Category Archives: Home Renovations, Repair and Maintenance

Purging and Cleaning and Finding Stuff

Matt Paxton Hoarders

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

I’ve been at it again. Cleaning out my house. My therapy. And also, kind of a strategic get out of jail plan. In the next year to 18 months I plan to move, and sell or rent out my home — the former hoarder’s house to which I fled upon the demise of my marital bliss — just one half step ahead of the hot flaming lava chasing me from my volcano of debt. Dramatic, I know.

So might as well start the pre-listing clean out now, right? Plus the kids are not here and I need to alter my surroundings. Again. And, it’s freee entertainment, which is a necessity right now, the free part.

I needed to seriously clean. Things are dirty. Even though I always felt like I was cleaning all the time, I wasn’t really cleaning. I was straightening up and clearing  and cleaning around things — and those people I made — and dogs — but I never had all the stuff out of the way long enough to get to the really deep cleaning.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

We had downsized already when we moved here and got rid of around 2/3 of our possessions. Many other belongings were removed along the way as I realized I still didn’t  have room for them. My parents got my formal sofa and chairs (and I got rid of their outdated stuff) some other casual furniture purchased for the house just didn’t fit.  I get rid of things all the time. But as the kids grew in our modestly sized home, we have been stepping over each other. Literally. We’re all relatively and objectively tall and have large feet and long legs. We take up a lot of room. And the sprints to be the first one to get the only bathroom in the house were getting serious, and a bit dangerous. But now the kids are gone for a while — a college thing  — to be discussed in another post — it’s time for me to, as a good friend I recently reconnected with said, “reset.”

“Reset.”  I like that.

As part of my clean out, clean up, and just clean, I  went through an ottoman that doubles for “storage”  of our miscellaneous electronics. I’d throw any cord I couldn’t identify, or those I could identify but did not need at that moment, old phones, parts of video games, remote controls, etc. in there.  Some of these electronics were even in baggies to keep them from tangling around each other. I was proud of that and that at least most of the stuff in there was part of the same category. But I hadn’t taken out everything in years.

Until now.

And at the bottom of the cords, games, adapters, phones, remote controls, and extension cords, there was a cassette tape. (For those of you who are not familiar, cassettes were used to store audio information before CDs, and CDS were and are used when music cannot be accessed from phones, or there is an absence of wifi or available data.)

 

raiders gifs

 

This particular cassette was an audio recording of my wedding.

Huh.

The church where I married recorded everything that happened there. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  I assume this was to preserve sermons and music. In my case it preserved our voices stating our now defunct wedding vows, along with some really good music (I had a brass quartet at my wedding. It was beautiful . . . but I digress) and it recorded the reading of probably the saddest poem ever read at a wedding, “The People Who Never Say Goodbye.”  This was a cry for help. As I’ve said before, ladies, your job as bridesmaids is not limited to showers, bachelorette parties, and shopping for dresses. Your job is to read the room, the bride, and call the whole thing off if necessary.  Almost a Runaway Bride

My first thought was just to throw the cassette away, like my husband did with our vows. No fuss, no muss, no pomp, no circumstance. A Twitter friend suggested that I burn the tape. I’m no stranger to the burn. This ain’t my first rodeo. My Wedding Album. In response I joked that if I was a guy I’d whip “it” out and pee on it. The same Twitter friend reminded me — “You could squat.”  Smiling about that, I put it on the table while I finished going through the electronics. Maybe, I thought, I’ll just listen to the music.

My next find wasn’t really a find.

crazy-ex-medication

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finds a pill on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet.

I knew they were there. While cleaning out the medicine cabinet, I saw my old friends Mr. Xanax and Ms. Ambien – relics of my clinical major depression, anxiety, and insomnia following that pesky time when my husband of many years and father of our many children broke up with me. The pills were expired of course, but I kept them. Weird, because I never really liked them much and used them very sparingly. If I took a sleeping pill I couldn’t properly wake up in the morning. If I took a Xanax I was just a little bit off, out of it. But I tell ya, this  was very helpful in certain situations. Very helpful indeed. It was my pharmaceutical prophylactic in difficult, awkward, or painful situations. Sharing Celebrations  .

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend French Depression

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Still, having the pills in the house gave me comfort. I think I kept these old meds, you know,  just in case . . .

After the scrub down and disinfecting of the cabinet (you’d be amazed at the mess that old razors for four girls leave), I found that the added  space in my cabinet was far more calming than presence the old pills.

So — I chucked them. I brought them downstairs, opened the bottles, destroyed the labels and trashed the pills so no one could find them and sell them (it would  be wrong for someone else to profit from my misery). And then? I casually dropped the wedding cassette —  the audio proof of the “till death do us part” fallacy — in the same trash bin. I don’t want any of those particular reminders of the good, the bad, the ugly or the pharmaceutically numbed in my house.

And that was that.

There has been a slight shift in the universe. Did you feel it?

The Good Place - Season 1

The Good Place

Just Me With . . . space, and some peace. Oh, and I found the remote control to the actual TV!  Now I don’t have to get up to change the input from cable to Netflix. Not too shabby. Plus, I already own a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and am blessed to have access to a classical music station, wifi, and a smartphone. There is no reason to listen to a cassette recording of my wedding music. Nope. No reason at all. 

Plus, one of the brass players was this asshole, I Don’t Go to Weddings.

 

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My Refrigerator Broke. Do I Really Need a Fancy, Stainless Steel, New One?

 

0 Paula on Crazy Ex

Paula on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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.)

Amen.

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.

stainless steel kitchen

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?

hmm

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?

Happy Housewife

hmm

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?

Even impossible neat Jerry Seinfeld had stuff on his fridge. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Even impossibly neat Jerry Seinfeld had stuff on his fridge. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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.

hmm

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.

hmm

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?

Seriously?

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.)

Double Sinks In The Master Bath, Part II

Christmas vacation

I recently had a vacation with the extended family.  We rented a big house during the off-season at a resort area — so cheap. My family took pity on me because I had been unwell lately and because I currently live in a home with only one bathroom that I share with my five kids, though one is away at school.

So even though I don’t have a “Master,” per se  (gag me),  they let me have one of the master bedrooms.  This  meant I had my very own bathroom.

 

Heaven on Earth

My very own bathroom. It was a thing of beauty.  It had a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower, a private water closet and — space! I could dance in my bathroom.  I briefly considered holding some sort of meeting there.  It had more floor space than my current family room has.  Plus, I didn’t have to make an announcement before I showered in case others had to use the bathroom first and I didn’t have to use the bathroom quickly before someone else took a shower.   For a week, I didn’t have to wade my way through acne products on the sink and teen clothes left on the floor.

My glorious bathroom also had double sinks.  I’ve discussed the double sink thing before, at Double Sinks in the Master Bath –Must We Have them, Really?  One of the problematic issues about them being standard in new construction is the fact that not everyone is coupled up.  The sinks are kind of a throw-back to the assumption that the heads of the households — the ones who deserve the best rooms — are always a couple.

Now, I loved having my own bathroom for a week.   I am not complaining.  It was an indulgence I’m sure many have on a daily basis, but for me?  I was living like a queen, albeit temporarily.  Still, I felt slightly silly in this bathroom.  It may have been the double sinks.  This was a bathroom built for two.  Every time I went to wash my hands or brush my teeth or wash my face, it reminded me, ever so subtly,  that I am single, occupying this space meant for a couple.   The suite also had a king sized bed, and I have to admit that, after all these years, I’m still sleeping on “my side of the bed.”

Whatever.

I took turns using first one sink and then the other so that neither one would feel left out.  (That’s my throw-back to having twins. Keep it equal as much as I can, in an effort to keep them out of therapy.) Inexplicably, I also locked the door to the water closet when I was in there.  I guess I didn’t want my non-existent ghost husband to walk in on me when nature called as he breezed in to shave over “his” sink.

From "The Others"  but was her husband real?

From “The Others” but was her husband real?

Oh wait, no one was going to use that other sink.

I was the master of my bathroom domain.

Elaine, from Seinfeld

Elaine, from Seinfeld

Oh well.   I loved having this huge bathroom all to myself for a vacation, but if I had actually purchased a home with double sinks that I’d have to look at day in and out? That would kind of piss me off. Contractors, realtors, HGTV  — take note.

The master bath also came with two sets of towels — I guess for my invisible ghost man.

I used those, too.

Just Me With . . . one shower, one bathtub, one toilet, TWO sinks and a bunch of towels — Just For Me. 

Double Sinks in the Mast Bath — Must We Have Them?  Really? 

An Argument Against the Open Floor Plan

Still Sleeping on My Side of the Bed

Double Sinks in the Master Bath – Must We Have Them? Really? Part I

Double Sinks in the Master Bath

Double Sinks in the Master Bath

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.

Carrie's bathroom in Sex and The City

Carrie’s bathroom in Sex and The City

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.

Dude shaving.  I honestly don't see a problem with seeing this in my bathroom, but I digress . . .

Dude shaving. I honestly don’t see a problem with seeing this in my bathroom, but I digress . . .

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?

Anybody?

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.”

Barney's Bedroom in

Barney’s Bedroom in “How I Met Your Mother” Season 2. Barney would never stand for two sinks. Never.

The Solution? 

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.

New Construction

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.

Sunny Von Bulow's private bath, as depicted in the film,

Sunny Von Bulow’s private bath, as depicted in the film, “Reversal of Fortune.” Mr. Von Bulow described it as her sanctuary. She’d spend hours in there, especially after being drugged with insulin . . . but I digress.

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!

Aw, let the kids wash up together!

Aw, let the kids wash up together!

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.

See also:

Double Sinks in the Master Bath, Part II

An Argument Against the Open Floor Plan

and How to Unclog a Toilet While Under Sedation

Goodbye Hoarders

A&E's Hoarders

A&E’s Hoarders

It was with a heavy heart that I heard confirmation that the A&E reality show “Hoarders” would not be filming new shows.   Hoarders has been cancelled.

Having purchased a partially hoarded house I found some comfort in Hoarders, which profiled one or two homes an episode and “cleaned house” with the help of Psychologists, professional cleaning crews and the hoarder him or herself.

I know that some folks complained that the home owners were being exploited and objectified for entertainment, since audiences seemed simultaneously to enjoy and be disgusted by seeing the filth and mountains of mess (and sometimes poop).  It seemed to me that the hoarders were getting help that they would not have otherwise received and  were the better for it. The crew never laughed at or belittled the hoarders, instead they just tried to convince the hoarders that something had to change.  Getting rid of the hoard was always a safety and mental health issue, and usually a financial necessity.   Yes, it was a television show, but it wasn’t just about entertainment.

As for me, I found some brethren. I was not aware of the show while I was cleaning the worst of the worst out of my new house, a friend told me about it and said I should watch.   When I did, I found that  the shows  gave me comfort.

Comfort you ask?  Among the piles of wet papers and rotten food?

Yes, comfort.  Because until I saw Hoarders I didn’t know that I was not alone in stumbling upon a collection of bottles of urine.   Hoarders showed me that  people other than the former inhabitants of my house have found themselves at a point in life where the kitchen is as likely a place to dispose of  human waste as the bathroom.  In Hoarders I saw how, like with my house,  a home’s smell can make visitors gag while the inhabitants remain completely unaware of the stench.   And at the end of each episode of Hoarders, I was amazed at how the hoarded houses looked after they were cleaned out, and it reminded me of how far my house had come.

So yes, comfort.

Now, as I help my parents clear out some of the decades of accumulated clutter in their house, I find myself using the techniques I viewed on Hoarders.     I’ve learned to understand how so many things can simply be piled up —  unused or incorrectly stored.    My parents are not clinical Hoarders, and their house is still functional and the front rooms pristine.   However, the private areas and attic and basement are full, and unsafe.   My parents are like a lot of true hoarders in that  they are old and  grew up with next to nothing.  Though my parents went to college, married, had children and bought a home, they were never wealthy.     And they never moved.   As a result, decades of stuff has never been relocated or inventoried.

My parents, and their parents before them, lived through some of the most economically and socially challenging times in United States history — the Wars, the Depression, the time both before and after the civil rights movement.    I think they grew up with an underlying worry that they could lose what they have at any given moment, or that someone would  try to steal it from them.  So, like some of the clients on Hoarders, they ascribe value to things that no one would buy, and by piling up mountains of stuff, they endanger the most valuable possession they have —  their house.

The show Hoarders helped me to know that even the most unlikely item has a story, that sometimes the story  needs to be told before the item can be discarded, and that when the smallest treasure is exhumed from its grave of stuff, it triggers a memory — of a different time, a different place,  a different person.

As I help my parents clean out I have specifically utilized a few Hoarders tricks:

1. Lay out a tarp to place items on, they look different in the light of day.

2. When cleaning out a closet, dresser, or any area, I don’t stand there  and pull out items one at a time.  Instead, I  take everything out at once and set it all out,  assuring my parents that we’ll return the items they choose to keep, but we need to get everything out first.

I’ve learned it’s easier for most people to  justify keeping an unused item in a closet– it’s not hurting anybody — but it’s a lot harder to justify putting useless things back in once they’re out.

3. Try to do as much in one day or sitting as possible.  It’s never a good idea to allow extra time to think about items.

This was the genius of Hoarders.   It wasn’t  just for filming that the task had to be accomplished in two days.    It’s better for the hoarder to have to make quick decisions.

4. Remove discarded items immediately.

Even when possessions are marked for trash, there can be a “declutter remorse” if there is a bag or piece of furniture or appliances or tools left in view.  It’s just too tempting for someone with hoarding tendencies to revisit the trash, go through it and bring stuff back in,  promising to fix it, or find a use for it, or sell it — later.  I’ve been known to load my parents’ trash in my car and take it home to put out in my own trash, just to avoid the temptation to “trash pick.”

A&E’s Hoarders may be cancelled, but it has and will continue to help me.  Now, as I watch my Dad go through piles of once expensive clothing piece by piece, stuff  that’s over forty years old, suits that he has never worn and he probably  inherited, clothes that have mice dirt on them and moth holes in them, I think,

What would Matt Paxton do?” and I feel better.

And as I clear an area, making it easier for my parents to get around and find the things they  actually need, I know that no matter how hard the fight was,  the process is important, especially when it helps them locate and display —  or even sell —  the things that do have real value.    Plus, I feel better making the home safer.  But it ain’t easy.  No, it’s not.

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

So thanks Matt and the whole Hoarders crew. You helped. You really did.

Just Me With . . . among many other things, a collection of vintage Ebony and Look magazines, a couple of flat mice (but not cats!), a tractor, bowling shoes, and more patience than I thought I could ever conjure up.

Related Posts:

Piss, Puke, and Porn — The discoveries I made inside my new old house.

That Hoarders Smell — How to get rid of that awful smell.

Toilet or Kitchen Sink —- Who Can Tell?  —  I saw some nasty stuff in the old kitchen.

Exhumation by Accident — I dug up something in my yard.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

Mood Altering Paint Colors — Well, At Least That’s The Plan

Painting101_Lady-and-Paint_s4x3_al

I haven’t blogged in a while.  I’ve been painting.  Obsessively painting.  I wouldn’t quite call it manic on a clinical level, but yes, it had to be done.

Had to.

Be done.

Looking back, this has happened to me before.  I paint when something isn’t quite right.  The day after I had a miscarriage, I painted all of the hallway paneling in the old house.  I should have been resting.  I should have been crying.  Instead, I painted.

Then there was when my then husband went away on vacation with his club when we had many young children at home.  This, to me, was the perfect time to paint — everything– bold colors.  He came home to a purple kitchen, a hunter green eat in area and a bright sky blue play area.  I think I was jealous of his freedom, so, stuck at home, I changed my surroundings.  All while caring for multiple toddlers with open cans of paint around.  Perhaps not well-advised, but it had to be done.

Had to.

My Color Cry For Help!

My Color Cry For Help!

Later, after my husband left for good (or so I thought . . . but I digress . . . See Surveillance with My Mother and the When My Husband Moved Back Home — The Tale of Three Carries ) I  slapped beige paint over all of those colors in order to make my kaleidoscope house neutral for potential buyers.  My children didn’t help me at all.  They resented the change, hated  the beige.

We’re colorful people,” they said.

They were right.  We are colorful people,  but the HGTV gods told me I had to hide my crazy (Oops, I mean color).

Miranda Lambert, "Run and hide your crazy"  from the song Mama's Broken Hear

Miranda Lambert, “Run and hide your crazy” from the song Mama’s Broken Heart

Accordingly, all  the evidence of my color rebellion against my husband’s hobbies and freedom was –  neutralized.

Ready for Sale

Ready for Sale

I promised the children, however,  that when we moved to our new  house, we would bring color back.  As that little hoarders house smelled so badly, I painted right away, see That Hoarder’s Smell,  and I went bold: I had red living room, and the TV (family room) was a dark slate blue.

Not my house, but was my red.

Not my house, but was my red.

At one point I had an orange accent wall in my bedroom.

From the HP 033

The orange didn’t stay long, but it was there.

But lately, my little house had been pissing me off.  Well, everything has been pissing me off. The red was making me angry, I think. I’m already bitter, I don’t need to see red, literally. The dark blue was making me feel sad and closed in, like I was living in an elevator.

My home’s  overall darkness screamed despair and denial and hinted at failure, or maybe that was me . . .

Cell Block Tango, from Chicago

Cell Block Tango, from Chicago

I moved to this little hoarders’ house so that my kids could stay in the same schools.  I had to move, and it was all I could afford.  I was lucky to find it.   I’m fine with living small, but  I hate the neighborhood — which is on the lower end of the socio-economic scale — and it shows. Also, we are six tall people, and do our fair share of stepping over each other and our stuff.  But  I can’t move until they graduate, not even to a nearby neighborhood, unless there’s a big chunk of change in my near future. I’m still dealing with divorce debt.  Freedom ain’t free.

If I wanted to pull them out of school and move across country — well, I can’t do that either.  I’m divorced;  I’m not allowed to move without my ex-husband’s permission.  I’m stuck.

Parole Rejected, The Shawshank Redemption

Parole Rejected, The Shawshank Redemption

Until my youngest kids turn 18, my options are severely limited. Yes, I’m blessed to have a roof over my head, but sometimes it feels more incarceration than protection from the elements.

However, HGTV, the teachings of Feng Shui, and countless blogs suggest that if I change my surroundings I’ll change my life.

Meditation

I took a shot.

Had to.

So I’ve been painting, lightening up the color, lightening up my life.  It goes along with my constant search for non-medicinal treatments for anxiety and depression.

I have to say, the rooms do appear bigger, brighter, calmer.

Painting small rooms

Not my house, but similar room.

Still, I need color, so the plan is to get the color back through art and accessories.  That’s the plan anyway.

It’s a good plan.

Well, it was a good plan.

Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. An open floor plan with bright white and neutral decor couldn’t hide her crazy.

Now I’m on the other side of not quite clinically manic, back to the depressed side of things.  Suddenly I’m too tired.  I don’t feel like hanging my old pictures or scouring yard sales for something colorful, because, at the end of the day, I’ll still be here.  And whatever I do, someone  in my house will hate it and loudly voice his or her displeasure.    So why bother, right?

Shawshank Poster

It’s like hanging posters in a jail cell.  Sure, it helps, but the most important thing on the wall is the calendar, marking off the days until release.

Just Me With . . . a bright new look, but not complete.  Methinks the angry red and the crying blues are bleeding through a bit.   But, hell, I’m giving it a shot.

 Release date?  Sometime in 2017.

The Shawshank Redemption. Paroled.

The Shawshank Redemption. Paroled.

Paint, Interrupted — a DIY Surrender

I’m getting my house painted this week. I know I’ve written about painting it myself, describing how That Hoarders Smell  inside the house was so bad that it engulfed me even while I was painting outside.  So yeah, I painted the house already.

But I never finished.

I painted the front under the porch.  Then I stood on the porch roof to paint the second floor.  And, along with my nephew, I perched on scaffolding temporarily left by another contractor as I prepped, primed and painted the back of the house.

That left the sides, where the paint was peeling so badly  that barely brushing by it caused a snow flurry of dirty paint flakes, some big, some small, some lead-based, some not.

This is actually how Creepy Neighbor No.1’s House looks now. Mine was similar, worse.

So although usually one preps, primes and paints from the top down, I started from the bottom up, reasoning that since we were about to move into this house I didn’t want the children to be exposed to this peeling paint at eye level. The upper floors weren’t peeling or flaking as badly as the lower level and at least no one would be touching it.  So, for safety’s sake I tackled the first floor.   Well, safety and the fact that I could reach the lower level and paint it myself without scaffolding or big ladders that I didn’t own.

The top side sections, however,  have not been prepped, primed, or painted.

It’s tacky.  It’s been this way for over two years.

Two Toned Home

I had every intention of painting the rest of the house myself. A contractor friend even lent me some scaffolding and we put it up on one side of the house.  Then, well, stuff happened, and  I  changed and  eventually went off my meds, which gave me vertigo, poor equilibrium, extreme dizziness, and severe sensitivity to light.  I couldn’t even think about doing  it then.   My friend eventually took his scaffolding back, unused.

Since then I have struggled with my half-painted house. I struggled to find the energy to paint my house, struggled to find the motivation and money, struggled to conquer my newly developed fear of heights, that I will fall and lay broken and bleeding in my yard —and no one will know.

I’ve struggled.

And, I lost my Mojo.  I’d done so much work on this little Hoarders house. I’d tried to make it nice.  I did make it nice. But recently I’ve been feeling that no matter what I do to this house, which sits on a busy street and backs up onto the perimeter of an poor neighborhood, it will always be compared to the much larger marital home situated in a park-like setting. I don’t miss that home at all,  and selling that home was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made — that decision may be a subject of another post — but I don’t love where we are now, I tried . . .

  • I installed a stone patio and fire-pit for us to enjoy — that no one uses.
  • I partially finished the basement so that we’d have a place for the drums and could jam — but no one does.
  • I made a music room for lessons for students that are fewer and fewer in number each year.
  • I planted shrubs to give us some privacy — that died.
  • I bought a shed to house bicycles — that nobody rides.

But. . .  I never finished painting the house.  Perhaps part of me became comfortable with my half painted house. Maybe it was some sort of  admission of defeat.   The move been an adjustment, a difficult adjustment.  I’m not going pretend otherwise —  anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of my accomplishments with respect to this home and my family. I’m happy that we have a roof over our heads and that the kids didn’t have to change schools — which was the reason why I bought the little hoarders home in the first place.   And I know things could be a lot worse, and that things aren’t really that bad, or really bad at all.

Still, the unfinished paint job screams that there are still struggles in this home.

Anyone looking at it would  ask,

“Cute house.  But when is she going to finish painting it?”

Well, the answer is “Now.”  I’m borrowing from Peter to pay Paul to pay some Painters that gave me a good deal because one of my “Friends Without Benefits” told them to.

I’m waving the white flag in surrender.  I  will not finish painting the house myself.  But I will not  leave it partially  unpainted for another year as a shrine to my  failure to renovate our way into happiness —  or the land of denial.  I’ve got to think of resale value and protect my investment.  So, I’ve called in the professionals.

It is what it is.  And it has to get done.   At least it won’t look tacky anymore.

“Maybe it will lift my spirits,” I thought, as I’ve been feeling a bit blue lately.

And then, the universe threw me a bone.

The painters here are very nice guys.  Just now one of them stopped me and said,

“I don’t want you to get a big head or anything, but I gotta tell you . . .   you look just like Halle Berry.  Hasn’t anyone ever told you that?  Mike (the other painter) said it yesterday, too.  I’m a movie buff, so I would know.” 

Halle Berry or it is me? Ha ha!!

I have to say, I’m starting to feel a lot better about hiring these guys to paint my house.  A lot better.

Just Me With . . . a paint job in progress, in butter cream with hunter green trim, done expertly  by — my new best friends.

Postscript:   The painting is finished.  The house looks great, it really does, and just in time for Winter.

Sadly, one of my kids informed me that her friends told her that they aren’t allowed to come to our neighborhood, for fear they might get mugged.

Whatever.

 

Suck This! Mr. Dyson

James Dyson

I bought a new vacuum cleaner over the weekend.   The heavy-duty big fancy one I’d had at “The Marital Home” never worked as well as I’d liked and it was a mess to empty.  I tried to sell it at a garage sale and ended up just giving it away.  In my down-sizing frenzy for my small home, I bought a little stick , cordless, bag-less number that only worked a short while before dying in a corner, unloved, unused.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been sweeping my area rugs.

But I broke down and went to the store to get a vacuum cleaner this weekend because that’s how I roll.  Don’t be jealous, it was one of my more exciting outings lately, but I digress . . .

Once I arrived at the store I felt visually assaulted by the displays of the bright yellow Dyson vacuums.   You know, the state of the art industrially designed  models that cost between $300 and $700.    They are different from other vacuum cleaners because they have that fancy ball thingy — and maybe something new with the motor?  I don’t know, but  I bet they work like a dream.  They should for that amount of money.

I will never buy  a Dyson, however.  And it’s not because of the price (though I could/would not pay that much for a vacuum cleaner at this point in my life).

No, it’s because of the commercial, the first commercial that introduced the product and that  has always just pissed me off.   I’m not going to link it here because it still irks me.  If you know what I’m talking about you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The commercial features James Dyson himself with his gorgeous English accent, which to us Americans automatically makes him smart.  Well, according to the advertisement, Sir Dyson’s wife had asked him to vacuum.   Dutifully, he took out their vacuum cleaner —-  but he didn’t vacuum.  No, he examined the device and decided that it  had serious design flaws.  So instead of vacuuming,  he took their vacuum cleaner apart, analyzed it and eventually designed a prototype for a new vacuum cleaner to which he gave his name — the Dyson.

The rest is history.

Now,  the wife’s perspective.   Though I’m sure she’s reaping the benefits  of the Dyson vacuum cleaner’s wild success,  I think that on that day, in that  moment, she just wanted her husband to vacuum the freaking rug. That’s all.  Just vacuum.  No analysis necessary.  No deconstruction, no prototypes.  Just vacuum the freaking floor!!!!!

Imagine her surprise when she walked into the room and  instead of finding a clean floor she found her husband — on the floor — surrounded by  vacuum cleaner parts, dust and debris.  Anyone who has ever tried to take apart a vacuum cleaner knows that it makes a bloody mess. (Note the English vernacular? Yes?)

All that woman wanted was for her husband to vacuum the carpet. It’s a simple request.  But instead, he likely retired to the garage to begin to build his prototype for the best freaking vacuum cleaner ever invented, because what men and women — and his wife —  had been using for ages was woefully insufficient, malformed, mis-designed, inconvenient and just not up to par.

But for all of his superior, nay, grand design plans which revolutionized  carpet maintenance as we know it, Dyson did not vacuum the freaking floor when his wife asked him to!!!  Instead, he picked that moment to take their vacuum cleaner apart.

And we’re supposed to buy his Rolls Royce of vacuum cleaners?

What a pile of bollocks!

I say to Sir Dyson, I know you are brilliant, but:

Just freaking vacuum the floor.   Then, after you are done,  design your fancy, superior, super-expensive, ball-having, yellow vacuum cleaner.

That’s all  Dame Dyson wanted.  I don’t think she was asking for too much.

Just Me With . . . a Dirt Devil. 

Dirt Devil

Of course Mrs. Dyson can probably afford a golden vacuum cleaner and a maid and butler to do all of  her floors, but it’s the principle of the thing for me.

That Hoarders Smell

This Room Became My Girls’ Bedroom

The house I bought was not as bad as some of the houses you see on Hoarders, at least the whole house wasn’t.   But the third floor attic bedroom was as bad as those hoarders’ houses.  This is where the man who I call PissMan, his girlfriend and their cat (sans litter box) stayed.  The cat just relieved itself on all the stuff up there — clothes, cardboard boxes, etc.  I needed this room to be a bedroom for two of my kids.  It had to be completely transformed.

The master bedroom that became my room was the second worst. That is where the family matriarch stayed until she was confined to a hospital bed downstairs, and eventually passed away.  See What Happened In My House? Murder?   It was in  this room where at least one cat was confined with a litter box, sans litter.   This cat threw up a lot on the old hardwood floor.  Nobody cleaned it up.  Old hardwood floors –150 year old unmaintained hardwood floors–  have many cracks, they do not have thick coats of Polyurethane to repel liquid.  They act as sponges, soaking up whatever is dropped on them.  Cat urine, feces, canned food and cigarette ashes had been dropped on them and left there in the Summer months, with no air conditioning or adequate ventilation.

Enough said.

This house had been a house of smokers for many, many years.  The walls and ceilings had once been white but had turned a brownish-yellow.  So, underneath all of the animal and human excrement smells was the smell of years of cigarette smoke.  In addition, there had been some water damage in some of the rooms.

Notice the rug.

This added another smell —  wet plaster, wet rugs and mold.   Hmmm Hmmm Good!

Some rooms were worse than others as far as the hoard goes, but the whole house stunk.  The smell was bad, really bad.  It was so bad that I could smell it from the outside, while I was on the porch roof painting the exterior of the house with oil based paint.

Imagine — a beautiful  Spring day, being up high in the sunshine — flowers blooming, birds singing — yet I could still smell the inside of the house — and it was enough to make me nauseous —  and seriously question my decision to purchase that house.  What was I thinking?   (Well, I was thinking I had to move, I wanted to keep the kids in the same schools, and with five children and no money I had very little choice . . . but I digress . . . )

Paint fumes?  Not a problem.  Fumes from in the house?  Problem.

The smell is difficult to describe, but  I’ll try.   You know when a smell is so pungent that you begin to taste it?    Have you ever smelled a diaper after days in the trash, or after it has gotten wet?   Are you familiar with that  neglected service station bathroom smell?    Cat urine?  A litter box that hasn’t been  cleaned in  — months?  Well, that shouldn’t happen, but just imagine.  Adult human urine and feces?   Has anyone ever let milk or cream go bad — like until it gets lumpy? Let’s see what else — food.  The family cooked in a kitchen with absolutely no ventilation.   Oh yeah, and soap.  These people washed, but the usually comforting smell of soap just added to the soup of nastiness.  The home’s overall smell was sour and sweet and nauseating, stronger in some areas yet pervasively throughout everything.

It was nasty.

Eventually, however, the family who had lived there for four generations, left.   Five people,  two cats –at the time (previously there had been many more cats, I’m told, and various other pets.  The mom/grandmother loved her animals.  See Accidental Exhumation;  Be Careful For What You Dig For) plus  human urine, feces, trash, piss soaked carpet remnants  — all gone, though not in one trip.

Finally, the only thing left was their security deposit.   Given the items they tried to leave me,  i.e.  bottles of urine, and various other debris including used adult diapers and crack, yeah, I kept their money.

So they were gone.   Their stuff was gone.

The odor, however, remained — not surprising considering all the piss bottles and all.    See Piss, Puke and Porn.

The Obligatory Piss Picture

Damn, thinking back on all of this.  I can almost taste that smell again.   Ew.  

Anyway, the following is my public service announcement and my personal account of  how I got rid of   . . .

That Hoarders Smell:

Walls:

Hard scrubbed with good old-fashioned Pine Sol, barely diluted,  rinsed and wiped down with water, repeat.  Repeat until   layers of dirt and smoke were removed.  Spackle, sand.

Primed with oil-based primer.  This is the kind you cannot wash off with soap and water.  This is the hard stuff.  If you get it on your clothes, they are ruined.   If you get it on your skin or hair,   either suffer through washing with turpentine or paint remover, or wait until it wears off on its own.  The oil-based smell is strong.  A mask is required for safety.   Given the smells I was trying to eradicate, I welcomed the chemical smell of the paint, though, I admit.

Paint.  I bought the thickest (and unfortunately the most expensive) paint I could find.  Paint, repeat.  The walls  and ceilings required two coats of paint to deal with the smell and smoke stains.

Floors:

Scrape the cat feces and vomit, and tape residue (they used tape for many repairs),

Sand the floors (some floors I had professionally sanded, but taking off a layer of floor did not, unfortunately, take away the smell, it some areas it made it worse).

Seal the floor (and odors) by painting with oil based floor paint.  (The floors were in pretty bad shape, staining and them and covering them with clear polyurethane probably still would not make them look good, plus there was a time issue, since we had to move in immediately and therefore needed to be able to walk on the floors right away.)

All in all, smell removal was a huge process.     Though it was nice to choose wall colors for my new digs, my painting of every surface of the house had very little to do with decor.   No, my painting  had to do with odor control.  It had to be done.

Not surprisingly, now  I enjoy watching the show Hoarders on A&E, though I had never heard of it when I was cleaning  my house.   Watching now I’m never surprised when those Hoarders houses  get a fresh coat of paint.  It’s not a makeover, it’s a smellover.

Now?   Now my house smells good.  But it’s a freaking miracle.  A miracle brought about  by hard work and some angels, very extremely cool people who volunteered to help me.  A post dedicated to these folks is forthcoming.

Just Me With . . . no more smell, and  a sudden urge to clean.

Related, Goodbye Hoarders  — The television show Hoarders has been cancelled.

One of my daughters wants a cat.   I have nothing against cats, but after going through what I did to clean this house, I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  I don’t want to smell a litter box, even just to clean it.

My Love Affair with Dunkin’ Donuts’ Bathroom

I love Dunkin Donuts.   I know it’s just a chain of low-end Doughnut shops, but  I go to Dunkin Donuts every day.   The baked goods and food are not so great, but I do enjoy the coffee.    When I moved, downsized, left the marital home, whatever you want to call it — I began a relationship with Dunkin’ Donuts that was very personal.

When the old house sold, the new “old” house was still being remodeled.  “Remodeling” makes it sound so pretty and exciting — so HGTV-like.   It wasn’t.  It was more a combination of Hoarders, Clean House, DIY’s Renovation Realities and Jerry Springer.   Oh, it was an adventure, but it wasn’t pretty.   Some of the details of the renovation will be in other posts, but for this you need to know that the kitchen had already been demolished to the studs, see  Toilet or Kitchen Sink  —  Who Can Tell?  and the home’s only bathroom was under construction to allow for an over the tub shower and for my boy to be able to stand in front of the toilet — like a man.   The tub and sink had previously been removed, only the toilet remained, temporarily, which looked like this:  Did you notice the duct tape on the toilet seat?  Did ya?   Can you imagine the germ fest going on there?   Although at least one of the prior owners wasn’t even using the toilet regularly, see Piss Puke and Porn,  . . .  that toilet was more than nasty.  It was a bio-hazard. This picture was taken almost a year before I moved in, when the prior owners were still living there.   Yet when I moved in, the same duct tape was still on the toilet,   now covered in plaster dust and construction dirt which had stuck to the urine stains on the commode like a weird kind of sand art.  Ew!!

We moved into this mess –  in Summer — and it was hot.  Wait for it . . . we moved into a true

. . . wait for it. . .  hot mess!

But at least we had a toilet to flush, assuming we could use it without touching it.    I kept a bottle of hand sanitizer on a bucket in the “bathroom.”  This held us over until we could use the hose — outside.    Oh yes, and I forgot to mention that since the bathroom ceiling and roof were being raised, there was no overhead light.  A desk lamp plugged into the one working outlet gave us some light — because you  need to see in order to use a toilet without touching it.  You need to see — but not too much, not too much, not in that house.   We were seriously roughing it.

Two days after we moved in the disgusting toilet was removed.  I was slightly relieved, not realizing that a simple plumbing fixture could actually scare me so much.    But this left us with no indoor plumbing at all.   Huh.   But when the toilet was taken outside and I saw it in the light of day?   Well, no indoor plumbing became suddenly acceptable, preferable, actually.

Still, I wasn’t alone.   I do have five children.    One kid was thankfully going on vacation with another family for a week.  That left four.  Four kids with nowhere to wash themselves, wash clothes or prepare food.    And the four kids left were girls, so going behind a tree — not so easy.

I schlepped the girls to and from Grandma and Grandpa’s house, along with our laundry.  But my elderly parents  also have only one bathroom as well and were quite distraught over our living conditions.   They were distraught?  Imagine how I felt.    I had to downplay the situation to keep my parents (who are Olympic level worriers) and my kids calm.    I pretended this was not that big a deal.  I deserve an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. I don’t want a SAG award, because I can’t get over the sound of that . . . but I digress.

Of course the bathroom construction was behind, though I was given reassurances to the contrary.   And, let’s just say my funds were not liquid at the moment, which severely limited my options. (This may be subject of another post.)

Our “Bathroom,” mid-construction

While the kids were at the grandparents or other activities (which I kept them in, so as to maintain normalcy and give them a place to go — literally — ha!) I stayed and worked at the house.   Professionals were doing the bathroom but I needed to be around to supervise, and continue my round the clock cleaning and painting, see That Hoarder’s Smell, and also try to organize our belongings —which were stored in stacks of boxes that could not yet be unpacked.  Of course, there was no need to unpack the kitchen because, well, we didn’t have one.   In addition, the house was not yet secure — broken locks and doors — someone needed to be around.

My morning routine was as follows:

I would get up, roll into my clothes or keep on whatever I’d slept in (because so very few of my clothes were accessible to me) and head to Dunkin Donuts.

Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan

Walking in quickly and giving the very hip  “up” nod to the workers, who knew me as a regular, I would head directly to the bathroom where, in addition to the normal thing to do, I would wash my face, dry it with a paper towel, grab the toothbrush and paste stashed in my purse, and brush my teeth.  When I emerged my coffee was ready for me.   The largely Pakistani staff expected me, remembered my order, and never gave me a hard time about my frequent and prolonged bathroom visits — even when I had the kids with me and we did it as a group, waiting our turn, usually at night, which brings me to—

The night-time routine:

Okay, kids we need to go and use the bathroom for the last time before bed.  Get in the car.

And we went to . . .  Dunkin’ Donuts.  The folks there would often give us free doughnuts, too!  Plus I made friends with one worker even though there was a huge language barrier and I later helped her with a very personal  issue — again something for another post.

I almost forgot that at one point there was a “Potty in the Basement” provided by the plumbers  — really it was like  an adult-sized training potty, except with chemicals.   Yeah, that didn’t work too well either, partly because there was no light down there in the oil stained, crumbling stone basement, and partly because the contents of that potty needed to be dumped–  not after every use because of the chemicals, but regularly.   This meant carrying it up broken basement stairs, through the house and outside (walking a plank which extended from the  back door four feet down to the ground, no deck or stairs yet) and then dumping it into the sewer line.

That potty overflowed once in the house.  Ew. I just shuddered a little, thinking about it.  Ew.

Damn, I’ve been through some shit, literally, shit  . . .  but I digress . . .  and this post is getting long.

Even Gabrielle on  “Desperate Housewives” has welcomed a Port-A-Potty when plumbing failed.

Realizing the bathroom remodel was going to take longer than expected, and when I finally had funds available (back child support was finally paid, on the very last day listed on the court order), I arranged for a port-a-potty to be installed in the back yard.   After all, it was a construction site.

Oh the Port-A-Potty — it gave us another round of adventures . . . since it was Summer and my children were and are very afraid of bugs and the dark . . .

Anyway, this is how my love affair with Dunkin’ Donuts happened, it wasn’t just about the coffee.

Just Me With . . . a fully functional bathroom  — now — though  I still enjoy my morning coffee from my friends at Dunkin’ Donuts. 

“Time to make the . . . Doughnuts?”

See, “She Asked For My Help”  for the issue with my Pakistani friend.