Sunday, August 12, 2012

Calling the Downton Abbey Staff, Please!

by Leann

In the continuing saga of my move from Texas to South Carolina, we had to rent a house in a hurry because our house sold so fast. Rent it sight unseen. Our friends, a married couple in Carolina, who had done exactly what we are doing, took on the daunting task of finding the house for us. Slim pickings. Because of foreclosures and the economy, rental business is booming, it would seem. The husband and wife found us a place and I talked to both of them before deciding. Wife: "I don't know, Leann. It's really dirty". Husband: "Once it's cleaned, it'll work fine."

Well, there's dirty and then's there's DIRTY. The house is fifty years old. It's small. And I swear no one has ever cleaned the place thoroughly. Example: I cleaned the living room ceiling fan and light fixture a minimum of 12 times before I could tell it was white--not a funky shade of brownish yellow. The bathroom off the bedroom is tiny. It has bright pink ceramic tile and one of those fiberglass shower stalls. How long would you guess it would take to clean a tiny bathroom? If you guessed 6 hours you'd be right.

My friend and I have spent every day during the last week cleaning and scrubbing and spraying and groaning over each new discovery of the life some people lived in that house. An unhealthy, dirty life at the least, a strange life at best. Two of the very flimsy bedroom doors have dead bolts on them. I can only wonder why--but I'm not sure I want to know.

After working for hours with mops and paper towels and every kind of cleaner Walmart sells, we would come home and watch an episode of Downton Abbey. Wonderful show but oh, the "staff envy" I have experienced is painful. I want someone to dust and clean and make delicious meals why I worry about what to wear to dinner in my English castle. You might say I'm a dreamer ... but I'm not the only one. My dear friend has been dreaming, too. We will laugh about this one day, but right now we are simply complaining--but working hard to make an unlivable house livable.

What about you? Ever lived or stayed in a place that made your skin crawl? I'd love to hear about it.


Sarah Gunning Moser said...

Dear Leann:

Yes, we have! We live in the Pacific Northwest in the Greater Seattle area. When our daughter was two (23 years ago) we moved into what we thought was a charming log house called a "Panabode" on one of the islands in the middle of Puget Sound, just west of Seattle. It had plenty of space for a garden off to the side and even a greenhouse we halfway thought of using. We thought it would be great.

We had to think again. We discovered that in several of the rooms there were very high portions of the closet, above the normal shelves. If you can picture this,imagine a closet lined with cedar, the clothing rod, the shelf above the rod, and then above that an extra six or eight feet of storage space. (As if each closet had its own attic.)

OK, we though, maybe we can toss lightweight stuff up there, like sleeping bags. Except that as soon as we actually started to unpack, we discovered that no one had thought to clean up there in, oh, maybe thirty years or more.

The upper regions looked like something out of a Steven Speilberg horror movie. Thick, dark gray columns of SPIDER WEBS marched from one wall to the next up there, crisscrossing each other from the front of the upper closet to the back. Sticky dust was so thick my husband had to stand on a ladder with the vacuum cleaner just to suction some of it out before he could even clean anything with normal cleaners and rags.

And that wasn't all. He said the spider web columns were STRONG, and some of them were maybe an inch in diameter! He had to really tug at them to get them to come loose.

I never knew spider webs could get like that. But it sure wasn't like in the movies. It wasn't gossamer bits of fluff that your hand could go through to move out of the way. It was nasty and tenacious, and you almost thought some horrible monster would pounce on your head at any moment.

And then, the piece-de-resistance: my husband found a rather interesting assortment of sex toys up there. Scuzzy, creepy, filthy. We had to hide them from our little girl and spirit them immediately into the garbage. I remember holding one by the tips of my fingers on my way to the garbage can...kind of like I would have held a dead rat.

I think it took Larry an entire day to clean the area above the coat closet in the hallway. The only saving grace was that the rest of the closets weren't nearly that filthy.

Somehow after that, we never quite felt entirely comfortable in that house...but we'd signed a year's lease and had to stick it out.

So, yes, I guess that's a long-winded way of saying, "You're not alone!"

I hope the rest of your cleaning journey is less daunting! I really enjoy your books and hope you have another one out soon.

Sarah Moser
Bellevue, WA

Mardel said...

lol - it's kind of worrisome that they would hide their sex toys up in that dusty area....hopefully those toys were cleaned before (and after) use??? omg - feel my mind getting ratttled just thinking about it. ugh
Good luck with the cleaning and the house. As a not so gung ho housekeeper, I know how hard it is to even try to keep the floors, etc clean. I'm unable to physically do the work on a regular basis, and I'm always surprised at what needs to be cleaned.

signlady217 said...

My folks rented out our house while we were living in another state, and when we came back, oh boy! We literally had to use shovels to scoop up and toss stuff out the window into the large trash container (the kind you wheel down to the street). Plus they had let the cats and dogs roam and do their business pretty much anywhere they wanted, so we had to pull up all the carpets, too. Horrible, horrible few days! It was like some of those episodes on "Horders", not because somebody wanted to keep ALL their stuff, but because they were just too lazy and trashy to throw it away and clean up.

Kate Collins said...

My only experience was when my husband and I had to stay in a trailer at a resort when the hotel ran out of rooms. The trailer had a gap an inch wide under the door where ants traipsed in all evening. And then at night the cockroaches came out! I spent the rest of the night huddled in the middle of the bed. We got out the next day. I feel for you, Leann, to have to live in the middle of such a mess. But you're right. One day it'll make a great story. Ah, to have "staff."

Aurian said...

O what a horrible stories. I sure hope never to encounter such a thing. I am kind of surprised that the rental agency doesn't clean their property first.
The only thing I do encounter are toilets to dirty to use, so I just think: I'll wait until I am home ...

Cindy said...

Can't say that I have been in anything that bad. I would say the only good thing maybe to come out of it will be to somehow incorporate not only your experience Leann by the comments by the others also.