The latest challenge

No, not NaNoWriMo.

One of the things I’ve learned through living in different areas of the United States is that most communities have things that they do that they simply assume everyone does because that’s the way it is around there. A simple example: I went shopping the other day for a recipe my son wants to cook, and I asked the lady at the seafood store for baby shrimp. She looked like she’d never heard of such a thing, and she asked me what count. When I told her 300 count, she looked at me like I had two heads. Evidently, here, they think shrimp don’t come any smaller than 41-50 per pound.

We ran into other assumptions when we were first looking for a home in Pennsylvania. Our real estate agent believed that all gas furnaces are deathtraps, due to explode within two or three years of installation, so she did her best to steer us away from houses with them. Which, being from the West Coast, we thought was ridiculous because natural gas was everywhere. Here, oil furnaces are more common. And since people here are used to them, no one ever explained to us what sort of maintenance would be necessary. We figured clean the air filters, and we’re good, right?

Soot-covered paper

Some creased paper my husband was going to use for origami, now fit only for recycling.

Not so much. Our house is now like a car: The oil filter needs to be changed once a year. Also, because oil doesn’t burn as clean as gas, the furnace and chimney need to be cleaned regularly.

Our first indication that something was wrong was soot building up everywhere — plastic that sat out, walls, floors, glasses, papers, books. We got a technician out to look at our furnace. He removed the block, replaced the filter, cleaned everything, and told us we should get a service contract to deal with this on an annual basis.

Now we’re left with the clean-up. Usually, housework is way down at the bottom of my list of priorities, and dusting more so. Now? Well, it’s got to be done. The entire house — ceilings, walls, floors, couch covers and sheets laundered, dishes washed, books dusted, everything lying around either cleaned or disposed of. Joy.

clean spot on otherwise dirty wallpaper

You can see from the color difference where I scrubbed how dirty the walls actually are.

There are some things I’m not going to wash. For example, I started to scrub at the wallpaper in our bathroom — one of the few rooms we haven’t removed the wallpaper from. It’s not worth the effort. It will actually be easier to remove the wallpaper, wash the dried paste from the walls, and paint the room. That’s only three rooms, though — our bath, the half bath downstairs, and the hall downstairs. The rest need to be cleaned. Along the way, I might notice some places that need the paint touched up, but for the most part, it’s just cleaning.

Wall with clean section on top.

The hallway wall, plus the doorframe from one of the bedrooms. I’m cleaning from the top down, and the difference is obvious.

So now I’m scrubbing. Slowly. I think today I almost gave myself housemaid’s elbow, and I needed to use Icy Hot on my shoulders after cleaning the hallway. Tomorrow, I’ll pick another area to do — probably something small. It may be Christmas before everything is cleaned (and I’ll probably have to rent a tall ladder to clean the area above the front door), but at least we’ll be starting the new year with a clean slate.

Still working on the writing. Still running my business. I’ll even try to get to a couple of write-ins for NaNoWriMo before the month is out (Tuesday evening for sure!). But if you’re looking for me and can’t find me, the odds are that I’m cleaning.

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  1. That’s fascinating. I wonder what other home-care assumptions we have…

    • One common one I’ve run across is the idea that a garbage disposal can take care of anything. Coffee grounds tend to be bad for them (the grounds catch in the burrs, maybe?), while citrus peel is actually good for them.

      Thanks for commenting! 😀

      • Agh? Coffee grounds are bad for garbage disposals? I feel as if I’ve contributed to the ruin of many a disposal in many an apartment.

        • Oops. If you have house plants, they usually love coffee grounds.

          Another garbage disposal tip: use it like a blender — put a plug in the sink and add water (1/3 full or so), then pull the plug and turn the disposal on. You should still run water while the disposal’s on, but the extra water makes it more efficient.

  2. There are many grocery items that I, being a native Californian, really miss out here in Florida. When we first moved here we couldn’t even find sourdough bread!

    • And the sourdough bread here really isn’t the same at all. Of course, I also remember displaced East Coast people in Berkeley complaining about the quality of the bagels. (Noah’s evidently wasn’t good enough for them.)

  3. Moving to Spain, I have come up against so many cultural assumptions…

    Houses must have direct vents (i.e., holes) leading outside in the kitchen to vent fumes.

    Hot desserts will make you sick.

    If you have a sore throat, anything cold is very very very bad (what?!? no soothing ice cream?!?)

    • No hot apple pie or molten lava chocolate cake? 🙁 How very sad!

      I do love hearing about cultural differences! Did you run across any that made you question things you took for granted and say, that makes mire sense?

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