I did four loads of laundry last Sunday. I even did one load that was only bathroom mats. This meant washing the mats from my roommates’ bathrooms along with my own so that I would have a full load. I was concerned that this was creepy, but was also secretly proud of my thoughtfulness, and part of me hoped they would notice. They didn’t. Or at least, no one approached me to say, “My bathroom mat was so fuzzy and clean when I stepped out of the shower today! Did you wash it? I’m slightly unnerved, but grateful.” I guess I’m glad no one noticed, but on the other hand, it was a lot of effort for little reward. I didn’t want to dry the mats in the dryer for fear of melting their rubber backs, so I spread them out on the grass in the back yard to dry in the sun. This way I figured they would also be fresher, and have a ‘sun-dried’ appeal. I came outside to check them often, flipping them over when I thought one side was getting dryer. I tended to them like a shepherd, watching over a flock of brightly colored bathroom mats that weren’t going anywhere.
That very same day I gave the dog a bath, swept the house (at least the parts where the dog wanders, which necessitates sweeping), and tended to the backyard garden. That evening, I found a recipe online that looked good, picked up a few groceries, and cooked dinner.
Until relatively recently, none of those activities would have occurred to me naturally—except perhaps the laundry part, and then only if my pile of dirty clothes had reached Orange Alert status, also known as Code “Bedroom Door Won’t Open”. I am not sure what has changed. I was more or less content to live in squalor while I was in school and then during my first year or three out of college. In my first post-college apartment, the linoleum floor in the living room generally had the gritty consistency of cat litter, and I slept on a camping mattress for eight months. The closest I ever came to cooking was heating up leftover takeout, and adding water to cans of frozen juice concentrate. With that standard of living, perhaps I had nowhere to go but up?
Granted, at that point mine was not an apartment that invited even base-level maintenance. It more invited murder. We were living in scenic, beautiful Hawai’i, but our seedy Honolulu apartment lacked an ocean view. It did offer a view of an alley strewn with trash, and the occasional wandering chicken. More than once we came home to find the police parked haphazardly in our parking lot, lights flashing. Years later I would watch on TV as Dog the Bounty Hunter busted junkie after junkie in apartments that looked exactly like the one I had lived in. No one was ever impressed when I pointed that out, though, so I stopped.
My roommate and I knew that anything we put up on those unevenly painted cinderblock walls was mainly in an effort to cover them. This set the bar for our decorating standards embarrassingly low. We endured months of visitors noticing our arbitrary “23rd Annual Honolulu Beer Fest” poster in the living room and asking, ‘Hey, how was the Beer Fest?’ We couldn’t tell them. Had they seen our apartment? We were clearly on a budget. Fancy beer, like legitimate wall-art, was well out of our price-range. We preferred to sit on our concrete balcony and drink coconut slurpees laced with cheap rum and pretend we were pirates. I hope my mother isn’t reading this.
But since she probably is, let me point out once again that I have clearly matured. My wall decorations now reflect my taste in art and entertainment, rather than my ability to peel flyers off of walls in public places. I drink snobbish imported beer occasionally. I walk around my house in bare feet without risking tetanus. Sometimes though, I am not sure how to feel about this domestic maturity. I almost don’t want to admit to myself how much I like sweeping the beautiful old wooden floors of my current house. Washing the dog gave me a feeling of great satisfaction, until he did that thing where he walks around the bed, rubbing himself against it on every side and leaving enormous amounts of wet dog hair on the comforter. Washing the comforter gave me decidedly less satisfaction. Damn dog.
Perhaps it is my improved living arrangements that have caused this change, making me take notice of my surroundings and look after them with a new respect. Perhaps it is the acquisition of a job that doesn’t pay me in large wads of singles at the end of the night, meaning that I am able to spend money on where I live. Possibly I just got tired of sticky floors and leering piles of laundry, cheap liquor and streetcorner furniture. I suppose I can get used to this new me. Whatever caused this change, though, I hope it lasts, because although my roommates don’t appreciate clean bath mats, they probably really won’t appreciate rum slurpees.