My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha
An Excerpt From
My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha

Copyright © 2014  by Jolie Kerr

 

 


Chapter 1

The Kitchen: Clean It, or Just

Set It on Fire and Be Done?

 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a mouse scurrying through your kitchen.

Liars, every last one of you. Heck, even I’ve seen a mouse scurrying through my kitchen, and I’m a Clean Person. To be fair, it was a mouse of the field-ish variety, and my downstairs neighbors had just tilled the backyard in order to do their summer planting, and I’m pretty sure Fievel was running all about the place because his home had been disrupted. At least that’s what I’m going to tell people, and if you don’t toe the party line on this one, I won’t tell you how to clean that burnt rice off the bottom of the only pan you own. So there!

Right, so let’s talk kitchens: they’re such great places—the heart of the home! But also? Woof, kitchens can get gross, can’t they?? Grease splatters, spilled crumbs, overflowing garbage, the leaning tower of dishes in your sink—and those are the everyday problems, right? What about when mold engulfs your leftovers? (If that’s an everyday problem for you, please don’t tell me, okay? I don’t know if my heart can take it.) Or when your freezer ices over such that it poses a realistic threat to the Titanic? Or when your husband decides to brew his own ginger beer and the glass growler he stored it in explodes from the pressure created by the fermentation process, leaving your kitchen covered in glass shards and sticky ginger beer? (This is a real thing that happened, by the way. The solution? Ammonia. And heavy-duty rubber gloves because ouch ouch be careful out there, that glass is pernicious!)

So now that you possess the very important knowledge of how to clean ginger beer from your cabinets, let’s back it up a bit and cover some basics. Starting with how to hard clean a kitchen.

Or maybe I should start with an explanation of what I mean when I say “hard clean a kitchen”? Yes, let’s start there.

In the industry, we differentiate forms of kitchen cleaning using the terms daily clean, hard clean, and the full monty hard clean. Okay that’s a lie, there’s no “industry” of people like me, and we don’t have terms and conferences and such, but oh, would that we did. Anyway! Those are just the terms I use, and I like ’em, so I’m gonna keep ’em!

Right, so!

 

Daily Clean

These are, it will surprise you not to learn, the things you should do on a daily basis, allowing for adjustments if you’re a person who doesn’t use his or her kitchen every day. The basics are this:

• Wash the dishes

• Wipe down the counters

• Put all foodstuffs away and throw any garbage in the trash can

• Deal with any disasters as they happen

The idea is to establish a baseline of kitchen chores that allow the space to remain tidy and uninviting to critters and other pests. And, I mean, that’s not too much, is it? You can wash a few dishes and give your counters a wiping without wanting to die from the crushing burden of it all, right??

That last bullet point, though . . . you’ll want to know more about it, won’t you? It is a truism that the longer you pretend that a mess doesn’t exist, the harder it will be and the more time it will take to clean up. It’s completely understandable to find yourself with a spilled container of leftovers in the fridge, or a pot of tomato sauce that boiled over onto your stove, and just say, “You know? To hell with this. I’m going to bed.”

And while I’m generally a HUGE advocate of taking to one’s bed when things go wrong, in the case of giant messes, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t tell you to allow yourself one minute in which you can huff and puff at yourself, the walls, the god who has clearly forsaken you, who- or what- ever, but when that minute is up take a deep breath and just deal with the mess right then and there.

You’ll be happy you did.

 

Hard Clean

The hard clean is the thing you’ll want to do anywhere between once a week and once a month, depending on how you use your kitchen. And also, let’s be honest, on your willingness to clean things. I’m giving timelines here because people like them, but I also want to make sure you know that really, this is a personal choice you can and should make for yourself. I’m not here to assign chores to you, just to suggest to you how and when to do things if you so desire such information.

One thing that the hard clean is not is a pantry-clearing operation. We’ll get to that later on down the line. The hard clean is meant to address the kitchen grime that the daily clean doesn’t—think greasy buildup on walls, splattered appliances, crumbs lurking in corners.

 

Step 1: Set aside 1–3 hours of your day!

Did you just do a double take? Yeah, I know. Sorry about that! But these things take time! However, the more often you clean, the less time it will take, which probably doesn’t make you feel any better at all. What can I say, I tried.

The amount of time you’ll need to make for this process is something you’ll need to determine on your own. It will largely depend on the size of and relative filth situation in your kitchen. You’ll also want to factor in the availability of helping hands. It bears mentioning that sometimes helping hands get in the way, so choose your helping hands wisely.

Step 2: Put on music!

The biggest mistake people make when setting out to tackle their chores is forgetting to put on music. It’s basically the same theory behind listening to music at the gym: it gets you moving, perks you up, provides a rhythm to work along to. Cleaning is physical work! You will sweat! So, you know, treat big cleaning jobs just like you would a trip to the gym. Unless you’re a person who skips the trip to the gym, in which case please don’t treat cleaning like a trip to the gym!

Step 3: Gather your arsenal!

The cleaning products you choose depend on a few factors: what you’ve got on hand, personal preference, the specific needs of your kitchen—for example, granite countertops are best cleaned using products that are different from what you’d use on butcher block—and what, if any, particular messes require your attention.

With that said, try to keep it simple with your products. Two, maybe three, cleansers should do it for you. Among those three you’ll want an abrasive, a degreaser, and an all-purpose spray—preferably one that will shine up any metal; here, I’d highly recommend making your own solution of white vinegar and water. If you’re more into brand-name items, Windex is great too. Specifically Windex. With apologies to the other brands of glass cleaner on the market, for my money Windex is so clearly (GET IT?? Sorry.) superior it’s not even worth fussing about with another product. Unless it’s white vinegar and water. Then you have my blessing to commit Windex adultery.

In terms of an abrasive, I use Soft Scrub, though not exclusively. Sometimes I go for Comet or Bon Ami; just understand that a powder abrasive cleaner is going to be more abrasive, and therefore more likely to scratch delicate surfaces, than is a cream abrasive cleaner. I have a deep and abiding hatred of Bar Keepers Friend, though many, many people love it so much they want to marry it, so I feel like I should mention it here. They make both a powder and a cream product. But seriously, I hate that stuff, and I know hate is a strong word BUT STILL. It’s utterly irrational. (It’s actually not that irrational; I’ve never had any success in using it to clean things it’s often recommended for—stainless steel and enameled cast-iron cookware, both of which I collect and care for in the way normal people care for their children—and I’m an expert cleaner, so it sends me into a mad frenzy of not understanding why and how people are loving this stuff so much.)

My degreaser of choice is ammonia, mixed with water, which I use on the regular to wipe down the cabinetry, walls, the ventilation hood, my floors, young children with sticky fingers, etc. But that’s just me! If you prefer a less toxic degreaser, try mixing Dawn dish soap with warm water and using that as your cleaning solution for greasy messes. But also, you’re all grown adults with values and opinions and mothers who may have imparted upon you a devotion to certain products, and so by all means, you do you.

Once you’ve got all your products in hand, you’ll need to assemble your accoutrements: A sponge, perhaps more than one. A few clean rags, swell things to have on hand. A roll of paper towels, yes, sure. BUT, BUT, BUT! Your hard clean should NOT be done with paper towels. First of all, it’s foolishly wasteful, which is bad for our precious Mother Earth. But more important, paper towels will not cut it for the kind of cleaning we’re talking about here. You’ll want to have them nearby to do a final wipe-up, but you’ll not want to rely on them to do the majority of your work.

If you choose to use something like bleach or ammonia that needs to be diluted into a solution, you’ll also need a small bucket. You know what works really well for this and is kind of charming? Those plastic beach pails we all had as kids—why not add some fun and whimsy to your cleaning routine? The other nice thing about them is that they have a handle, so you can carry your washing solution around the kitchen easily as you move from space to space.

Last but absolutely not least, you’ll need a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands, Miss Scarlett!

Step 4: Clear all the things out!

All of them. Every last thing on your countertops must be moved to a secure location. Clearing everything out includes washing, drying, and putting away any dirty dishes in the sink. Now, listen, I know you, and I know you’re going to try to cheat and (1) I’ll know and (2) you’ll only end up making more work for yourself down the road if you skimp on this step. I really promise that something that will take so much less time than you think will save you so much energy and annoyance and extra work in the next stages, so just do it.

But actually here, you have a decision: does your situation call for just a surface clean, or do you require a full-on pantry purge? Probably for most of you the surface clean will suffice. We’ll get to the pantry purge when we tackle the full monty hard clean.

Step 5: Take a break!

I’ll let you in on a secret: the hardest part is over. More or less, from here you’re going to coast, and that’s because you took the time to prepare. Bet you didn’t see this coming, eh? So as a reward for your hard work, would you care for a cold beer or soda? I bet you would. Remember to buy some before you start this project. You’ll get to make the best shopping list! It’ll be like:

• Soft Scrub

• Sponges

• Beer

• Paper towels

 

Step 6: CLEAN!

A HUGE rule of cleaning is to always work top to bottom. If you do your floors first and then wipe off a counter full of crumbs, guess where those crumbs are going? Yeah, right on your clean floor that’s no longer clean and will need to be redone. So! Start from the top and work downward. Wipe the cabinetry, then the walls and backsplashes, then the countertops, then the appliances (refrigerator, stove, microwave, etc.), ending with the floors. Because cabinet and countertop materials vary so greatly from kitchen to kitchen, a bit later in the chapter we’ll go over the particulars of which products should be used on which cabinet and counter types. Stay tuned for a handy chart!

Leave the sink be until the very, very end of the process; the sink will serve as your home base for dumping out dirty wash water, rinsing and wringing out sponges and rags, and probably some other gross things that we don’t really need to talk about. (Dead bugs. I’m talking about dead bugs, you guys.)

If you’re feeling really brave, you might even take a look- see at the top of your cabinets. You may discover that they are wearing a dirt sweater! I might have learned this the hard way! Prepare to be so, so, so, so, so grossed out!

Step 7: Put all the things back!

You’re so close to done! Which means it’s time to gather up all the things you removed to a secure location and return them to their homes. But before you do so, please consider grabbing your trash can to execute a merciless decluttering. Most normal people have a ton of junk that they don’t need taking up space in their kitchens—and collecting filth! Old twist ties, unopened mail, mementos from three relation- ships ago that you’re holding on to because you have an utter inability to admit when something is truly over, even though you’re the one who ended it and frankly you’ve never regretted a thing except that that ceramic lighthouse that you bought together on a trip to Maine is really just so special to you.

Put that ceramic lighthouse in the trash.

Once you’ve thrown away anything you don’t need, take a gander at what’s going back into your squeaky-clean kitchen. Are things sticky or dusty or greasy or some combination of all three? Wipe them down. A damp rag should suffice, you probably don’t even need a product, but if you do that’s where all-purpose cleaner comes in handy. Later on, we’ll go through the care and keeping of small appliances, like toasters and coffeepots, so stay with me for that.

Step 8: Clean up after yourself!

“But I’ve just cleaned for hours!” Which is true, and I’d like to take a moment to tell you that you did a great job! Hurrah for you! But you also created a little bit of a mess in that process, so: dump out the dirty washing water and rinse out your bucket, then rinse and wring out your sponges and rags. Put the cleaning products away. Throw paper towels in the trash, and tie up the bag and take it out if it’s full.

Last but not least: clean the sink with an all-purpose spray and a sponge; you can also use a product for stainless steel or porcelain if that’s what your sink is made of. The important thing is to rid it of the dirt and grime that accumulated when you rinsed rags and dumped out cleaning.

Actually, wait, no, that’s not the last step, this is the last step: take a good look at your whole kitchen. Admire your work! Isn’t it amazing?? It’s okay if you want to lick the countertops; we can give you two a minute alone to get intimate with each other.

Speaking of your countertops, remember how I promised you a handy chart explaining how to clean all manner of kitchen cabinet and countertop materials? Well, here it is!

Countertop/ Cabinet Type

Products to

Use

Products to Avoid

Cleaning Method

Butcher Block

White vinegar;

liquid dish soap

Too much water, which can cause splitting or warping

Apply the vinegar or soap to a damp sponge or soft cloth; wipe counters with the grain; dry thoroughly

Stainless Steel

White vinegar;

liquid dish soap

Ammonia; bleach; abrasive cleansers and/or brushes

Wipe the counters in a straight line; blot dry with a soft cloth to prevent streaking

Tile

Liquid dish soap; all- purpose cleaner; OxiClean; rubbing alcohol

Oil-based soaps;

ammonia

Wipe tile down in a circular motion; use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean grout if necessary

Formica

All-purpose cleaner

Abrasive cleaners and/or brushes

Spray all-purpose cleaner on a soft rag and wipe counters; rinse with a clean, wet sponge or rag

Linoleum

All-purpose cleaner

Ammonia

Spray all-purpose cleaner on a soft rag and wipe counters; dry with a soft cloth

Granite

Stone soap; mild liquid dish soap and warm water

Products containing lemon, vinegar, or other acids;

scouring powders or creams

Wash with a sponge or soft cloth; rinse thoroughly so as to avoid soap buildup;

dry completely with a soft cloth

 

Marble

Stone soap; mild liquid dish soap and warm water

Products containing lemon, vinegar, or other acids; scouring powders or creams; rust removers

Wash with a sponge or soft cloth; rinse thoroughly so as to avoid soap buildup;

dry completely with a soft cloth

 

The Full Monty Hard Clean

This is the hard clean that addresses the innards of your kitchen in addition to the exterior surfaces that we addressed in the regular hard clean. You can treat these as one task or two separate projects. If your kitchen is huge and you have a vast pantry, I hate you. Oh, and also you’ll probably benefit from treating a cabinet/pantry cleanup as a thing you do apart from tackling the counters, appliances, sink, etc. It will save your sanity, and you’ll also be much more likely to complete the task if you take it on in that manner. If your kitchen and storage space are tiny, come sit by me and we’ll weep over it together.

The instructions for a pantry clean are actually really simple, which is deceptive. It’s simple, but it is most assuredly time-consuming, and far more frustrating than you’d expect. This is true for two main reasons: (1) the pantry has a lot more stuff in it than you’d think and (2) it requires that you throw things away, which can be agonizing for a lot of people. It feels wasteful! I’ll offer this by way of advice: if something in your pantry isn’t being used, it’s no more wasteful sitting there than it will be in your trash.

Real talk.

Just like with the regular hard clean, the first step is to take everything out of the pantry or cabinet. If you’re working with multiple cabinets, consider tackling one or two at a time based on what’s stored in them. If you’ve got no discernible order to how you’ve stored things, then take everything out all at once, because you should take this opportunity to make sense of things. Your life will be much easier if you’re storing all your glasses together rather than jumbling them in with your dried bean and bouillon collection.

Once everything is out of the way, it’s time to clean all the interior surfaces. If there are a lot of crumbs and you’ve got one, a handheld vacuum cleaner is a good first pass. Then, using a sponge or a rag—but not paper towels because they’re not tough enough for this—wipe down the shelves, back, and sides of the cabinets. Good old soap and water is great for this! Just, like, the dish soap you’ve already got hanging around in your kitchen space. But if you feel you want or need something stronger, you can use an all-purpose cleaner.

If you find that you have sticky spills to contend with— honey is a common offender—grab a rag and soak it in hot water, as hot as you can stand. Wring it out and press it on the honey; the hot water will liquefy it, rendering it easier to wipe up. If there are greasy spills, such as oil, ammonia is the ticket. Just be sure that you’re not using another product that contains bleach, as bleach + ammonia = sudden death. Okay, not really sudden death, but the two in concert produce a lethal gas, and that is no joke. You’ll hear me bang on about this again because it’s a super important cleaning lesson to learn: NEVER MIX BLEACH WITH AMMONIA. It will kill you. And then you’ll be dead, and your house won’t be clean, and people will judge you, THE END.

Once the cabinets are clean, leave the doors open to allow them to dry while you turn your attention to the stuff you’ve taken out.

Get out your garbage pail, take a deep breath and prepare to purge, purge, purge. Check expiration dates and throw away anything past its prime. Toss out things you don’t use and/or donate any unopened dry or canned goods. Try to find the joy in this—it’s really very freeing! If you start to get the agita over the amount of things you’re getting rid of, that are going to waste, remind yourself of my earlier advice: if you’re not using it, it’s no more wasteful in the trash can than it is in your pantry.

Then you’ll want to survey what’s left and begin grouping things. Do this before you begin putting things away, because the size of your groupings will help you to determine where best to place them. Then, once like things are with like things, go ahead and restock your shelves. Put bulky and less-often-used items on higher shelves and the things you reach for most often in the most convenient spot. If you’ve got a lot of small, loose items like tea bags or sugar packets, put them in a small container to keep them from roaming about willy-nilly. If you have open bags of staples like flour and sugar, consider investing in glass or plastic storage containers to help prevent spillage. Or worse.

Which brings us to this: unfortunately, one of the circumstances under which you might find yourself needing to execute a hard clean and/or a full monty hard clean on your kitchen is if you have a critter invasion. So let’s talk a bit about what to do if uninvited guests of the pestilent variety make their way into your home.

First of all—and this is so important to me—I don’t want you to get upset with yourself if it happens. Unless you really and truly are leaving foodstuffs and garbage strewn all over the house, you didn’t bring this upon yourself. Vermin and insects happen. Especially in urban areas and/or in warmer months when we often have our windows open. But—and this is equally important to me—you’ve really got to get right on top of things as soon as possible. The instinct to flee or pretend like nothing is wrong is one that you must fight, fight, fight. And when you’re done fighting that, you’ll get right into fighting off the invaders. Like you’re a Viking or something. Just think of it that way. You have my permission to wear one of those plastic horned Viking helmets if it will make you feel better about things.

Given the pesty nature of critters, it should come as no surprise to learn that different sorts of bugs and vermin require different elimination strategies. So we’ll take them by type and then scream and pull at our hair and then pour a stiff drink because shudderrrrrrrr.

 

Critter

Character Traits

What He Loves

What He Hates

Pantry Moth

• Brown, winged

creatures

• Insidious things

• Grains

• Plastic, cardboard, and foil containers/ wrappers that he can chew through

• Cupboard moth traps

• Bay leaves

• Essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, or citronella

• Glass or metal containers

Fruit Fly

• Winged

• Reproductively

blessed

• Not very smart

• Cannot swim

• Fruit

• Wine

• Beer

• Apple-cider

vinegar

• Wine, beer, apple-cider vinegar, or fruit juice in a jar or high-sided bowl with a few drops of dish soap. Fruit flies are

attracted to the liquid and

fly into the trap. The dish soap coats their wings, rendering them unable to fly out to safety, and they will drown. That got kind of sad.

 

Ant

• Lives in

colonies

• Sends out scouts to check out your home—beware the lone ant!

• Enjoys marching, particularly two by two

• Sugar

• Greasy foods/

residue

• Ant baits

• Ant insecticide aerosols

• Boric acid

• Pepper

• Cinnamon

• Peppermint

• Salt

• Bay leaves

Cockroach

• Night owls

• Reproductively

blessed

• Disease and bacteria carriers

• Vile, pestilent

things

• Prone to

skittering

• Coffee

• Water

• All foodstuffs

• Roach Motels

• Boric acid*

• Bay leaves

*W hen using boric acid, less is more, as roaches and other critters will walk around it if the powder is piled too high. A thin lining of boric acid along baseboards and such will suffice!

Silverfish

• Silvery, a half

inch long

• Night owls

• Dark, wet

places

• Starchy foods

• Sugar

• Wallpaper

paste

• Books, paper, and natural fibers

• Mold and

fungus

• CimeXa Insecticide Dust

• D-Fense Dust

• Intice Granular Bait

• Dekko Silverfish Paks

 

Critter

Character Traits

What He Loves

What He Hates

Centipede

• Leggy

• Fast-moving

• Moist

environments

• Clutter

• The dark

• Bedbugs, silverfish, spiders, termites, roaches— centipedes eat ’em!

• Aerosol insecticides

• Sticky traps

• The bottom of your shoe

Spider

• Hangs out in a

web

• Leggy

• Other insects

• Diatomaceous earth

• Eucalyptus

• The bottom of your shoe

Mouse

• Scurrying, furry, beady- eyed hell demons

• Your food

supply

• Warmth

• Glue traps

• Mouse poison

• Peppermint oil and mint

leaves

• Ammonia

• Cats

I think I’m going to stop here. You probably already have. That’s so sad; there’s still so much book to read! So, hey, how about we talk about something more fun? Like doing your dishes? Wait, what’s that? You don’t think that’s at all fun? Mmm-hmm, we’ll see about that.

 

Your Sinks and Dishes

I can hear you now. Here’s what you sound like, Holy crap, this lady still has more to say about cleaning kitchens?? I’m exhausted just reading this, how can I be expected to actually do this stuff when I’m in such a state??

 

My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha

My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha