For Philip, and his Hair
Oh, hey there and hello! If you’re here it means that you’ve got a cleaning disaster on your hands. Or maybe it means that you’ve decided it’s high time to learn how to keep your bedroom looking like it belongs to an adult, not a fourteen-year-old with a burning desire to assert your independence and irritate your mom with the power of stacks and stacks of clothes piled all about the place. Or maybe you, like me, just really, really love a gross story.
You’ve come to the right place.
In part, this is the right place because I know an awful lot about cleaning. I’m actually not entirely clear on how I got this way! I didn’t go to Clean Person University or anything, and as far as I know there’s no correspondence course one can take to learn how to mop a floor. I certainly don’t come from one of those families where homekeeping is a skill passed down from generation to generation. My parents forced The Double Helix on me, not “Hints from Heloise.”
I would have been happier with Heloise, had I been given that option.
I can’t tell you exactly how I got this way, because it’s a mystery on par with “Does God exist?” and “What are those Magic Erasers made of? Are they made of actual magic?” (melamine foam, actually). But I can tell you how it came to pass that I became a cleaning advice columnist, and I can also share a few stories that my friends told me when I asked them if they had any recollections of me as a clean person out in the wild. They did, it turned out. Do you want to hear those first? Sure you do.
I’m starting with this one from my friend Matt because you should know that my friends are wonderfully tolerant and also that wine factors prominently into our lives. I don’t want you thinking it’s all dish soap and no play for Jolie.
I usually serve you wine because I’m embarrassed to let you see the inside of my fridge and freezer. If you happen to open my fridge and/or freezer, you start pulling everything out and reorganizing the items in rows by size and frequency of use.
Who doesn’t do that, I ask you? (In my defense, Matt was the man of honor at my wedding. We’re close. It’s not like I just wander into the homes of any old acquaintance and start reorganizing their foodstuffs.) I will, however, chide my pals if I feel they need it, as in the case of my dear friend Dan.
You (lovingly) shouted, “Launder your dish towels!” at me during the Miss Advised screening at my old apartment.
He needed to be told! I did so lovingly! (And wow, I guess now you know that we watch really, truly terrible reality programming.) Speaking of loving acts of cleaning kindness, how about this one?
When I had serious sinus surgery, you cleaned my bathroom and kitchen from top to bottom while I was recovering! And you reassured me that if I bled on my sheets, we could tackle the stains with hydrogen peroxide! And then when I had to pull three feet of packing out of my face and I bled all over the bathroom, you cleaned it up so I wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that enormous quantities of blood were pouring out of my nose and all over my white bathroom!
If you need me, I’ll be shining my halo.
Speaking of my friends! It was another dear friend, Tyler Coates, who suggested to me that I ought to write a cleaning column. I thought he ought to round up a search party to go out looking for his mind, because he had clearly lost it. Fortunately, another friend, Edith Zimmerman, had just launched a new website, The Hairpin, and convinced me that Tyler’s idea was a great one and that I should write that column for her site. Which I did, and that was how I got into the business of giving cleaning advice.
While writing the column, I learned a whole heap more about cleaning, which is what happens when confronted with what I truly hope are unique disasters, like a boyfriend who leaves skid marks on six-hundred-thread-count Pratesi sheets, in that I hope they never happen to someone else. And now you get to benefit from all the time I spent visiting places like StonerForums.com to find out the best way to clean up after spilling bong water all over a carpet, more car buff discussion boards than I could possibly count, and a site called Urge and Merge for tips on getting silicone lube stains out of sheets. Don’t, by the way, visit Urge and Merge on your own. I’m a professional; leave that kind of dirty work to me.
In this book we’ll cover some basics and some not-so-basics. Both of which will be fun, I promise! The basics will be fun because once we’re done here, you’ll never again have to sit despondently looking at your only good pan that you’ve ruined (“ruined”—you didn’t ruin it! You just don’t yet know how to save it. But stick with me, kid, I’ve got you covered on that.) or a mop that you don’t know how to use (actually? Don’t bother learning. Mops are nasty and we’ll get into why and what the alternatives are). And, while it may not sound so fun now, it will be AWESOME the first time you have a disaster and realize that, “Wait a minute! I KNOW WHAT TO DO HERE! Oh my God, how did this happen?? THIS IS SO GREAT!”
As for the not-so-basics, well . . . hang on to your hats, and maybe also your lunch, because, oh yeah, we’ll talk about barf. Barf on the walls, barf on the pillows, barf on your clothes, and, yes, barf in your handbag.