Wednesday, January 31, 2007

32 Steps to a Clean Kitchen

Admittedly, I enjoy cleaning. I really hate to say it, but there is something about removing dirt and returning something to its former glory that fills some empty void to make things right again. Maybe in a former life I was a pig, and granted, I’m rather on the lazy side—I’d sooner toss my jeans on the floor at night than put them away, knowing I’ll put them on again the next morning. But we spend so much money and time on our possessions and it surprises me when people don’t take care of them.

Take your car, for example. How many hours did you toil under the pressure and stress at the dealership and how much hand-wringing went into picking out the right color, the most apt options and the just the right look… not to mention, how much money you spent on it. Look at your car now? I’ll bet it resembles a trash can, right? Strewn about is wrappers, bottles, extra jackets that you’ll never wear, and strata after strata of disposed of garbage. Those beautiful carpets that cost you an extra $300, rarely ever seen, and let’s not mention the much-covered paint job. Cherry red looks more Arizona mud.

Well, for me, that’s how the kitchen was and it was high time to clean it, top to bottom. My method of cleaning is called “slash and burn,” tear out everything in the room and start with a clean slate (or a dirty one, however the case may be). Cleaning is one of the few things I do that has tangible results, and nothing is better than restoring white tile to its original whiteness. My main motive was a year of built up God-knows-what sort of stuff that accumulates in the grout, those porous spaces between the tiles that usually start out one color and end up quite a different one. Ours was white when we moved in a year ago and now they have transformed into a multitude of colors from red to brown to black. Yum.

So, use the following as a primer for your education about the best way to clean a kitchen.

Step 1: Complain to anyone and everyone who will listen that the kitchen is resembling a pig’s sty and that you’re going to start refusing to eat meals within its slimy walls and stain-speckled floors. Threaten to strike.
Step 2: Realize that nobody is listening (and if they are, they’re not caring), and you’ll have to take matters into your own hand.
Step 3: Sulk, stare resentfully at the mess and then deny that it exists.
Step 4: Set down a slice of bread, look away for just a few minutes, and when you return, the slice of bread is gone, soaked into the mess.
Step 5: Realize that the majority of the surfaces in your kitchen have metamorphosized into living entities and they must be stopped before they spread throughout the house.
Step 6: Discover that you’re too late; they have consumed the house. That slice of bread… you felt it underneath the carpet on the stairs.
Step 7: Don a HAZMAT suit, complete with rebreather, rubber boots and gloves and a hard hat. Enter the kitchen.
Step 8: Find the center of the kitchen, the very vortex of the filth, get down on your knees, cast your unwashed eyes toward Heaven and offer up this prayer: “Dear God, I don’t know how this kitchen arrived at such a state of disrepair. I’m sure I had nothing to do with it, but I find myself in the position to be used as a powerful tool to fight those germs and grime that has inundated my humble existence. With your help, your guidance and your graces, I shall overcome. As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be dirty again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be dirty again.
Step 9: Make a list of things to clean: grout, sink, microwave, pantry, fridge, cupboards, floor, windows, baseboards, etc. Start at the top of the kitchen and clean down.
Step 10: Decide that the pantry will be your first hurdle. Clear out everything that expired during the administration of the last president. Vacuum up all of the spilled rice, all the while hoping they’re not dead maggots. Collect together the hundred or so packets of tea that have scattered to the far flung regions of the pantry. Organize the half-empty boxes of cereal by size, and wonder who bought some weird Chinese flax-seed rice patty cereal and never opened it… from 2005. Put like things together. The flour and sugar need to be next to each other and the brown sugar, powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract and cake decorating amenities all should be nearby. Potato chips and pasta don’t mix, and frankly, I don’t want to meet anyone who thinks they do.
Step 11: Take a break. Remember that you’re the primary caregiver for two children and the alternating screams of joy and terror that you’ve tried to block out while contemplating the subtle difference between catsup and ketchup have become most annoying. Find that one child has tied a robe drawstring to the other and is leading him around like a dog, much to his squeals of delight. He’s just happy to be included.
Step 12: Cringe at the irony that Mr. Mom is on cable, and comfort yourself and your own lack of a “motherly” instinct by the complete incompetence of Michael Keaton.
Step 13: Open the microwave and decipher the difference between the clean smooth walls and the crusty speckles of dried food that has been subsequently cooked a number of times. Fantastik and a paper towel makes quick work of it.
Step 14: Celebrate having cleaned the first appliance in the kitchen with a glass of Diet Pepsi.
Step 15: Fresh from the grand success of the microwave, break out the heavy artillery, the industrial-grade cleaners, solvents and acid-based formulas made to remove most dirt on a sub-atomic level.
Step 16: Disregarding the warnings, mix up a plump vat of ammonia and bleach. Sprinkle in a generous amount of Comet to form a sticky paste. Overcome by fumes, lay down on the floor and concentrate on not dying.
Step 17: While on the floor, you notice that there is an oil slick on the tile and it is slowly seeping into the grout. Resolve to stop it.
Step 18: Spread the thick pasty ammonia/bleach/Comet concoction into the grout and wait. Splash water on your face periodically to keep from passing out. Begin to scrub the grout.
Step 19: Realize that Scotch Brite pads are not strong enough, venture out to the garage and scavenge for something with a little more bite. Triple-aught steel wool should work. Maybe a steel-wire brush would work better.
Step 20: The steel-wire brush was no match for the perseverance of the crud. Return to the garage and decide to quit messing around. Go straight for the 60-amp angle grinder with the four-inch diamond/carbide wheel… stop when you smell the smoke of burning grout. Tim Allen would be proud.
Step 21: Oiling the cabinets seems like a good idea until you discover that you should have worn latex gloves, especially when your hand slips out from under you while you’re trying to get up off of the floor and you clack your ankle bones together, unanimously the worst pain imaginable, short of clunking your head on the corner of the pantry door hard enough that all thoughts concerning the spiritual wonders of the Siberian Yak are completely gone.
Step 22: Don’t waste time scrubbing the range, just put the whole thing in the dishwasher and set it for Scalding Surface of the Sun.
Step 23: Remove the throw rug that is designed to catch all of those random pieces of food a 12-month-old baby throws off of his highchair, or whatever the dog won’t eat. It turns out to be a lot. Shake it out. Sweep the floor. Don’t waste time with the dust pan. Just use the vacuum, but when you return from the utility closet, vacuum in hand, you find the dog standing over the dust pile, wagging her tail furiously with intense excitement. Sweep the floor again and put the dog outside.
Step 24: Dust the light fixtures…because nobody else has ever done since they installed them. Sneeze repeatedly until your youngest one laughs himself silly.
Step 25: Remember that about six months ago, some spaghetti sauce splashed onto the ceiling during one of those impromptu food fights. Find it and scrub it off.
Step 26: Mop the floor, and by mop, I mean scrub it on your hands and knees. While you’re down there, you can recite the prayer again, if need be.
Step 27: Don’t neglect the top of the fridge, as it is starting to resemble the surface of the moon, only without the craters. You’ll use three towels, which you’ll have to throw out because they have ended up too dirty to clean. Yeah, it’s possible.
Step 28: Clear out the cobwebs from under the kick panels. Discover the shriveled remains of several dead spiders. Perform a respectful funeral and begin to pen letters to their next of kin. Consult Charlotte on the spelling of “fundamentalist dogma.”
Step 29: Look at the clock and appreciate that you’ve spent the previous four hours of your life in the kitchen: Your finger tips have been melted off from the sulfuric acid, your lungs are scarred from the ammonia and bleach, you don’t know where your children are, your eyes have changed color thanks to the dust and there is an unfamiliar shine to various surfaces of the kitchen.
Step 30: Stand back in amazement to discover that the refrigerator is actual white and not beige like you previously thought. You knew it was, but wasn’t sure. Look forward to collecting on the bet.
Step 31: Wait until the wife comes home, sets down her purse and keys on your clean tile countertops, dumps crumbs from the toaster crumb-collector, opens a jar of baby apples and spills some of the juice onto the grout.
Step 32: Steam in resent, check your calendar and consign yourself to clear a weekend sometime in July to do it all again.

1 comment:

arakp said...

Hey, don't dog me. I wiped up what I spilled and it was tomato juice from sliced tomatoes. I believe it was Natalie who threw her fish stick and pasta on the floor. Matthew ate all his apples.


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