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The Honey Do List

The War Against Domestic Grime is Chronicled on Our Refrigerator Door

By Jaq Greenspon

Back in my bachelor days, my sure-fire, no-way-to-miss-it rule for doing the dishes was when there were things growing on the plates in my sink. Granted, I tried not to let it get to that point, but, being a single guy, with more dishes in the cabinet than I could reasonably use, it seemed easier to just grab a fresh one than to wash the old. As I got older, and less single, I realized that was probably not the best plan of action.

So I learned how to wash up after myself, to wipe down the sink after I was done, and generally, to all appearances, I was a sanitary guy… but then again, my fridge was known as the “place food goes to die.” I’d just traded dirty plates for weeks old leftovers. When it would start to smell, or I’d run out of room, I’d clean it out and start the whole process over again.

Then I met my wife. She’s a clean freak (not a neat freak).When she originally moved in with me, one of her first tasks, self-appointed and gleefully assumed, was to clean out the tiny fridge in my apartment. She found a beer somewhere in the back, partially frozen by the uneven cooling mechanism.

“Can I throw this out?” she asked, ever thoughtful. “It’s expired.”

Now, I didn’t even know beer could expire but I was willing to take her word for it. I also knew that most expiration dates were kind of arbitrary and there was a good deal of leeway as to whether something was actually “bad” or not.

“When did it expire?” I asked back.

“What year is this?”

She tossed the beer. Then she proceeded to give my place the kind of deep cleaning usually reserved for new tenants. She would wipe away dust only she could see and break out the vacuum at the slightest hint of suctionable grime. We were at polar opposites on the “does it need to be cleaned” scale.

This got me thinking… maybe there were guidelines. Maybe I could convince her thrice a day toilet scrubbing was unnecessary while at the same time, I could learn that time between doing laundry and actually folding the clothes should be measured in hours and not geologically. So now, as we head into spring cleaning time, I figured I’d share what I’ve learned with you, in case there are other couples out there with the same disparity we have. Although I honestly hope not – the moss experiments which took place in my sink may have yielded good scientific results but they were rather gross.

Now some of these are going to seem pretty obvious (unless you’re a single guy in your early 20s living alone in Venice Beach) but we’ll go through them anyway:

So let’s start with the daily (or “as used”) cleaning necessities:

Counter tops – These should get wiped down daily. If you’re cooking, or eating, or just in general putting plates down, you want to make sure the grime and grit of daily life doesn’t get in the way. Along the same line, you’ll probably want to give the stove top a wipe down after each use.

Dishes – “If you ate, wash the plate” is a good mantra here. Could probably add in “washing the bowl is good for your soul” while “avoid the bugs, rinse the mugs” will cover your coffee and tea drinkers.

Showers – if you have a glass shower, that should be squeegeed after every use. You don’t want to let that soap scum build up; it’s always nice to be able to see through those clear walls. While you’re at it, even if you only have a shower curtain falling inside the bathtub (and yes, when you take a shower it should be inside the tub), you’re going to want to squeegee the walls and leave the curtain fully extended when you leave so it can dry.

Every few days and weekly chores:

Vacuuming – always a good thing and once every seven days is just about right. But while you’re getting all the dust, lint and dog hair off the floor, don’t forget the furniture. Those attachments aren’t just de facto coatracks. Nope, you can use them to get between the cushions, too. And you should, since it’s recommended to hoover your sitting and reclining areas just as much as your walking ones.

Bedding – Yeah, this is a nice weekly chore for a number of reasons. Not only is it more healthy to make sure you have clean sheets on a regular basis (you sweat at night, especially in Vegas, and there might be other bodily fluids soaked in) but changing sheets on Sunday nights gives you a nice, fresh start to the work week.

Kitchen – once a week or so, you should make sure to wipe down your appliances and clean out the fridge (this is one I needed to learn). Mopping the floor is also recommended every seven to fourteen days. The one item everyone seems to forget, though, is the microwave. In most American households, this is one of the primary appliances and yet we tend to forget about it during cleaning. I’m not talking about just wiping down the interior, although that’s a good start, but putting a glass of diluted vinegar inside and running the machine on high until the liquid mist coats everything. Wiping this away can clean a lot of deep grime which can affect taste. At the same time, use this opportunity to replace the sponges you’re using to clean the grime. If you do all your cleaning and then toss the sponge when you’re done, you start fresh for the week (do you see a pattern here?)

Bathroom – another one which needs to be done regularly is to wipe the surfaces in the bathroom. You don’t want to let too much time go by between cleanings. While you’re in there, you should probably give your shower a once over as well. Look up at the showerhead. Here’s the thing: with all the moisture, there’s bound to be bacteria building up inside there, and if it’s not bacteria, then mineral deposits are probably clogging some of the water delivery holes, which means they aren’t flowing or they’re diverting streams of water off into all sorts of random directions. Easiest way to clean it is a 1:2 mixture of baking soda to distilled vinegar, all mixed together in a sandwich bag and tied around the showerhead for an hour or so (or until it stops bubbling like a Yellowstone geyser). Run some hot water through it and you’re all set to be clean and fancy next time you shower. While you’re waiting though, would be a good time to look down: the drain probably needs to be cleaned of the hair and dirt which has a hard time vanishing.

Monthly chores:

Dust – Really, you’re probably going to do this in week by week stages, which will take a four-part cycle to complete. One week you do the living room, one week, the bedroom, etc. But in addition to general surfaces you see in front of you, don’t forget light fixtures and vents, or even the vertical blinds you picked up when they were trendy. A vacuum can help with this task – remember those attachments!

Dishwasher – If you have an actual machine (and not a husband with dishpan hands) a deep, solid clean is recommended about once a month. Like the shower head, mineral deposits can accumulate and soap scum may not completely rinse away. So some Wednesday night, run an empty dishwasher through a hot cycle, then clean it before it cools. You’ll have sparkling dishes in no time!

Washing Machine – now that we’re thinking about it…all the same things which can build up in your dishwasher are probably also building up in your washing machine, too. Once a month is about the right interval to rinse through the hoses and run an empty cycle to clean the insides.

Computer – You probably never even think about washing your computer, but you should. You really should. Think about: a lot of people eat lunch at their desk, or while surfing the web (you might even be eating while reading this online) and food crumbs can get into everything. Not to mention your fingers are all over the keyboard and who knows where those fingers have been? A cotton swab with just a wee bit of rubbing alcohol can do the trick.

And the rest…

Over the course of a year, there are plenty of other things which need to be cleaned, things we never think about. For example, I mentioned above you should be washing your sheets regularly, but do you ever think about washing your pillow? You should do that every six months or so. You should also do a deep clean of your oven and fridge every six months, beyond the weekly wipe downs.

Actually moving the furniture to get behind and under it is something which needs to happen about twice a year. While they’re moved, you might want to do a deep clean of the carpets as well. Rent one of those machines from the supermarket – it’ll give your carpets extended life.

A nice spring/autumn activity, in case you don’t want to head outside when the temperature is a bit cold, is to was the inside garbage cans. Even with plastic bag liners, they can still get grimy and gross, so twice a year, show them some love.

If you have a fireplace, you already know this, but once a year, preferably before winter, is a good time to clear the flu and make sure the chimney is clean and the grates are swept (you can probably get one of the kids to do it if you tell them it’s Dick van Dyke cosplay). You should make sure the gutters are clean while you’re it (in fact, twice a year is probably good for the gutters, heading out of autumn and heading into spring will keep them flowing free).

And if you do have young children, don’t forget the toy box. That’s a hideout for germs and other nasty things so a few times a year, it should be completely emptied and hosed down. Sell it to the kids as a treasure hunt – they never know what might be lurking at the bottom.

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