…but what of those times your wife abandons you for an extended period – three, five, seven days, perhaps longer? Most of us can feed and clean ourselves in a crude fashion, but a week of living alone in a typical home will require more self-maintenance than that.
Domestic maintenance tips
Gentlemen, on those rare occasions your wife goes on a week-long vacation and you are left home alone, you must accept a harsh reality: you are in charge of housework. Not just carrying out instructions to do the minor and uncomplicated chores of the cohabited home, but taking responsibility for all aspects of domestic maintenance from assessment to planning to visualization to execution. This is a frightening and intimidating situation for us, and so after a recent eight-day bout of faux bachelorhood I have jotted down several helpful suggestions for other men who may find themselves in this predicament.
Reading this, you protest that you frequently do household chores. Well, yes, you probably wash the car and mow the lawn and trim the shrubbery and may even sweep off the porch and deck once in a while, but you need to do a bit of soul searching and admit that you seldom take part in any of the truly important duties such as cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, laundering, and of course the much-dreaded bathroom scrubbing. Outside the house we are as valuable and skilled as a 19th century Russian serf, but inside we are little more than clumsy gorillas in a gilded cage.
Gorillas can be taught to perform a limited number of human-like functions, of course, and our wives have trained us to do several clever and helpful tasks. In the normal state of affairs we are capable of taking out the trash, washing dishes, sweeping floors, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, and even (if my memory is correct) feeding and caring for children and/or dogs. But this is all done under supervision of our trainers, responding to verbal commands, gestures, and facial expressions, and aided by lists and pages of instruction left in prominent view on the kitchen counter. Left to our own devices we are prone to sit in the corner of the cage and play with toys.
That may be well and good when you have a spouse nearby to monitor your activities and encourage you to do something useful and productive each day, but what of those times she abandons you for an extended period – three, five, seven days, perhaps longer? Most of us can feed and clean ourselves in a crude fashion, but a week of living alone in a typical home will require more self-maintenance than that.
I will assume you know the fundamentals of bachelor survival: how to use a microwave oven and coffee maker, operate a washing machine and a vacuum cleaner, locate the kitchen drawer that holds the bottle opener and other utensils, understand that meat and dairy products must be refrigerated, the hot water spigot is the one on the left, and the phone numbers of the fire department and emergency medical service are taped to the side of the refrigerator, etc. The following tips are intended to enhance that basic knowledge and make your time alone at home easier and more pleasant. These tips are listed in order of my priority, but yours may be different. My only caution is to follow, without fail, all of the suggestions that include the phrase “before your wife returns.”
Domestic maintenance tips
- If you don’t use it, you don’t have to clean it. One pan should be all you need for a week of meal preparations. Polish sausage can be boiled satisfactorily right in the same pan with the tomato soup, for example.
- If you don’t take it out, you don’t have to put it away. One plate, one cup, one glass one set of tableware, one napkin. It is permissible to use two chilled beer mugs because one must always be kept ready for emergencies.
- The smaller the living area, the easier it is to maintain. Close off the upstairs and one bathroom; limit yourself to the living room and kitchen. If you sleep on the couch in a sleeping bag, you will not have to make-up the bed.
- If you do not wear it, you do not have to wash it. Within reason, a single outfit of clothes should be good for a week before washing. Spills, falls, and muddy dogs may force you to change into a second set.
- Check the mouse traps in the garage every day.
- Turn the thermostat down so the forced air system will not blow so much dust all over the place.
- While under the enchantment of your favorite classic rock music CD and a third beer, do not succumb to the temptation to smoke a cigar in the house or in your wife’s car. If you violate this rule, your only recourse will be to run the car over a cliff into a deep lake and set fire to the house.
- Do not accept invitations to any social events because you will have to attend to personal hygiene and change your clothes, which violates the spirit of rule No. 4.
- Put all empty beer bottles and pizza boxes in the recycling bin 48 hours before your wife returns. A shorter period of time is not sufficient because both sour beer and stale pizza leave a telltale odor that persists for 36-40 hours.
- Vacuum all floors and scrub the kitchen and bathrooms (yes, the toilets, too) one day before your wife returns. If you have observed rules No. 1, 4 and 8, this will require very little effort. Do not pour a dash of bleach into the bucket of soapy water and attempt a mop-and-slosh cleaning because this will create a public restroom scent that your wife will detect immediately and alert her to the fact that the kitchen and bathroom cleaning chores were done in a perfunctory fashion.
- Count out the exact number of pills/doses of your medications that the prescriptions call for you to take over the days your spouse is gone. Consume them, throw them away, burn them, flush them down the toilet – whatever – but do not leave them lying around where it will be obvious that you have forgotten to take them.
- Smear a small amount of salad dressing on the inside of a bowl, mix with a few shreds of lettuce and other fresh vegetables, drop in a salad fork, and leave it in the kitchen sink. Some crumbs from rice crackers are okay, too, but don’t overdo it.
- Do a load of laundry. If you have followed all the rules, you can fit a week’s laundry into one load. Set the washing machine’s water temperature controls on Cold/Cold, just in case you forgot that you put a pair of brand new, bright red, wool boot socks in the hamper.
- Empty the compost container and take out the trash from under the kitchen sink.
- Take out the trash from the bathrooms.
- Check to make sure you have taken out all the trash.
Some households may require more duties – watering plants and feeding fish or other passive pets, for example – but rare is the wife who would be gone for more than a few days without leaving precise written instructions for these. Lastly, remember that you will undoubtedly fail to do (or even take notice of) some crucial household chore. Do not be overly concerned about this; in my experience it is best to have your wife return and find some evidence that you have failed and she arrived just in time to prevent A) the ruination of the house, B) your demise, or C) both A and B.
After the tongue lashing, retire to the garage to smoke a cigar. You’ve earned it.