Bees, mop instructions and other house adventures

cleaning


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.


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Homeowners

With keys


It’s all ours!

Spencer and I went to closing on our first home Friday and had the keys later that afternoon, which means . . . we’re homeowners! It’s still a little surreal, even after spending the entire weekend there scrubbing and vacuuming and Lysoling everything within sight.

Though the house is in great shape overall, like all homes that have been vacant for a while . . . well, it needed airing out.

And by “airing out,” I mean cleaning from top to bottom.

Cleaning. So much cleaning. I don’t think I’ve ever vacuumed so much in life. I knew the house was, um, bigger than our condo, but I didn’t have any concept of how much bigger until I was on my hands and knees wiping down baseboards, walls and floors.

And wiping out entire spider colonies. I . . . yeah.

My entire weekend, in fact, looked like this:


Vacuuming


With a hefty amount of this:


Pressure-washing


And though my arms are aching and my head is fuzzy this morning, I can’t believe how much progress we’ve made in just a few days. Friends came by Sunday to see the place and kindly offered to cut the grass as a housewarming gift (we have no lawn mower yet), and I was so grateful I could have cried! The grass was already about two feet high, and several new neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves and gently inquire about it.

Already with the grass wars. But it’s all right.

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s “our” house — I just don’t feel old enough? grown up enough? “wealthy” enough? to own property, but I guess that will fade with time. We certainly signed our lives away on Friday, so this baby is all ours.

There is so, so much to do — but I already feel better for having started the process. Spence is so handy, excited and on top of things, so I know all the basics will be covered.

In case you’re curious (and for posterity), some things we tackled this weekend:

• Scrubbed and power-washed exterior of house
• Took broken window in for repair
• Mopped kitchen and bathroom floors
• Scrubbed out all kitchen cabinets and drawers, plus sink
• Swept porch and deck
• Vacuumed all floors (can’t unsee that dirt and dust)
• Bissell-cleaned carpeting throughout house (ditto dirt)
• Cleaned two of four bathrooms (hadn’t the strength for others)
• Fixed wiring in office light fixture
• Moved a few boxes from condo, packed a few others

Not bad for two days’ work!

Thankfully the weather was gorgeous — mid-60s both days with plenty of sunshine, so we could open all the windows and let lots of fresh air in. Cleaning is also far more pleasant when you’re not sweating to death, and the temperate breezes kept Spence and I both happy. (Though we were still sweating. Kind of unavoidable.)

As much as I enjoyed whipping open all the windows, cleaning and daydreaming about our new space, I’ll admit to being a little relieved to go back to work this morning. Some sense of normalcy, you know?

And I don’t have to vacuum there. Already a huge plus.