Blue and Grey and Brown

The walk-in closet smells like lavender, shoe polish, cedar and dry cleaning chemicals. This is what a man’s closet should smell like. There are 130 shirts (dress and casual), 13 suits, 9 pairs of jeans, 7 pairs of slacks, 25 pairs of shoes, 10 belts, and 14 sweaters. This closet comes with many instructions: 

He keeps the sweaters in clear boxes with a bar of Yardley Lavender soap in each box, along with three cedar balls the size of Milk Duds. The clear boxes are dusted regularly.

Because it is the best kind of lavender soap.

He only hangs ties on the tie rack and never with a knot in it. Silk is only so forgiving, he explains as he smooths down the wrinkles from that day’s knot. 

No, I don’t need ties that are more fun. These ties are appropriate. 

John in an appropriate navy pinstripe, at his college graduation.

John in an appropriate navy pinstripe, at his college graduation.

His shirts from the dry cleaner are hung on the right-most part of the closet because new shirts are chosen from the left-most. They rustle like fall leaves in their dry cleaning bags as he squares the shoulders and lines them up perfectly. 

White and blue are the only acceptable colors for a man’s dress shirt. Pink is for salesmen. I am not a salesman.

Laundered shirts are hung by color grouping and sleeve length. 

Your mother shrunk this one.

Jeans in one section, slacks in another, hung legs on the left, perfectly aligned on trouser hangers.

Because that is the correct word for them.

All shoes, even gym shoes and sandals, have shoe trees in them; big, heavy, shoe trees that feel more like weapons than items of haberdashery. They are all cedar. 

If you treat them right, all shoes can last a decade or more. These are older than you, dear.

Suits stay in their waxed canvas bags until they are worn, and they go right back in at the end of the day. He tells me where and when he bought each suit, and the thought process involved in each. 

No. I prefer dark blue and dark grey. Brown is too midwestern. Black is for nightclub owners.

When I have to clean out his closet, and choose a suit for him to wear in the casket, the choice is easy, as if he was making it for me. 

- Beth Dugan is one of our favorite multiple-contributors to Dead Housekeeping and can be found at bethdugan.com

How to Be a Good Party Guest

Always arrive at least an hour-and-a-half early to offer to help. For instance, you might notice the plastic cutlery sticking up out of the cup that’s holding them. Turn them down, for sanitary purposes. 

Or say you arrive and two paper streamers have been sloppily twisted together and hung over a door. Streamers should be folded properly. Start by taping the ends of two streamers perpendicular to each other, and then fold end over end, until you can’t fold any more. Then tape the other two ends together. It will open up sort of like an accordion and look the way streamers are supposed to look. Once at a party, I had to quickly make streamers to replace a twisty mess that had been hung over the door, and others to hang around the cake table. 

Images by StillWorksImagery and bsaxonspencer/pixabay Modified by Dead Housekeeping

Images by StillWorksImagery and bsaxonspencer/pixabay Modified by Dead Housekeeping

At another party, there were so many things wrong, I couldn’t fix them all. The tablecloth was wrinkled, the silverware was tarnished, the chicken was unwashed. Someone said it was curry chicken. I did not eat it. I could tell just by looking at it that it was unwashed. But the thing that really got me? They didn’t have mints and nuts. Who has a party without mints and nuts? So I drove to the store and picked up some pastel mints and mixed nuts and put them on the table with the wrinkled tablecloth, alongside the tarnished silver and the dirty chicken. It was the best that I could do, given the circumstances.

- Deesha Philyaw is the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Deesha's writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteFullGrownPeople.com, and elsewhere. At The Rumpus, Deesha inaugurated an interview column called VISIBLE: Women Writers of Color. 

Greywater

Don’t let Dad water the plants—there’s a specific way it’s best done he doesn’t understand. No matter how tired your lungs may be, how crowded with tumor and pooling with fluid, do it yourself.

Those huge blue barrels—the kind you don’t have to buy if you keep an eye out while driving by run-down truck yards at night—you’ll have one of those sawed in half, sitting under the carport gutter already. It’s Florida, so the barrel is always full. Don’t mind the mildew; the plants won’t.

photo by the author

photo by the author

Plunge a bucket in, pull. If the two-gallon weight is too much, let it sink. Bring it back up sideways so half spills out as it surfaces.

Start behind the shed: pineapple and tomato vine, basil and mint.

Refill the bucket, maybe less than half this time—the patio is a longer walk.

Pour out over caladium and peace lily. Sit on the swing, catch your breath before returning for the chenille. Don’t ask for help, and don’t accept it. Ignore the hose.

Refill outside, catch your breath. Finish the job. Be thankful for all the old rain, for the barrel it fills as quickly as you empty it.

No need to use of your own what God’s already given—you would say this if you were the type of mother who explains. Better to leave your children to figure out the why themselves, have something new to learn from you when you’re gone.


- Bryce Emley is a freelance writer and MFA student at NC State. His work can be found in Best American Experimental Writing 2015Prairie SchoonerMid-American ReviewYour Impossible Voice, etc., and he serves as Poetry Editor of Raleigh Review

How to Fold Fitted Sheets Alone

My husband learned another trick of folding, this time for fitted sheets, that I’ve never forgotten. It is harder to do alone than the towel folding but it is designed for one person, too.

(ghost hand)

(ghost hand)

Take two corners of the sheet and put your hands inside. Make ghost hands, wide spread, to smooth the wrinkles in the corners. Then point your index fingers into the very corner of these corners, and bring them together. Now, flip one of the corners over the other so they nest.

Here is the part that is hard to do alone: Straighten the whole, and fold into a square as closely as you can. Fold the rounded corners inward until they do not show. Fold vertically and then--as with the towels--horizontally once, then thrice until your result is a neat, smooth, trifolded packet. It’s hard to describe how satisfying it is to do this right. My husband would fold & refold until he perfected it.

One of his last full acts on earth was folding laundry. He was listening to the game in our bedroom, vague and spacey on a toxic brew of Valium and Oxycontin, barely able to stand as his hipbone now crumbled with cancer, but folding, folding, folding with care.

 

- Lisa Schamess is a Founding Editor of Dead Housekeeping. The companion piece to this essay is "How to Fold with Only Two Hands: Honoring the Integrity of Towels," which was the first piece we ran when we started this site three months ago.