happens automatically because the kitchen is now in the family, living, and dining room – open the refrigerator door and show off all the many ways that you can chill your stuff.
These days when someone walks in your home you don’t just offer them a comfortable seat and a beverage, you usher them to the appliance that chills the drink as if to say,
“Look at me, I’m getting your drink out of this beautiful thing. Pay no attention to my decor, artwork, hell my spouse or children. And for the love of all resale value do not sit down! Come here. Watch me get your drink. Only then will we perch on stools at the granite countertop island and later you can watch me put the bottle back in the stainless steel refrigerator! This thing cost me two thousand dollars so please show some respect. How is your juice?“
And then you close your refrigerator doors and immediately buff your thumbprint off the stainless steel shine of the thing while reading the digital display that gives you further information about how your refrigerator is doing its job — information that you, apparently, must have.
I mean, if you are a gourmet cook, having a six burner gas stove and two ovens, etc. those would be functions that directly lead to a desired result — a great meal. But a refrigerator? Its job is to keep the food cool so that when when take it out to cook, prepare, or serve it, it does not kill you. The refrigerator is a middle man.
It all seems a throw back doesn’t it — from a time before my time, when housewives of the 50’s would invite ladies over to show off their new washer dryer and yes, their Frigidaire?
Plus, gone is the Refrigerator Art of days long past — the report cards or prom pictures or “Things To Do” List that had traditionally been affixed to the refrigerator to give you a smile or a reminder. I wonder — Are kids these days getting dumbed down because no one would dare to put magnetic letters of the alphabet on a stainless steel appliance? Are little feelings hurt because Mommy no longer hangs a school drawing on the refrigerator?
It seems that the refrigerator itself, not the food that comes out of it, not the “Number One Best Mom” card your kid made you, not the latest picture of your new niece or nephew, is what is showcased. And let me tell you, the show does not come cheap. I have a (currently non-working) fancy, three door stainless steel refrigerator. I didn’t pick it out. I didn’t really pay for it. How I got it is a story for another post, but it’s legal, I assure you. Suffice it to say I had no idea how much this thing costs on the open market.
And guess what, these digital stainless steel refrigerators are quite expensive to repair, I’ve since found out, sadly. Hell, tragically. Something about a mother board. (I ask you, did I need a motherboard to keep my milk cold?) But . . . I digress . . .
The repair guy said that these high end refrigerators often break down and the repairs are neither cheap nor guaranteed. If I can live without the look and features of the current refrigerator, he suggested, I could buy a brand new one for only a little bit more than the cost of the repairs.
My first response in my head was — I don’t need another high end refrigerator. I don’t need to show it off – I don’t even have an open floor plan. The water dispenser hasn’t worked in a year anyway. I rarely consult the digital display.
But why, I ask, does it seem like a step down to purchase a large, white, two door refrigerator? The large, white, no frills, freezer on top models (which seem to hold more food) are now considered garage refrigerators suitable only to chill your beer. They are not to be seen by the general public, not ready for prime time, as they say. Maybe you’d have one at a beach house, or rental unit. But they are not presentable enough to chill any respectable homeowner’s milk, butter, and eggs. They are that cousin that gets seated way –WAY — in back at family weddings.
Right now, my beautiful large digital stainless steel refrigerator is useless, empty. Truth be told, it’s not even that pretty. It has two dents from two incidents with a bass drum (don’t ask). Dented Stainless Steel is like a pregnant prom queen– unfortunate, because there had been so much potential.
Also, my stainless steel is not even completely visible. I felt as though my children and I were not doing enough accidental or subliminal reading of things important to us, meaning important to me. Visually, we only see what is fed to us on TV and social media, we don’t hang up enough calendars or maps or pictures or words with which we should be familiar. Why can my teens spell Toshiba and Netflix? Because they see those words all the time. But they don’t see the months of the year or school announcements or reminders from me and reading a map is — unthinkable. They see what’s new on Netflix as soon as they turn on the TV, but when they went to the fridge to get a cheese stick they were met only with their distorted reflection. Oh, don’t get me started. Long story not really short, I defiled the gleam of my dented stainless steel and hung pictures and stuck word magnets on my refrigerator. One side English; the other side French. I mean it can’t hurt, right? And it made my kitchen feel like a family kitchen, the heart of the home like at my Mom’s house — where she has photos of all her grandchildren to enjoy on her refrigerator. It gives me the warm fuzzies to be able to look at vintage baby pictures of my kids as they scowl at me in real time. My kitchen was no longer a showroom of gleaming appliances.
(Oh, the HGTV people would have my head on a spike, a stainless steel spike).
Bottom line: I just don’t see spending my limited funds on a fancy refrigerator. It’s an appliance. It’s supposed to work for me. I’m not supposed to work for it. It should give me features that make my food maintenance and preparation easier. It does not define me; nor do I expect it to be beautiful, just functional.
We’re not going to hang out in it. We don’t sit on it. It doesn’t entertain us.
But . . . still . . .
It seems like such a step down, in defeat. Did I drink the HGTV Kool-Aid, the properly chilled inside a stainless steel appliance HGTV Kool-Aid? I wondered (well my Mom pointed out) — What about resale value of my home? Will people not buy my house if the refrigerator isn’t stainless steel? Will they walk away from my home — not because it only has one bathroom, or because it’s on a busy street, or because there are sofas on the side of the road — will the deal breaker be that the kitchen is not open and does not show off matching state-of-the-art stainless steel digital appliances?
These are questions I asked myself, as I ate canned soup for dinner, because my top-of-the-line stainless steel refrigerator stopped doing its job, making my job as head of this household much, much harder. You just don’t realize how few meals you can prepare without milk, butter, and eggs until you have nowhere to chill your milk butter and eggs.
But one to three grand to keep my milk butter and eggs cool in the matter to which I — we — Americans — HGTV –have become accustomed?
As my teens would say, “Can we just . . . not?”
Just Me With . . . warm bottles of Gatorade.
Postscript: During the preparation of this overly long post, my refrigerator was partially repaired. It keeps food cold now, but the digital display and the interior are dark. The controls do not work. I’m told the front board needs replacement. There are no small repairs on these types of appliances. While he was there I had the repairman look at my stainless steel top-of-the-line two drawer dishwasher because it hasn’t been feeling well. My dishes came out dirty, crusty and the inside of the thing is corroding. (But on the outside, it looks good.)
I received bad news and will have to replace that appliance. The repair would cost more than a new one. My fancy HGTV approved appliances (that I did not pick out) are turning on me, one by one.
The microwave, stove, and oven are still working like champs, though. (Knock wood. Actual wood.)
I’ve been in my former hoarders fixer house for a while now. And, as was always the plan, I will sell it — if the universe and my credit score allow– upon or just prior to or just after my youngest kids’ graduation from high school. I have a couple of years, but I’m thinking ahead. I probably won’t see a dime in return on investment for all the improvements I’ve made to my little hoarders home. There are a lot of reasons. But for this post I’ll focus here on my neighbors’ damn sofas sitting on the side of the road because that’s what’s bothering me today, every day.
Sofas, couches, easy chairs. Whatever you call them. Indoor furniture that is banished outside to publicly decompose for all to see — it’s the worst lawn decor ever.
It’s the modern day real estate equivalent to the head on a stick.
It’s crap like this that will lower my property value and keep it low — which is good for the contractors who want to buy low and rent or flip high — but bad for me. There are plenty of regular folks looking for an affordable houses in a nice neighborhood in a good school district, but because of the ever present sofas on the side of the road, it makes my neighborhood seem, well, not so nice.
Have you ever wondered why people put sofas outside which stay there for weeks, months, even years?
I have my theories.
1. They got a new couch. So they put the old one outside.
2. The old couch had something nasty happen to it — of the urine or vomit variety –that they just couldn’t get out.
3. The old couch had something smokey happen to it — the old cigarette in the cushions . . .
This only explains why the couch leaves the house, not why it stays outside.
Here are my theories on why they stay outside.
1. There is no (free) bulk trash pickup in the neighborhood.
2. Bulk trash pick-up is costly and low income (poor) people can’t or won’t allocate their money to pay for it.
Paying extra for trash removal can be a hard pill to swallow if you are having trouble paying regular bills (Query: How much money was shelled out on the new sofa? Perhaps the $25 bulk trash fee should be built into the cost of getting the new couch?) But regardless, there’s a solution. If you are able bodied you can save the $25 by breaking up the couch and putting it in the regular trash. I’ve done this. I’ve seen other people do this. It’s actually kind of fun it you want to get out some aggression. And another option is, if the sofa is old but not ruined, put it on Craigslist for free. Someone will take it. Craigslist people won’t pay a dollar for something, but if you say it’s free? They’ll take it. They’ll even take it from your house. If you don’t want strangers in your house, just plan to put the couch out on a sunny weekend, post the ad, and it will go away — for free. I’ve done this. More than once. If it’s truly trashed, this isn’t an option, but it’s worth a try.
3. I’m waiting for bulk trash pick-up.
But dude, how long are you going to wait?
Once a year, our Township provides dumpsters for people in my neighborhood to use free of charge for whatever they need to get rid of. But it’s once a year. In the Summer, I believe. It’s Winter now. Will the sofas sit here until July?
A variation on this excuse is: I put it out and wanted to see if the trash guys would take it. Okay, I get that. Because sometimes they might actually take it, or somebody might. This only justifies having an outdoor sofa for a week, though, tops. After a week has gone by of the regular trash people not picking up the sofa, it ain’t going nowhere.
4. Another reason proffered by well-meaning people is that the residents must not be physically able to get rid of the couch.
Well, I call bullshit on that one. If a person had the means and muscle to get the couch out of his or her house, they have the means and muscle to put it somewhere where it might get picked up. Obviously there are elderly or disabled (mentally or physically) who cannot maintain their property. I get that. But I’ve seen grown, strong, working men coming and going from these houses with the lawn couches. I call bullshit on them. I know people may have ailments that are not readily visible. I withdraw my calling of bullshit if that is the case. But if not, just putting indoor furniture in your yard and leaving it out in the rain, sleet, and snow until starts to stink, disintegrate, become the nesting ground for vermin and bugs, and just look plain old tacky — I just don’t get that.
Right now there are two couches I see every day. Every day.
Every damn day.
Couch Number One. It’s in a back yard, which backs onto my alley and my back yard. I see it from my kitchen window, as I said. Every day. As do at least four other houses and all cars that drive along this back alley. Lovely. This placement is curious to me, because their trash gets collected from their front yard. Why put the couch out back, inside their fence, on its side, cushions and all? Why? It won’t get picked up there by anyone. Maybe they are planning to have bulk trash pickup or somebody with a truck come later — but it’s been about a month now. And why leave the cushions? They could certainly go in the regular trash or recycling and this would cut down on the bulk of the sofa in the yard and also make it less inviting for bugs and rats. But no, the couch is outside.
Couch Number Two. This one is on the edge of a front yard of a house on the side of the road. Now this house has always had a messy porch. I don’t know the people, personally, but I’ve seen them come and go. Not elderly or infirm. Driving, working, healthy looking people. It appears as though they are doing some sort of home clean out now because there is more junk outside than usual. Again, having gone through extensive clean outs and renovations I understand that while work is in process, there will be debris, because — it’s a work in progress. But, the couch and cushions have been out there for again, about a month. I don’t see any evidence of home repairs or renovations going on. It appears as though someone decided to get some crap out of the house so — they just put it outside. Other large trash items have joined the sofa. These other items could have been put out in the regular trash. But, for some reason, the residents are just piling it up on and around the couch.
There’s a school bus stop nearby. Lovely.
These abandoned sofas are like announcements to people, whether they are passing through or coming home. It gives the appearance of,
“You have crossed over into a bad part of town.”
When people come to see me, or drop off my kids, they have to pass by one or both of the sofas. It’s far from inviting. It actually repels. And it seems that as soon as a rotting sofa is finally removed, another appears. I remember when we were still in the marital home when it was on the market, as we drove by what is now my neighborhood, my kid said,”I’m not moving over there.” She didn’t know that I had already purchased my little hoarders home. I told myself at the time, “I’ll make it nice.”
And I did.
I worked my butt off making our home as nice as I could, but I can’t do anything about the neighbors who allow upholstered furniture to rot outside their homes.
I think there’s a psychological reason why people do this. There are some people who are — interior. Most of their relaxation time is spent indoors. They only think of their yard, their porch, and front door as something to pass through to get inside. I guess then it becomes easy to make whatever changes you are making inside the house, and put the debris outside. After all, you’ve gotten it out of the house. It’s kind of like how an apartment dweller can throw things in a dumpster and go back inside, oblivious as to whether the dumpster is ever emptied.
But still . . .
These couches make me sad. It feels like people have just given up and don’t care. And what’s worse? It’s contagious. I would never do the couch thing, and I maintain my yard, but I’ve lost the will to garden or create an outdoor space for entertaining. I mean, why bother? I don’t want to sit outside and look at a rotting sofa while roasting marshmallows. I plan to garden and landscape more this year, to enhance curb appeal, but my heart’s not in it. I confess.
Just Me With . . . plenty of outdoor seating . . . on rotting couches . . . on the side of the road.
It just irks me. And it may cost me.
Related: Piss, Puke, and Porn — My Hoarder’s House
That Hoarder’s Smell — How to Get Rid of It
Two Sinks: Now standard in new construction for Master Baths. It’s another “must have” shown on the real estate shows. Having previously written about the “Open Floor Plan” a commenter suggested I discuss other popular real estate “must have” amenities. There are many, from walk-in closets, stainless steel appliances, and granite counter tops. But here I’ll address Two Sinks in the Master Bath. People just have to have these, according to many of the House Hunters couples on HGTV. Some of these HGTV couples are so disappointed when the master bath doesn’t have two sinks, it’s a deal-breaker. By the way, HGTV does a good job of showing same-sex couples on their shows, but the two sink thing seems to be proffered has a heterosexual couple “must have.” I’ll address it in kind.
From what I understand, these are the reasons why this is so popular:
1. We can get ready together in the morning!
2. I don’t have to deal with his/her mess in the sink, I’ll have my very own sink!
3. His and her sinks in the Master Bath means “I’ve Arrived!”
Yeah, okay. I get it. I really do, but I’m not sure that requiring two sinks in the master bath is the best use of construction dollars or should be a deal-breaker.
1. We can get ready together in the morning!
Oh, that’s cute, but think about it. In this world when everybody has personal devices for everything, when people don’t share cars or phones or computers or even closets, why are high-end houses still designed so that a couple can share a bathroom in the morning? The whole point, from what I understand, is that couples can both be brushing their teeth or whatever at the same time. Really? In a large home, especially a home that is new construction, or one that carries a price tag that starting at over a half a million dollars, or one where each child, nanny, and guest has his/her own bathroom, why are the husband and wife supposed to brush, rinse, spit, and floss together? Not to mention pluck, shave, or otherwise groom. I don’t care what you say, HGTV, but most husbands and wives are not going to openly share their nasal maintenance. And though I’m not completely sure what men do in the bathroom, I’m reasonably sure I don’t need to see it.
Let’s face it: regardless of the existence of two sinks, some things will be done behind the closed bathroom door while the spouse is elsewhere — anywhere — but standing at the adjacent sink.
And for those couples who are completely comfortable sharing bathroom activities with each other? They don’t need two sinks.
2. I don’t have to deal with his/her mess in the sink. I’ll have my very own sink!
Even when couples won’t use the bathroom as the same time, they want their own space. As I’ve heard repeatedly on HGTV, this breaks down to two concerns:
a. Women want/need space for all their skin, hair, make-up products.
b. Men leave shaving stubble in the sink, and women don’t like to see it, clean it or use a sink with said shaving stubble.
Alrighty then. Having two sinks will create two separate areas for two different kinds of messes, right next to each other. His and her sinks? His and her mess.
Ew. (Doesn’t anybody clean?)
I think we can safely say that both a man and a woman have the potential for leaving a mess in the bathroom. Given blow drying and flat-ironing of long hair, the skin and make-up products, it seems like the women would be more likely to be the slobs in the bathroom sink area, though on HGTV they are usually the ones to complain. The complaint about the man’s mess seems to be mostly about shaving stubble. It appears HGTV women are very put out about seeing shaving stubble in the sink. Does having two sinks make it better? Not really. I doubt that the woman who is really bothered by the sight of beard stubble will be able to enjoy her adjacent sink within view of said beard stubble. Again, isn’t somebody going to clean the bathroom?
Having two sinks will only ensure that one is always surrounded by woman’s mess/stuff and the other will be surrounded by a man’s mess/stuff.
Still, somebody will have to see and wash up next to the other person’s mess — and now there are two sinks to clean — or not. It’s kind of like the Hoarder who, instead of throwing stuff out, simply rents a storage unit.
But I get it. It’s a perk.
3. His and her sinks in the Master Bath means “I’ve Arrived!” (I really think this is the true reason why couples crave the two sinks.)
But . . .
a. Not everyone is in a couple.
Yes, you’ve arrived, but uh — not all adults are coupled up. Sometimes you arrive all by yourself (pun not intended — well, maybe a little). It’s not always a his/her, his/his or her/her situation. Sometimes it’s Just Me . . . heh heh heh. I remember a scene from the movie “It’s Complicated” where the main character, a divorced woman, was redoing her bathroom and wanted to get rid of the second sink. It was just a daily reminder that she had no partner, which she was okay with, but the sinks apparently were not. My single sister has a two sink master bathroom that came with her newer construction home. She uses one sink, and the other holds her curling iron. Seems a waste.
Two sinks in the Master Bath are just kind of stupid for single people, and a bit insulting. I can almost see the existence of two sinks being a deal-breaker for a single person. And if person becomes single after having insisted on the double sinks? Might as well tile “Failed Relationship” on the back splash.
b. Not everyone aspires to be in a couple.
Having a second sink when single might invite a relationship where one is not welcome. Remember vintage Barney in “How I Met Your Mother”? When giving Lily the tour of his Fortress of Barnitude, he explained, “I make it crystal clear to every girl who walks in here that this is not the place to leave a toothbrush, this is not the place to leave a contact lens case, this is a place — to leave.” I mean, the guy has a king size bed with only a full size blanket and just one pillow. As to the bathroom, Barney added, “What? Only one towel? What? No hair dryer? You know where I keep that stuff? Your place. Beat it.” Clearly, the Master (or Lady) of the house does not always have or welcome a guest planning to stay long enough to warrant a second sink. Nope. As Barney said, sometimes a person wants his or her home to say, “Our work here is done.”
I know I can be a rebel, but I think that what I think people really want is — wait for it —— their very own bathroom!
Why stop at the sinks? I mean, if you’re loading down a house with all the must have stuff let’s go all the way — I’m talking his and her separate, private bathrooms! In the old days, many of the very wealthy couples had his and her bathrooms. Let’s extend the royal treatment to suburban McMansions.
You hear that, new construction designers? You wouldn’t necessarily need that much more room, depending on the design and a bit of creativity. Some of these high end master bedrooms have a separate seating area and his or her walk-in closets. If there is space for all that, they could design his and her bathrooms, especially in those palatial homes and possibly even in more moderate homes. It’s funny in these houses with every amenity imaginable and the cars get their own room and guests have their own suites, can’t the Lady and Lord of the house brush their teeth alone? And I’d bet it would be a huge selling point. Huge.
Even for singles, we can keep that second bathroom on lock down and not within view, and only a privileged few could earn a key to this “executive washroom.” It would be a “special guest” bath. As an added bonus, it would serve a dual function of keeping our guests the heck out of our stuff. “No, I’m sorry, honey, you use that bathroom.” heh heh heh
But I get it. For most of us regular folk there might not be space for two completely separate baths connected to the master bedroom.
I’ll offer another, less radical, suggestion. When remodeling or buying new construction or house shopping, consider having only one sink in the Master Bath, make the assumption that a couple will not actually be in the bathroom together, or if they are, they are not both using the sink at the same time. Instead, use the money saved to install a larger, easy to clean counter space, creating an area that can accommodate all the products with great lighting and plenty of mirrors. Or, better yet, design personalized storage for all of those products and hair appliances so they can be used and put away (or left out) while still hot. And that one sink? Make it and the counter easy to wipe clean of the shaving stubble, you could or even install a sprayer. (Or get a maid.)
Let’s put a second (or third) sink where it belongs — in the hall (children’s) bath. It always amazes me when this is missing in a space that would allow it, especially in homes that are meant to accommodate more than one child. It’s kids that brush their teeth together while another small child is sitting on the toilet. Kids aren’t concerned about modesty, have less products and consequently less need for counter space. But trust me, you want them washing those grubby hands. Any preschool teacher or parent will tell you kids tend to wash better and brush teeth longer with a buddy. So let the kids live dorm style. Just teach them to clean the sinks, all of them!
Just Me With . . . no master bath at all, so I’m talking, excuse my expression, — out of my ass. We are a family of six sharing one bathroom. I would love to have another sink — anywhere!
Many thanks to the commenter David Travers, who inspired this post, and to HGTV, a channel that I watch, enjoy, and criticize frequently.
Maybe I’m just jealous.