A Domestic Trilogy #3 — Home Improvements

I am currently in the process of denuding this house of all its flotsam and jetsam. Fifty-two years worth of accumulated papers, mementos, and tchotzkes have managed to gum up my life to such an extent that, like alter ego Tabitha Twitchett Danvers in Diary of A Mad Housewife, I lie awake nights roaming mentally from room to room rearranging, dusting, organizing, and cleansing. I’ve already burnt up one shredder after forcing it into overtime, and I’ve bought every large black plastic garbage bag that I can find. We are reassessing everything we own, and things are either being sold on eBay, brought to charities, or mailed to friends and family. Who needs stuff anymore? Certainly not I.


The positive side to all this is that one succeeds in slimming down one’s baggage; the negative side is that, once that baggage is done away with, you discover floors and storage space and walls that suddenly need drastic attention. Normally I’d spend a day off at the monastery over in St. Leo, or buying yarn, or reading, or napping; however, in light of the aforementioned improvements, here is a typical Day Off for me lately…

8:00 AM. Awake to the alarm, thinking instantly of To Do list on kitchen table. Lurch out of bed with Good Intentions; after stumbling around blindly inserting contact lenses and hearing aids, fall exhausted back into bed for another hour.

9:00 AM. De-gum contact lenses from eyeballs with tap water because you’re still out of solution; remove hearing aids prior to showering so as to avoid yet another lecture from ENT man. Notice grout around tub is in serious state of decay.

9:30 AM. Load car with bottled water; CD of obscure girl group non-hits; Jitterbug cell phone; and To Do list.

9:45 AM. Arrive at The Home Depot, and wonder aloud to self why “The” is necessary in store’s logo, when “The” is not used with Publix, Target, or Palmer’s Nursery. Congratulate self on high state of intellectual meandering at this early hour.

9:50 AM. Experience usual sense of inadequacy upon entering this mecca of hardware masculinity. Realize, once again, that I don’t know what half these things are, and whether or not my home needs them. Finnegan pins? Upindirts? Loddurs? It’s all Greek to me.

Upon finally locating bathroom fixture aisle, which is approximately six miles from the front entrance, I am faced with grout color choices: is grout White, Bright White, Off White, Ecru, Beige, Light Beige, Sand, or Greige? Have no idea. Choose tube of Off White, as everything in house is already slightly “off” due to budget constraints of 1980 builder’s market.

Dryer vent presents next challenge: do I want aluminum stretchy accordion-looking thingies, or white plastic stretchy thingies? Which is better? Floor help, up to now as thick as thieves, suddenly nowhere in sight. Choose aluminum stretchies, fondly recalling tin man costume from Wizard of Oz.  Sing “If I Only Had A Heart,” much to confusion of officious looking young lady in floor tiles, who materializes like succubus around next bend, laden with keys.

Electric aisle presents further choices: need new control for ceiling lights in kitchen– amperes, voltage, ohms… single, double… Beige or White or Sand face plate? Choose double grounded Clown motif, round nose on / off switch providing whimsical slant to late night refrigerator raids.

Having saved worst for last, it is time to choose new toilet seat. Choices are endless, and am amazed and chagrined at extent of human capacity for designing something that Nice People just don’t talk about. (Fondly remember Aunt Theresa, who bought softy toilet seat in 1960s… and then returned it years later when it had lost its spring.) Choose standard, non-skid model, one size fits all. Embarrasedly parade it through store to checkout counter.

12 PM. At home. Install toilet seat. Refrain from performing test drive. Apply bandaid to forehead thanks to wound incurred when raising head a bit too quickly after tightening plastic screws while in impossibly convoluted position. (Note to self: see if position ranks within hoary pages of Kama Sutra.)

12:30 PM. Apply a particularly neat line of caulk around tub and in odd places where original grout has come away. Stand back and admire work while accidentally stepping on tube of caulk. Find alcohol so as to remove caulk from floor, walls, new toilet seat, hands, bare feet, and hair.

2:00 PM. Have forgotten how hot attic becomes while baking under broiling sun; in fact, it is DAMN hot. Should not take too long however to affix dryer vent to roof exit, but takes considerably longer to extricate leg from hole created in attic floor when I slip off rafter and plunge halfway to China.

4:00 PM. Turn off breakers to entire house; replace kitchen switch plate effortlessly. Turn power back on. Sigh of relief– kitchen lights working again; unfortunately, gummy state of kitchen floor is brought into high relief. Hear commotion outside… neighbors gathered in court assessing current loss of power to all homes but mine. Smug remark on my part about paying one’s bill on time is met with stony silence. Creep back into house.

5:00 PM. Most definitely time to call it a day. House hums around me, contented and working like a Swiss watch. Will deal with hole in laundry room ceiling on another day, though I decide I rather like unobstructed view into attic above. Very minimalist, after all.


4 responses

  1. Tee hee. Love the 12:30 pm entry. I can just imagine doing that. In fact, the whole day gave me a chuckle! But hey, why the move to get rid of things when you have been the ultimate collector? What’s your motivation?

  2. I am so impressed that you actually remembered that you needed to grout once you left the shower. I have had it on a ‘to do’ list for 11 years. I praise you for your amazing accomplishments. I went to my ‘The’ Home Depot last weekend and became catatonic at the choices for Potting Soil. I panicked and bought four bags of the stuff closest to the exit.

  3. LOL!!!! Remember when you caulked up the hole on my kitchen counter because we had teeny tiny ants on Thanksgiving? YOU caulked, yet I had caulk on MY hands, MY floor, MY shirt, MY turkey!!! Good times. You should compile all these stories into a book. I bet it would sell! You will be the NEXT Erma Bombeck 🙂

  4. HYSTERICALLY funny post. Still waiting for you to come to my apartment to organize and clean. Sitting in the clutter patiently expecting your arrival soon.

    At least one of your chores didn’t involve fixing the a/c because *someone* who had to sleep on the very hot hurculean covered sofa was too hot and turned the a/c so high that the unit completely froze over. I’m just sayin’

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