Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001 22:50:24 -0800
From: Frances Whitney <>
Subject: Mr. Clean?

Hey girls, don't ever think your house is dirty again!

Yesterday escrow closed on my "new" house, and I went over to start prepping to paint, etc. It took me SIX HOURS to clean the garage. I had to rent a commercial dumpster. I didn't even bother with the (attached to the garage) storage room yet, except to go in to try to find some finishing nails.

I had one of the most appalling shocks of my life when I opened the oven. There was FOOD in there! (Yes, I am shouting.) Three cake pans covered with tinfoil and smelling to high heaven. The people have been moved out for nearly a month. Aaack! Aaack! The plumber said he'd pay me 75 cents to throw the pans out instead of cleaning them. If the weather hadn't been so cold, the house would have stunk. (Joke. It stinks anyhow from their cats, birds, uncleaned toilets, and cigarettes.) The place was even dirtier than I thought it was. Rachel spent four hours scrubbing one shower, and got two walls of it down to the tile. It is an entirely different color where she cleaned.

Just after I discovered the food, while I was being hysterical, the real estate lady came by and told me she thinks she is going to write a book. She said that one time she went into a house and there was a turkey in the oven. Crawling with maggots. Another time she was showing a house and the people had been going poo in the bathtub, and she opened the hall closet and a chicken came out! I'm not sure that made me feel better, but we had a good laugh.

Did I mention the seller left her broken down old mangy cat? Not only the 17 strays, but the one with a collar and a name that she used to let in the house. It wouldn't let me catch it, poor thing.

By afternoon, my brother came from Utah with wife and 7 daughters and I had two high school kids besides my own, and we worked and worked, making a small dent. Just on the inside, the YM couldn't do anything for the yard this weekend because it's raining. (Great. Make everything grow nicely.) After a very late dinner, SIL and kids went to bed, and my brother and I spent until midnight over there remodeling the fireplace. We got it framed up, but he's left the sheetrocking for me. He's pretty excited -- almost as excited as I am -- about the project, and he's talking about taking some time next month to come down and refinish my floors for me. Yay! I also ripped out a window in spare minutes when he was doing tricky measuring and sawing.

This morning the Utah contingent left. I sent along a copy of a blueprint from a house our grandfather was architect/builder for, as a bribe, because SIL really liked the framed one I have hanging over my couch. Hopefully she will let me borrow my brother some more. After they left, high school kids and I went back and worked and worked all day. Yuckola. I put one of them -- a girl from my 2nd period class-- to scrubbing the kitchen cabinets with Murphy's Oil Soap. They are lovely birch cabinets, and lookee, lookee, turning a whole different color when the dirt comes off! She spent the whole day and got about half the kitchen done. (I had gotten my nerve up to take the food out to the dumpster).

In last Sunday's paper, there was a brown bag for a sale at Lumberjack where you could get 25% off anything you could fit in the bag. I've been going all week. The first time I went, I found another bag in the parking lot, so I've been making Rachel go with me and we go through separate checkout lines. We've bought all kinds of stuff we need, from paintbrushes to deadbolts. I am sooooo sick of that store. Then today, I went to Lowes to buy a washbasin they had on sale dirt cheap and scored a really good deal on a beautiful medicine cabinet to go above it. By good deal, I mean, the original price was $195, it was marked with a clearance tag for $98, and when the clerk scanned it, the price came up at 44.49.!!!

I'm getting all buff from heaving around things like washbasins and glass shower doors, but I suspect this is going to be a looooong road. I'm exhausted. And sore. Off to bed now!


Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 21:07:35 -0800
From: Frances Whitney <>
Subject: Latest on the house

Today I took down all the vents and ran them through the dishwasher. What a dishwasher! The pots & pans cycle took the paint right off. (this is a good thing, but I'm glad I did it to vents and not to my new LeCreuset!

I also cleaned out the light fixture above the oven, which hadn't been working heretofore. It was full of DEAD GRASSHOPPERS. I kid you not. I put together a Visible Grasshopper model when I was a girl, and I know what one looks like!


Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 20:46:41 -0800
From: Frances Whitney <>
Subject: Still cleaning

I've decided the thing that distresses me most about this house mess is the apparent randomness of it. Buttons mixed with nails mixed with sunflower seeds mixed with dead cockroaches mixed with wrenches mixed with craft supplies mixed with cat vomit mixed with old mail mixed with leftover rolls of linoleum and radiator hoses.... I believe I'm cleaning up after serious mental illness here.


Date: Wed, 04 Apr 2001 21:41:41 -0700
From: Frances Whitney <>
Subject: oobleck

I've spent the last three days scraping oobleck. (Where is Bartholomew when I need him?) Whoever installed the carpet in my house-- way back when-- used very few staples in the pad (good) but glued the pad down (very bad!) First, I scraped up the rotted old pad and carried it out to the trash. (peeewww! Cat pee! Dog pee! Bird poop!) Then, the hardwood floor guy said the glue/rubber residue would gum up his sanding belt, so it had to be scraped off the floor. I spent a day on my knees with a paint scraper. He wouldn't let me use any solvent for fear it would hurt the floor. Only about half the gum came up.

Then, the hint I should write in to Heloise about. The roofers came (like a tornado) and filled the house with filth and dust tearing off the roof. Lo and behold, good old fashioned D-I-R-T made the gum ungummy, and I was able to get most of it up with a razor blade scraper. Good ole dirt. I pass the savings on to you.

Hardwood floor guy installed a new floor in the library, but ran out of oak with one board left to do. Then, except for weatherstripping the new French door (carpenter) and putting the baseboards back (me) that room is done. Tomorrow he begins to refinish all the other floors. I'm going off to chaperone the state journalism convention, and hope he will be done when I get back Monday. Weatherstripping of all new doors and delivery of the cooktop happen Monday. I hope the finish plumber accomplishes his wonders in the bathroom while I'm gone too, so he can start on the kitchen as soon as the cooktop is delivered, but I suppose that's a wishful dream. (Oven has been sitting in the garage for weeks) Probably I won't have to be on my knees again (except in a panic about my Easter Sunday Sac. Mtg. talk!) until Wednesday or Thursday, because I'm going to prime and paint baseboards on sawhorses before installing them. I don't know who is going to do the interior casings on the new doors, but I hope it's the carpenter and not me. If it is me, I think I'm going to have to call my brother and grovel. Hey, I'm used to groveling! I spent the last three days scraping oobleck!

frances, exhausted

Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 23:01:52 -0700
From: Frances Whitney <>
Subject: The Mummy

Tonight the YM came over to help me do yard work. We are trying to level out a place to pour some cement. One of the YM unearthed a stack of metal for sale signs which was covered by a thin layer of dirt.

When I looked where he was digging, I noticed that he had missed a couple, so I took a shovel and pried them. Arrrrrrrrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It was cockroach heaven under there, and they were big suckers, too! They ran everywhere! We all did the roach dance, stomping them and whacking them with shovels, and I used a whole can of Raid and sent Rachel to the store to buy more. They just kept coming and coming. Underneath the metal signs, there was board, and underneath that, a hollowed out grave lined with more metal for sale signs.

You can bet by this time I had a really eager audience of YM as I dug. Roaches of every size, and some of them even had wings! Bishop got a shovel and started helping me excavate. There was a layer of foam rubber, a layer of carpet, and layers and layers of bubble wrap (all crawling with cockroaches), and then a very large Mylar bag sealed up with duct tape and containing Something.

Roaches kept pouring and pouring out of the Something. It was all floppy and squishy and ripe-- but only hair and cockroaches, no bones or anything that we could find. The earth was nice and black once we got down a couple of feet, and there were tunnels full of cockroaches everywhere.

Then in the bottom of the grave there was about an eighteen inch thick layer of styrofoam peanuts (mixed with dirt and roaches, mummified skin and hair.) I filled my whole trash dumpster just with the contents of the grave, and (bother!) today was trash day and I have to live clear until next Wednesday with no place to put trash. I don't dare even open the lid, for fear of King Tut's curse.

Do you think I should call the coroner? Not on your sweet life. I'm not sure I even dare go to bed tonight.

frances, who thought the OVEN in this house was bad.....