Bees, mop instructions and other house adventures


If you’ve ever wondered who could possibly need instructions for a mop, the answer is apparently yours truly.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have two kind, loving, giving parents who routinely . . . took care of things. Before I fall too far down the rabbit hole, please know that I am in no way suggesting Mom and Dad sent me into adulthood without, you know, basic life skills. They did not. I learned to drive, balance a checkbook, cook and generally act like a decent human being far before I got married.

What I didn’t learn to do? Clean.

Moving in with Spencer, I needed an immediate crash course in . . . how to scrub a toilet. Over the decades I lived at home, my mom routinely took care of bathroom cleaning. I helped out with lots of other chores, of course — vacuuming, most notably — but . . . well, the only time I can recall breaking out the toilet bowl cleaner was when Mom was ridiculously sick. Company was coming over, so.

I grew up in a household where, if you knew visitors were stopping by, your rump sprang into action. Vacuuming was the first line of defense. Now that friends are coming by to see the new house, I feel ridiculously self-conscious about our construction zone. Spencer keeps reminding me — lovingly, but firmly — that everyone knows we’re in the process of moving, and no one is judging us for having cleaning supplies and rags and water bottles on every conceivable surface.

And the dirt. The dirt.

Our week in California set us back a bit in terms of getting the new house ready for our move, but the break was certainly welcome — and worth it! And we’ve still squeezed in quite a bit of updating in the last few days. We got home on Saturday night and were back at it by Sunday afternoon (jet-lagged, cranky and all), and we’re trying to go by several nights a week to tackle small projects.

Mopping was one of them.

After filling a bucket with equal parts water and Lysol, my husband proffered our brand-new mop. He offered to clean the basement while I tackled the kitchen and, well, there are spiders in the basement, so okay.

I dipped the mop in the hot water. Moved it in swishing circles. Stared at the strips of fabric, now sodden and dark, before plopping the mop on the tile floor. Then I kind of . . . swirled it? Started dripping lemon-scented water on everything? But it didn’t seem quite right. Nothing was getting clean, that’s for sure.

Spencer popped back into the kitchen, ostensibly for a lukewarm drink (no fridge yet), and noticed my confusion. I knew something was off, but couldn’t figure out how I could mess up mopping. To his infinite credit, Spencer did not laugh . . . he simply took the mop from my grubby hands, showed me how to dip it in the water and twist the ringer piece so it’s not just soaking wet and weird, then gave me a crash course in scrubbing.

It was a humbling moment.

But I’m learning. Everything takes time. And if I was spoiled enough to not touch toilets back at my parents’ house, friends, know I’ve gotten my just desserts: imagine trying to clean four disgusting bathrooms in the new house you’ve just sold your soul to buy, cursing the heavens and wondering if you’ve made a colossal mistake. Not because you don’t love the house, but because you really would rather not touch the things you’re touching. Not even with gloves.

I’m being a wuss, I know. You might even be laughing at me. I mean, it’s just a bathroom; I’ll live. But it’s unpleasant.

(And we’ve actually decided to just replace the four toilets and move on. In addition to being gross and stained from standing water and goodness knows what else, two are actually cracked. There is no saving them. Better to start fresh.)

Living room

What else have we been up to? Ripping things out, for one. The stained, smelly carpet pictured above throughout the living room, up the stairs and into the hallway is no more: with the help of friends, Spencer pulled it up and removed nails from the subfloor. Together we vacuumed up all the dust and grime and began scheming our next move, which will involve hiring a professional to install carpet in the living room, guest room and possibly the master bedroom while Spence installs hardwood in the hallway and on the main staircase.

Should be interesting.

(Send margaritas.)

We’ve also installed knobs on some of the kitchen cabinets, so we can now open drawers like civilized people. Paint samples are on the walls of the master bedroom and the guest room, and we’re planning to start painting on Sunday. We also hope to have the flooring chosen by next week so we can get that ball rolling and I’d love to install some lights on the path outside, because nighttime is dark.

But the scariest thing? We’re in a war with bees. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty for fear of terrifying the more fearful of us (read: myself), but let’s just say a colony of honey bees has taken a liking to that cut-out alcove above the fireplace pictured above — outdoors, thank God — and started their honey production. We’re trying to either find someone to take the hive away or remove them ourselves with the help of a knowledgeable friend, especially since they’re occasionally flying into the house through a light fixture.

Bees. In the house.

I can’t.

Homeownership is already challenging so many of my lazy sensibilities . . . and I’ve learned tons, especially because my husband is patient enough to explain tasks to me. I don’t like playing the helpless-damsel-in-distress card, though it’s obvious that some jobs are just beyond my ken. (Also, I don’t like heights.)

But I’ve already wielded screwdrivers and hammers, crow bars and sanders. And I used a hose, too.

I think I like this?

I mean, minus the insects.

43 thoughts on “Bees, mop instructions and other house adventures

  1. My first couple of months in my new house was challenging, and that’s putting it mildly. Boy, oh boy, the amount of work going into maintaining a house! But I stopped worrying so much after a year. I realized that it didn’t matter. I can live with some dust or with misplaced items. Don’t worry, you’ll get there. Hang on! That photo you posted of your living room is gorgeous!


    • Thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement, Athira! I know we’re hardly the first people to tackle tricky home changes and, in the grand scheme of things, our renovations are relatively minor. It’s not like we’re knocking out walls or anything (yet). Still, I’m sure that, like you, I’ll settle into just letting things be for a while . . . and the misplaced items will make me crazy for a bit, but I’ll let that go as well! Phew.


  2. Bees in the house? Holy cow. I would panic. We battled these crazy giant ant thingys and I about freaked. I can’t imagine battling bees. Be brave dear! *hug*

    I hear ya on the dirty. It amazed me just how dirty a house can get during renovations. I have made respect for people who do new home cleanings for move ins now.


    • It was quite the scene, Juju — despite trying to put on my “brave face,” I wound up running upstairs to hide while Spencer got the bees out of the ceiling fan (shudder). I think he pushed them outside with a broom? I really don’t know. I’ll never ask the details. And yes on the dirt! The dust just never seems to end. I’m best friends with our Shop Vac now.


  3. Meg! I haven’t commented in foreve but this post called for it.

    I’m so proud of you!

    Honestly! For being able to admit where you feel you’re falling short, for sharing such honest we-all-have-them feelings of simply: “I can’t”. For expressing those totally normal moments of fear, being overwhelmed and wondering if you bit off more than you can chew.

    This is all to say you and Spencer are in the absolute thick of it right now and it WILL get better.

    Thanks always for your honesty, I love reading your little life updates! Keep doing what you’re doing–you’re doing great.


    • Thank you so very much for your sweet comment! It really made me smile — and I’m pretty sure I just sighed with relief. I keep telling myself it’ll get worse before it gets better, and then it will be awesome. Just have to keep soldiering through. Thank you again!


  4. Ha, this reminds me of how my father taught me to properly handle a broom. He kept telling me to sweep in the other direction and shaking his head in despair. =)
    And keep up the good work. I’m sure in the end all the hard work will be worth while. Really, I’m positive. You already have your prince, right? So all you need is to turn your home into your castle. πŸ˜‰


      • Hey, no one is born a master. My Dad taught me how to cook and clean, my Mum how to read and to darn socks. And how to properly operate the washing mashine ist still a mystery to me. =)


  5. Yes I laughed!! I’m now making sure my son knows how to mop. I think they really only know how,to use a swifter. I can’t wait to see more of your house. How long was it empty? I agree with the toilet issue, well at least the cracked ones. I’ve always said at least buy new seats if you move.


    • Mop knowledge is crucial, Anita! We think the house was empty for about two years, but we’re not entirely certain. It’s in pretty great shape for having been vacant, but definitely in need of some revamping! More pictures to come.


  6. I guess you have to think about how lovely it will be when you are done…when you can pop into Pottery Barn and buy something fun…something that doesn’t have anything to do with cleaning or repairing! Good move with getting new potties! That’s why we only buy new construction! Lol!


    • So true, Patty — I can’t wait for that day! I keep “joking” (read: not joking) that I’m really just holding strong with all the grunt work until I can buy vases and chairs and silly things. I’ve bought a few decor items already (mostly stuff we really do need, like curtains), but I’m saving most of that fun stuff for when we’ve really been living at the house and I can craft some sort of vision for the space. Look at me, pretending I know about home decor! πŸ˜‰


  7. Oh my goodness, I totally can relate! My mom was always a clean-freak growing up and kept the house spotless! When I went to college I realized how much hard work goes into keeping everything perfectly clean! After four years of college I’m (sort-of) getting the hang of it, but it certainly isn’t easy!!! I use a swifter wet-jet πŸ˜‰


    • I have a feeling a Swiffer is in our future, haha. Glad to know you can relate! Though we’re not neat freaks quite yet, this new house is going to require lots more upkeep than our condo — will have to get used to putting in the extra elbow grease.


  8. I’m dying that you didn’t know how to wring out a mop… and jealous that I’ve spent hours and hours of my childhood scrubbing toilets!!


    • Our future children will be doing manual labor, Sarah. Have to make sure those kiddos are prepared for the future and whatnot. πŸ˜‰


  9. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to homeownership! I had NO IDEA the amount of work it takes to maintain a home, inside and out. It’s never ending. And, oh, the insects. It wouldn’t be half as bad without all the spiders and bees and creepy crawlies.


    • I’d be totally happy if there were no bugs to contend with, Erin! They stress me out, but I’m learning to desensitize myself to the spiders and mosquitoes. I’ve learned so much in just the last month; I can’t imagine all the knowledge I’ll have gained a year from now!


    • That makes me feel better, Kim! I’ll confess that I haven’t actually mopped our current kitchen floor in the condo, but I do wipe it down fairly frequently. Going to have to remedy that. πŸ™‚


  10. Truth – I’ve never really mopped either. Maybe once? But I did NOT do a good job. Also, the insects would do me in. Get those bees out of there ASAP!


    • The bees are at the top of my to-be-dealt-with list, but I have no clue how to actually rid our home of them! Totally leaving that one to Spencer, but poor Spence has a thousand things on his list. Eek!


  11. While I don’t own a home yet, I do rent one “of a certain age” so I know all about how these surprising things can pop up and really screw with you. Hello, terrible plumbing! Good luck with the battle of the bees!


  12. I can relate. So much. I detest cleaning the bathroom. It has created a bit of a problem with my flatmates (they’re too nice to nag, but I know they’re thinking it.)


  13. Those fresh doors in the above picture are SO beautiful! Wow, that natural lighting must be amazing.

    If I lived closer, I’d head over and scrub your toilets, haha. As odd as that sounds, I started being responsible for all household cleaning before I was 10 years old. I can make a bathroom sparkle in under 10 minutes. Trust me, it gets better with time πŸ™‚ You’ll find a little cleaning routine + rock through it! Good luck with all the cleaning!


  14. Girl, I hear you. It’s going to be a rude awakening for me when I move out and need to do all this stuff on my own. Like you, I helped out around the house, but for the most part, my parents took charge, so I know it’s going to be quite a journey learning all these crazy house tasks on my own. The house is absolutely beautiful! I’m loving these posts.


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