So I’m a little past three weeks in the house— what have I learned so far? (This series is likely to end or become very much more sporadic after next week, just for your reference.)
- Build that routine. My life is different from how it was living alone. There’s more space to clean, moving parts to deal with, more relationship face time. If I don’t intentionally make time for things, they’re not happening. I’ve got a good evening routine, when I work it. I come home and start dinner. I get dinner to a place where I can leave it, and then walk the dog. When I get home, once dinner is ready, we eat. I’m getting to be a “clean between the commercials” person, and if dinner is ready soon enough, the 8 o’clock hour is a good time for me to clean, because for whatever reason, there’s usually nothing I’m interested in watching then. We’re done with dinner, not ready for dessert, and I can tackle something of reasonable size. I tend to clean the kitchen and feed the animals while the news is on (I don’t really like the news) and then I can relax for a little while during the early part of Fallon before I go upstairs and start getting ready for bed. I’m starting to work on a weekly cleaning routine.
- I mentioned this last week, but get all your stuff in one place. No seriously. It just helps.
- Different people value different things. Nobody has to be wrong. I have been making medium-intensive meals for weeks now (marinated steak with baked potatoes and roasted baby squash! An Italian-inspired skillet meal with ground beef and fresh broccolini! Gingerbread pancakes with warmed fruit compote! Roasting chiles for inclusion in a Mexican-style casserole that I made with rice and beans! I don’t even like rice and beans! All for her!) But she gave highest praise to a very processed meal that involved warming kielbasa, a can of potatoes, a can of sauerkraut, and a can of carrots in a skillet. Also high praise to an exhaustion-inspired blend, last week, of boxed mac & cheese with onions and canned tuna, and canned peas, topped with grated cheese (she’s big on canned goods and I’m trying to spend them down to get the pantry better under control.) I know she tends to cook more processed things (when she’s cooking) than I do, but maybe it’s because she likes them better. If I’m cooking my fresh stuff for applause, I’d better start appreciating them more myself, and being grateful on long days that she’s mostly happy for me to warm up a can of something without doing much to it.
- It’s the little things. This week, mom put her first glass in the dishwasher, and I was so moved, I almost cried. She’s been putting water in dishes and putting them on the counter, but not putting anything in the dishwasher. Last night, she even had me clear the plates. In addition to setting them, filling them, cleaning them, etc. To be fair, she’s on-hand for the fan-repair project that will never end [eight visits and counting for a neighbor to continue not to fix something that the previous owner agreed to pay him to fix], taken over laundry responsibility, and she mostly empties the dishwasher (though there’s a “I don’t know where these things go” conversation that happens that makes it seem like she thinks of herself more like a guest and less like a resident), but I noticed that in addition to doing any meal preparation that happens when I’m in the house (she won’t even reheat her own leftovers), it’s on me to clean the kitchen, carry in and put away groceries, etc. This week, she also offered to help clean the kitchen one night, and she stopped me from loading dirty dishes in with clean ones when she noticed I was doing it. (I was tired and not thinking, and I knew I’d run the dishwasher and that it wasn’t still full. If I’d thought about it at all, I’d have recognized that it hadn’t been emptied, but that was a day I’d been up early to mow the lawn, taken the dog to therapy, done some things around the house, been to a church carnival, and I was just mentally done. She said something about not knowing where things went, but gave up and admitted she’d started but not finished it. She’s put a few additional things in the dishwasher since then. Again, I didn’t expect this to be 50-50— I knew I was taking on the lion’s share of this arrangement, but it’s been a little ridiculous, so far. I’m grateful for every signal that this is becoming more of a partnership.
- Probably the biggest thing: I don’t have to assume responsibility for everything. She’s been complaining that the clothes dryer is making a noise. I listened. It is, in fact, making a noise. I said “I don’t know anything about fixing it, and it seems operational. Let’s add it to our ‘handyman’ list.” She followed up with advice about her friend and it being a belt and YouTube videos. I finally turned to her and said “listen— my hands are full right now. I hear what you’re saying about there being a noise, but the dryer is, in fact, drying clothes as expected. I need to prioritize what I work on because I can’t do everything. I can put this on a list to get around to at some point, but it’s not going to be high on the list, given that there are things that are actually broken, and this one is functional but making a funny noise while it functions properly. If you want it dealt with as more of a priority, we can discuss it, but it will involve paying someone to look at it.” I’m taking a hard line also on computer problems that slow her enjoyment of video games. It can go on the list, but it will be faster for her to find her computer expert’s name and call him.Yesterday, she pointed out rodent droppings on one of the patios. I agreed they looked like rodent droppings, but said that I didn’t know what we should do about them, given that they are outside (it’s a covered, mostly enclosed patio that borders open space, so I totally get why it’s attractive to rodent-kind as we approach the change in seasons). I invited her suggestions. She looked at me amazed— I think she’s used to pointing something out and just having someone (my dad) take care of it. I’m not trying to be passive aggressive, but I’m quickly coming to terms with the idea that not everything can be my responsibility. Some things, we’re going to need to pay experts for. Some things, I’m going to need to pay people to do just to free myself up enough to do anything other than work on the house 24/7. (I hear my job expects me to be there every weekday for like, 9 hours. Totally cuts into the chore time, man!) A cursory investigation online suggests you should keep your doors and windows closed, if you don’t want rodents inside. Check. I’ll do some due diligence to be sure we don’t have holes that will let patio rodents inside, but beyond that… I’m going to need her to bring me some solutions, not just problems.
I’m deliberately not constructing a honey-do list for myself. My ability to overfill my own plate is pretty well documented. I don’t now and never have needed anyone identifying more projects for me. Which is not to say she can’t tell me about things that are broken or that may need attention, but that things are not automatically on my list.