As my sister-in-law handed over her cleaning supplies, I felt as if I had inherited Brooks Robinson’s mitt. I held the tools of a master, and couldn’t have felt less worthy.
Lynn runs a tight ship and never fears a white-glove test. So being chosen to inherit her cleaning supplies was an intimidating honor. It was like Stradivarius handing a beginner his violin, or Rodney Dangerfield having his accountant deliver the one-liners: “I told my wife, ‘If you would learn to clean, I could fire the maid.’ She said, ‘If you could learn to kiss, I could fire the chauffeur.’”
Lynn has decided to switch her household to an environmentally friendly line of cleaning products. I was chosen as the recipient of her old products not because I am a worthy heir, but because Lynn knows I like free stuff. And she also figures my bachelor pad could use a good scrubbing. Or so I assumed, upon seeing I had inherited a lifetime supply of tile cleanser and Brillo pads.
I had two thoughts as I lugged a gigantic box full of cleansers to my car trunk:
1. I should’ve worn a back brace.
2. This is my chance to turn my place Spic and Span.
I’m the first to admit I’m not exactly Mr. Clean. I like to keep my home relatively tidy, but deep cleaning is not my thing. I’ll scrub floors and wipe down walls every now and then, but come on ... there’s a ballgame on. And anyway, two minutes after I finish, my kids will have plastered the place in stickers, Pringles dust and a spill I can only hope is root beer.
Perhaps the chasm between Lynn’s approach and mine is best summed up by the following conversation we shared:
HER: What do you use to dust?
My inheritance presented an opportunity to step up my game. The last thing you want to do, upon donning Brooks Robinson’s mitt, is commit an error. But I quickly realized, upon placing my new items on shelves, that I have much to learn. Such as what half the stuff is used for.
I didn’t know, for example, that Windex makes a product specifically designed for polishing electronics. Or that it’s not weird to have three varieties of pre-wash stain removers in the laundry room. Oh, and did you know there’s such a thing as washing machine cleaner?
I’ve been using some of my new products. The after-shower spray helps keep the tub area mildew-free between scrubbings, and glasses have never come out of my dishwasher so spotless. But I don’t think my place is ready for inspection by my sister-in-law. You see, I haven’t yet broken out the furniture care kit or the carpet cleaner. But I probably should do so before that root beer slick congeals.
Thanks to Lynn, I’m stocked with anti-lime solutions, disinfecting wipes and enough bleach to cover up the scenes of several murders. Plus, I now own every Swiffer product on the market. Did you know they make a combination sandblaster/crock pot? Consumer warning: The casseroles come out a bit gritty.
Even after inheriting the master’s tools, I doubt I’ll ever be a housekeeper of Lynn’s caliber. One reason she is so thorough is that Lynn sees cleaning as a form of stress relief. This makes about as much sense to me as the biathlon. But to each her own. Some do yoga, some play the bongos, some scrub the kitchen floor until the grout begs for mercy.
I can’t stand a pigsty, but I’m not about to break my back scouring every crevice with an old toothbrush. Keep in mind, the only company I have is my two kids who mess the place up in the first place. Anyway, I have better ways to spend my time - and relieve stress - than cleaning. These include watching old baseball highlight reels on cable: Man, that Brooks Robinson was some kind of vacuum at third base.
Submit cleaning tips to firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also follow columnist Ben Bromley on Twitter at ben_bromley. A former Lillie Suburban Newspapers editor, he now writes for the Baraboo News Republic.