Climbing Mount Washmore

So there I was, minding my own business, when I heard the washing machine cry for help.

Phillip had taken it upon himself to load the poor old thing down with his most giant shawl-collared shaker knit wool sweater (yes, I DID ask if he forgot who he was married to), jeans, towels, and, I think, a buffalo robe. 

Not that I knew this. Yet. When the noise (death rattle) started, Phillip ran upstairs to see what was going on. I sensed a disturbance in the Force, but knit on, hoping for denial to take hold.

To his credit, Phillip did all he could to diagnose the washing machine's malady, and after an hour or so of alternating internet searches, user manual, and trial and error, he pronounced the washer sick/possibly dead. 

I grudgingly went upstairs to assess the situation for myself, by which time Phillip had started the dryer and retreated to parts unknown. At about the same time I realized he'd become scarce, several things began to eminate from the dryer:

1.    High-Pitched Screeching

2.    Acrid Smoke

3.    WATER

There is no description for the range of feelings you have when there is WATER pouring out of your dryer, but my first clear thought was this: My husband is trying to kill me and make it look like an accident. That has to be what is happening, because nobody in the world would put SOPPING WET laundry (washer quit before the spin cycle) directly into the dryer.

Lucky for me, our electrical panel is right in the laundry room. With a clarity of purpose brought on by adrenaline, I threw the breaker for the dryer, shutting it off. With smoke still pouring out the back of the machine, I waded into the puddle which had formed in front of the dryer.  I took a cleansing breath and opened the dryer door, at which time several things began to pour out:

1.    WATER

2.    Bad language

3.    REALLY bad language

Phillip reappeared, asking innocently what the ruckus was about. While he did admit that overloading the washing machine was probably a bad move, and washing a wool sweater was an extremely bad move, he honestly could not conceive of how filling an electric dryer with several gallons of water might be a problem. He assured me that the dryer would be fine if only I would (I swear I am not making this up) "Let it rest for a while". Right. Because everyone knows that major appliances can regenerate, if you just let them REST.

I told him the toaster was looking stressed and probably would enjoy taking a bath with him. It may not have been my finest moment. 

I am convinced that the fact that I thought to throw the breaker is the only reason I didn't get electrocuted. And I just keep imagining the story turning up in the Darwin Awards, and everybody thinking it was ME who was a laundry-impared dumbass.

Next we went to the appliance store and opened up a vein. The good news was that for the low low price of exactly all of our money, the nice man there hooked me up with an extremely sexy new top-loader, with a gigantic load capacity. And an equally sexy matching dryer. The bad news was that this was a Sunday, and they couldn't deliver the new machines (or haul off the carcasses of the old ones) until Wednesday. Which meant that in addition to having our fragile laundry "system" completely crushed, I would also have to do some work in the laundry room that I've been cleverly avoiding for nine years. I'd never forgive myself if I didn't take the opportunity to replace the torn crappy vinyl flooring in there, and paint the walls. How often do you get two whole days with no machines in the laundry room? Never. There was no getting out of it, so we moved the washer and dryer into the only nearby open space: Our Bedroom floor. Super convenient! Operation Relentless Dustbin kicked into high gear.

Since I was doing all the work (No thanks, Dear; You've done enough already), I decided it would be okay if I got a little self-indulgent. After all, I am the primary occupant of the laundry room, and I think I deserve to finally have it reflect my personal style. And for that matter, since I don't have any other room in the house to call my own, I made the paradigm shift to take charge of the space, rather than dreading going in there. I asked myself what really has been my worst problem with the laundry room, aside from the way people are always putting dirty clothes in there. That was it, really: I have never had a good way of dealing with the heaps of staged washing that four people and two dogs generate. 

With the help of Campbell (who is fantastic at imagining things that don't exist yet), I brainstormed about it, and decided that what we really needed was a way to wall-mount a bunch of baskets, next to the washer. Once that solution clicked into place, I was off and running. Here's what I did:

My Vertical Laundry Basket Dresser

My Vertical Laundry Basket Dresser

Tension-mounted shelving from IKEA can be easily removed if the machines ever need to move. God help me. The new baskets from Target are labeled by color, so the dirty incoming laundry can be sorted by those who are dropping off. Ever notice how laundry bins are only ever labeled "Lights" and "Darks"? Lame. I sort the colors like this: White, Black, Blue, Tan, Red.

And speaking of color, the paint is "Charisma" from Sherwin Williams, which I love, and Phillip was smart enough not to share his opinion of. I also used up the remainder of the vinyl flooring which I used in the bathrooms. And while I was at it, I painted the cabinets, replaced the knobs and the hideous florescent light fixture with this one, installed the new and improved lost-mate-sock holding pen, and even added this little number:


Finally! A place to hang up the things that shouldn't go in the dryer (sopping wet buffalo robes notwithstanding). And because I know you'll ask, the little framed sign says this:

So even though it started with a catastrophe, I think I finally managed to land butter-side-up. And it's a good thing my sexy new machines are so much larger than the old ones.

I might need a place to hide the body.

Careful what you wish for

Operation Relentless Dustbin continues! My kitchen, surprising nobody, contains some of the scariest drawers and cabinets in the house. I go back and forth between terror ("No, not the tupperware cabinet, no!") and denial ("It's only revolting if I open the doors...").

By way of self-motivation, I asked myself this question: 

If I could pick the worst cabinet in the whole kitchen, only one, and have someone else do it, which one would it be? Answer: The Undersink. I would seriously love not to tackle that cabinet. Like, ever. I wish someone would, though, because it's totally the worst. Every time I open it, I completely gross out. I can't find anything, it's crammed full of the filthy and the useless, and maybe I'm imagining it, but it kinda smells weird, too.

So with my Big Girl Pants firmly on, I decided to give myself the gift of not hating the Undersink cabinet. I dug around until I found my rubber gloves, which helped a lot, and emptied the whole mess out onto the kitchen floor.

And that's when I found out that the smell was not imaginary. Underneath the groaning heap of cleaning clensers, spent sponges and bent brushes, all hell had broken loose:

Yep. My sink had developed a leak, which the particle-board floor of the cabinet could not withstand. I sopped up a smelly, 3" deep puddle from the now-concave cabinet floor. The particle board was about as structurally sound as a brownie, and far less appealing. I did what any stout-hearted and powerful person would do: I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. And then I called the plumber.

And while I waited for him to arrive, there was nothing to do but start de-junking. I filled an entire laundry basket with empty cleaning containers for recycling. And then I wiped and dried the flood dreck from all of the containers I was keeping.  There is something surreal about cleaning the outside of your Windex bottle with Formula 409. Just saying.

But by the time the plumber came, I was done cleaning, and done (mostly) feeling sorry for myself for living in a house plagued by plumbing emergencies. The adorable Vitaly (from Ukraine, whose wife who wants to learn how to knit!) replaced my failed plastic drain with a shiny new metal one. He asked me to explain the different kinds of knitting needles to him, which I was happy to do. I taught him how some knitting is flat, and some knitting is tubular. And then I completely blew his mind by showing him how knitted tubes intersect just like plumbing pipes. We totally understood each other.

Once the sink was fixed, there was nothing for it but to demolish the soaked cabinet bottom. Which I did easily, with the aid of a butter knife. The subfloor underneath the cabinet (also particle board), is of course, swollen from the water damage, but after a couple of days with a fan blowing on it, I decided it was dry enough to move back into. And other than to quit crying, here is the only clever thing I did:

Sink Flood 2.JPG

I hung up all the remaining spray bottles on a tension rod. Not an original idea, mind you, but a pretty good one. And having been reunited with my groovy hot pink rubber gloves, I installed a clothespin to appoint them a permanent place of honor.

Am I glad that I had the guts to face my Undersink cabinet fear before the whole kitchen washed away? Of course. Do I wish I'd never looked in there at all? Damn straight. But I think I can safely say the bar is now set for scary cabinets. I doubt I'll find a more disgusting, expensive, enthusiasm-dampening hellscape anywhere else in my house.

O God, I hope not.

Economy Size

You know what's hard about living in a small house?  Stocking Up.  As the child of two Great Depression survivors, I was raised to believe that one should keep things on hand in quantity, whenever possible.  Cough-HOARD-Cough the important stuff, because you never know what's coming.  But space is at such a premium in my house that I've never felt I was doing a very good job in that arena.

Case in point: Bath Tissue. We run out all the time. Not just on a per-bathroom basis; I'm talking whole-house dearth. It's not uncommon to hear one of us yelling to anyone in range "Which bathroom is the roll in?!?" Pathetic. I blame myself, of course. It's not that I have far to go to get to the store. It's not that I'm unaware of the fact that the four of us run through it at a prodigious rate. It's not even that I mind buying it. I just can't seem to think of it when I'm at the store. So by the time the bath tissue situation reaches the red zone, I find myself in the paper aisle of the store, in an unreasonable hurry to get the goods and get back home.

It's in those soul-crushing moments that I have wished, O have I wished, that I had room to store the biggest collection of bath tissue imaginable. But then I remind myself, there is only space for 6 rolls on the bottom shelf of the bathroom linen closet. So that's what I get, promising myself to remember sooner next time. Maybe I can invent a Bath Tissue Gauge that lights up like the one on my car's dashboard when the gas is getting low. An Idiot Light for the bathroom...or something.

But now that I'm deeply imbedded in a personal war on clutter, something incredible has happened. You may recall that I have challenged myself to empty, de-junk and reorganize one drawer, shelf, or basket every day. In the great military tradition of giving wars motivational names, I've dubbed this endeavor "Operation Relentless Dustbin". And it's going surprisingly well.

The other morning, Phillip watched in genuine amazement as I de-barfed one of our 3 (okay, 8) kitchen junk drawers. "Why do we have three melon ballers?", I asked him. "What's a melon baller?" he answered. I'm not really confident he's clear on the concept of melon, but I kept one and jettisoned the others. The drawer was done before the coffee. My spouse was deeply impressed. Not enough to offer to enlist in my fight, you understand, but hey, baby steps.

So pumped by my husband's encouragement was I that the next day, I tackled the bottom shelf of the bathroom linen closet. Where the bath tissue lives, when we have any. And do you know what I found?

A 24-in square cardboard box, hogging up most of the room on the bath tissue shelf. How had I never noticed this before? What could be in there, that is so precious to us that we have never disturbed its slumber, even at the expense of adequate basic supplies?

Stuff, it turned out, that I remembered packing TWO HOUSES AGO. That box was a time capsule of our bathroom, circa 2005.  Yep. And a lot of it was actual trash. I must have packed it at the end of the move, when all perspective had been lost. So all this time, I've been living in Insufficient Bath Tissue Hell, in order to devote space to a box I did not know was there, full of crap I did not need.

It will surprise none of you that I ended up cleaning all of the shelves in the closet that day. Like Sherman on his march to the sea, I left nothing behind but scorched earth. And then guess what I did? Yep. I went to the store and procured the Mother Lode of bath tissue.

How's Operation Relentless Dustbin going for you? Care to enlist?