Monday, August 9, 2010


One man's trash is another man's treasure.
It's interesting; if you enter "one man's trash is another man's treasure, but" into a search engine, you come up with all sorts of bizarre phrases. (My favorite was "...but this man's trash is his dinner"... huh?) I thought of that adage while pondering priorities. Many priorities are universal, like breathing, eating, sleeping, but after the essentials people can place their priorities across a wide spectrum.

I went to the hairdresser today. (Actually, I'm not sure if I should call her the hairdresser, the barber, the hair stylist, just the stylist, just the dresser...?) Either way, I went to get my hair cut, and in the midst of the small talk that inevitably accompanies such a endeavor, she asked me what my plans were for tonight. I lamented that my plans were pretty boring; I hoped to clean up my apartment some, as it's gotten pretty messy since my maid quit. Well, the stylist skipped right over being sympathetic towards my plight, and expressed shock that I--a single, childless male living alone--even had a housecleaner. Our priorities were definitely different.

There are very few tasks that I detest as much as cleaning. I find the effort inefficient, as once cleanliness has been achieved it seldom stays long. I was very spoiled growing up, in that I had a mother who stayed at home and made it a priority to keep a clean house, regardless of our willingness to help. I did my share of vacuuming and dish-washing, but I stayed away from everything else, especially bathrooms. If the dictionary ever chooses to include a picture next to the phrase "an exercise in futility," they should choose an image of a person bent over a bathtub, scrubbing away against intractable grime.

In college, I managed to further delay my exposure to this loathsome task, as I lived in the dorms all four years and our communal bathrooms were the janitor's domain. When I started off law school by getting my own apartment, however, I could not avoid it any longer. But I tried. I had a half bath that I kept clean for guests, but I refused to do anything but superficially clean my own bathroom. Except for the end of the semester; at the end of finals, with studying no longer an excuse, I'd get down on my hands and knees and scrub and scrape and scour until every inch of porcelain, tile, and stainless steel shone like ivory, polished granite, and silver.

But it was a gross way to live; I acknowledged that. And the work was much harder (or so I've heard) than if I had cleaned weekly. So when I moved to Minneapolis, I resolved to have a clean bathroom every week. I followed through on my resolution... I hired a cleaning lady. Nicci was an amazing cleaner (she still is, just not for me). Every Friday, I would come home to an ivory tower. As far as my priorities went, having someone else clean my house was pretty close to the top of the list - the task is so odious and takes so long, to have somebody else do it was essential, at any price.

But then Nicci found a real job, and left me all alone, staring at my bathtub.

A month later, I found that my cleaning abilities hadn't improved much since law school. In fact, since I have guests over more often (and never am finished with "finals") they were worse in some ways. Today, talking to the stylist and seeing her shock, I realized that a change needed to be made. I couldn't just sit around fondly remembering the good old days with Nicci. The conversation with my stylist made me realize what was at the root of my priorities: I like having a clean, tidy apartment. And since Nicci's not around any more, if I want that clean apartment, I need to just buckle down and take action. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, I need to start taking responsibility for the state of my dwelling.

My first step: calling my stylist's friend, who's looking to find a job as a cleaning lady.


  1. haha John You are terrible. But that's cool that she'll clean for you at least!

  2. and since when do you have a stylist?

  3. I think that a cleaning lady is great!

  4. I agree, Christen!

    And Heather, I'm not really sure what I have - I paid her money, she cut my hair. Didn't do a very good job, either - so I'm still looking around, I guess.

  5. O John, I seriosuly gagged at the thought of not cleaning a bathroom for a whole semester!!
    You should try scrubbing bubbles! Spray, let them sit for ten minutes and you'll just gently wipe off all the grime from your tub. It's my favorite cleaner, and it works for pretty much everything (floor, sink, tub, toilet) in the bathroom.