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May 2, 2005 / allyo

Not for the faint of heart

We bought our house from MD’s grandparents. It was a reluctantly made purchase, but we had outgrown our townhome and could not find a decent rental for less than a mortgage payment. This was 4 years ago when interest rates were plummeting so it was a good time to buy. And they sold it to us for $14,000 below the appraised value, as long as we took it "as is."

The house was, and in many respects is, in disrepair. His grandfather had been ill for some time and has since passed away, so part of the neglect was what happens as people age and are less able to maintain their homes. But really the big problem was three-fold – they never, ever threw anything away; they never, ever bought something new if they could get it for free; and they never, ever cleaned.

Forget the fact that we had to rent a dumpster to clean out their garage, or that they left behind a bedroom full of furniture. Forget the fact that the light fixtures were so old they still had cloth wiring. For now, let’s just focus on the fact that that house was so dirty it took more than a week to get it clean. The wood bannister, the one that I thought was black because of old varnish? Uh, no, untreated wood that was filthy from years of hands running up and down its surface. The funky smell? Carpet that hadn’t been cleaned in god knows how long. (One of the reasons we bought it was beneath that awful carpet were hardwood floors in awesome condition.) The refrigerator? Shudder. The walls around the light switches? Black.

Most of the grit and grime has long since been cleared away. The outside of the house, the crumbling, dirty, stucco, the millions of Rose of Sharon bushes growing next to and in the fence line, the out of control pine tree that belongs in a forest and not a front yard, those are another story. But the inside looks pretty darn nice. Not by our dime mostly. My dad gave us some money to do the most urgent repairs – the place was not liveable by most people’s standards – and every Christmas and birthday since has meant hardware store gift cards that have allowed us to update the place, project by project, room by room. The bathrooms are another story. We’ve updated the light fixture in the full bath. We had to. I really couldn’t stand looking at the two globes, painted with a floral motif, suspended on dusty chains, any longer. It’s been painted. The vanity, which is actually two vanities crammed together, meaning the sink is off-center and only covers one vanity – has been painted as well. But for the most part, the bathrooms are as they left them. (Only cleaner.)

And in that full bath, sits my nemesis. Instead of an oasis, a place for me to sit and soak my cares away, it lies there, sullen and grimy…the bath tub. The finish has worn away in places, and until just yesterday, the bottom of the tub was grey, save for the white outlines of the non-skid flowers I pulled off years ago. That tub has been scrubbed by the best of us. My grandma, who discovered the secret behind the black bannister, scrubbed that tub. I scrubbed that tub, using every product found on the store shelves, including some seen on tv. It’s been scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed, until the consensus was it’s either stained or the finish is gone that’s what a tub with no finish looks like.

The tub is now white because a couple of weekends ago was, believe it or not, in a hurry. I sprayed some of this product on the shower tile, left it to sit, and promptly forgot about it. When I finally made it back to the bathroom to clean the tile, I realized that where the cleaner had dripped down into the tub it had cut gleaming, white swathes in the grime. So last weekend I sprayed down part of the tub, left it, and the next morning rinsed it out before taking my shower. What followed is too gross to talk about, but that night MD sprayed down the entire tub, scrubbed it, then sprayed it down again to sit overnight. The damn thing rinsed clean the next morning.

So, I’m absolutely thrilled to have a white tub again. It’s still rough in places as the shine has definitely worn away, but it’s white. I’m glad I took very few baths in that thing, even gladder we’ve been bathing Jamie in the sink for the most part, and am looking forward to once again having a clean tub to soak in. I just can’t wrap my head around this one thing. How many years of NOT cleaning a bathtub does it take to build up that much grime? EW!


Just wanted to update. The gas is back on – the leak was repaired and the gas company came out the next day and turned it on. They originally weren’t going to come until today. Yeah. Mad Dog’s response to that was pretty much, "guess again folks."

Oh, and the silver lining in all this mess? The plumbers had to dig up three Rose of Sharon plants to fix the leak. Three down, 374 to go!


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