The Ten Years
It's Time to Clean the Refrigerator
Everybody's familiar with the Seven Lively Arts: Architecture, Dance,
Drama, Literature, Music, Painting and Sculpture. But there's an unsung
eighth Lively Art: Homemaking. If making a home out of a mere house
is not an official Lively Art, it ought to be.
Like Erma Bombeck, who said "My second favorite household chore is
ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until
I faint," I don't enjoy taking care of a house. Besides, it's very
expensive to rent the back hoe necessary just to clean the den.
"You can clean everything with vinegar," my mom said, "So don't be
spending your money on store bought cleaners." She's right of course,
but I always forget her homemaking lessons and buy high tech. I have
wipes for wood, formica, marble, glass, the car, and just about everything,
except I'm still waiting for them to invent one to take out the oil
stains on the driveway. At the moment, I spray on something called
"Gunk," because I don't want to end up like my mom, who was forced
by fluid-leaking vehicles, to Brillo the entire driveway. "If you
want a job done right," she'd say, "do it yourself." Sure, mom.
Author Peg ("I Hate To Housekeep Book") Bracken, accurately refers
to people like me as "Random Housekeepers." I do it when I have to
and not a second sooner. I've been known to open the back and front
doors simultaneously, hoping a cross breeze will blow out the dust
dinosaurs and I won't have to vacuum.
Peg Bracken gives much more practical advice than fancy-schmancy Martha
Stewart. "Don't put a dust cover over your toaster. It's useless,"
Peg says, adding, "Did you ever see a piece of dusty toast?"
I don't even care that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would doubtless
consider my house a "feng shui nightmare."
Unfortunately, none of these wise people was in my kitchen when I
opened the refrigerator door yesterday to find no room for anything
except a single wedge of Laughing Cow Cheese. (Lite. I'm on the South
Beach Diet.) Short of brushing off a piece of parsley from an inner
ledge last Christmas, I haven't cleaned out the refrigerator since
the day we bought it. If God wanted a refrigerator to stay as clean
as the day it was born, he would have had someone invent a self-cleaning
one, like He did with ovens, right?
Who can remember what's way in the back? Why don't they make refrigerators
with mirrors on the inside walls? I certainly would not have put that
cheese so far from the front, if I knew it would be a few years before
I ever saw it again. I may have the hips of an elephant, but I sure
don't have their memory.
And where are you supposed to put the contents while you clean out
the darned thing? The countertop? Okay, but first, you have to clear
off the countertop to make room for everything. This thing was becoming
a miniseries for the mentally challenged.
Before I could clean off the countertop, I had to move all the stuff
on it into the sink which means I had to wash the breakfast dishes
on the same day they were used, a first at our house. Also, I had
to remove from the sink a big bowl containing cold water and a red
made-in-China shirt which has to be first soaked, then washed by hand
since the color runs. While I was at it, I just washed the darned
thing and threw it into the dryer, forgetting that, when wet, it stains
everything else it touches in the dryer; otherwise I wouldn't have
put it in with the white sheets. Now they're pink.
When all the ancillary chores had been completed and I was back to
my original goal, I began with items located on the interior door
shelves. There I found cheese that had been in there so long, it was
milk when I first bought it.
Refrigerators wouldn't be so hard to clean if they didn't have corners.
Why don't they make them round? I found duplicate jars of things like
horseradish, flax seed oil, and capers, ingredients you only use once
or twice in your life. I found a jar of leftover mint jelly used when
I had a leg of lamb for dinner in 1989. I have a habit of buying,
then forgetting I already have it and buying it again. I can't bring
myself to throw any of it out, even though I know I'll never use it
a second time.
I found old, forgotten lipsticks I had stuck in the refrigerator to
harden when they had been melted by the summer heat. I haven't worn
that shade of pink in seven years.
After that, I tackled the main interior shelves. The manufacturers
are wrong when they tell you to clean frequently with warm water and
mild detergent. What you really need is a chisel and a flamethrower.
I couldn't identify the dark, sticky matter adhering to the glass
shelves but, judging by the amount of fuzz on the top, it had reached
It was at this late stage of the job that I realized each shelf could
have been removed and washed in the sink. With warm water and mild
Homemaking is truly one of the Lively Arts, but I agree with the anonymous
person who said that her next house would have no kitchen, just vending