A Wiped Wall Gathers No Mold

Keep (v):  2. "continue or cause to continue in a specified condition"

My grandmother truly "kept" a house. Things stayed perfect—like magic—and thus perfectly non-replicable. I saw the product, not the process. 

Vesta and great-grandson (and apron), 1991

Vesta and great-grandson (and apron), 1991

And then last winter, eight years after Grandmother died and 40 since I'd stayed overnight, I remembered something. It was when I noticed my black bathtub mold had again fluffed itself twice the width of the grout. In contrast twinkled the memory of Grandmother's white grout and pink tile. How did she do it? She certainly did it without a squeegee, ylang-ylang spray, motorized rotary brush and citrus solvent, all of which cannot cure the nadir of nastiness that is my tub. 

She did it with a towel.  

My epiphany was a vision of Grandmother wiping the walls after my little cousin and I had taken turns in the shower. Prevention was this particular magic: a dry wall gathers no mold. And although memory cannot confirm, I am certain she would have used a small hand towel to save on laundry. Not a "company" towel, but one too good for the rag bin and too old for show. And she would have smoothed it onto the shower rack to dry, hidden, for next time. Simple, thrifty, effective.

I'm trying it now. A ratty washcloth hangs in my tub as a working tribute. So far, it actually does work. I will never "keep" a house, but with her help maybe I can at least keep the grout on the lighter side of gray. 


Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and educator in Nashville, where she writes the urban nature blog Look Around. Her essays have appeared in Jewish Literary Journal, Killing the Buddha, GeekDad, Mamalode, GardenRant and (forthcoming) The Fourth River. 

How to Show the Fight at Your House

Mike Tyson bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear while my cousin Tony, the host of that night’s pay-per-view event in his apartment overflowing with friends and family, placed coasters beneath stray tumblers and handed napkins to those eating pizza on his carpet. I don’t know if he witnessed the bite firsthand, he was so busy keeping his place perfectly in place with 20 people taking advantage of his free premium cable. He wiped his kitchen table. Guests would drop, he would pick up. He checked and rechecked his spotless bathroom. I’d been in there moments before just looking around as I tinkled, in complete awe of how it could be so...so clean. Were those baby wipes in place of toilet paper? Is that a cherrywood wipes holder? The wipes were to me the single reminder of Tony’s severe diabetic condition that would eventually kill him at 29: tall, thin, graceful, his mother’s best friend. To anyone else that night, they were simply a sign of a man who took great care in his toilet time.

I missed the ear bite myself. It took about 20 seconds and it stopped the fight. I was in Tony’s bedroom checking on my baby sleeping in his bed, and I lingered at his bookshelf filled with framed photos of family, my daughter included. You notice dust when things are dusty, but with Tony, you noticed how nothing was ever dusty, nothing was ever without care. By the time I could pull myself in complete admiration from this curiosity, the fight was over.

illustration by  Maia Butler

illustration by Maia Butler

- Erica Hoskins Mullenix is a freelance writer and editor, and a contributing editor here at Dead Housekeeping. Besides personal essays detailing her life as an introverted middle kid, bewildered but kickass mother and special needs parent, she also writes short fiction. Proudly an alum of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Erica created the online writer’s community known as yeah write in April 2011. She has had essays published in Salon, The Houston Chronicle, PANK, and other print and online publications. Her fiction and other writing can be found on her personal blog at freefringes.yeahwrite.me. Follow Erica on Twitter @freefringes


My mother never wore gloves to clean, and she never used trendy, fresh-scented cleaners advertised on TV. She cleaned the bathroom with bleach, and the windows with ammonia. She scrubbed the floor on her hands and knees with a brush and Fels-Naptha, wearing my brother's football kneepads; never with a mop. Her other implement of choice was a rag, whether cleaning the toilet or her ceramic figurines.

Any fabric that had outperformed its original duties was re-purposed for cleaning. A faded T-shirt became a dust cloth. A sock polished shoes. A threadbare washcloth sat under the soap dish to absorb drips. Every morning after washing her face, my mother used that soaped-up swatch to wipe down the sink, fixtures, and vanity. She cut over-fraught bath towels into pieces for cleaning the toilet. She swished the brush only to remove visible stains, then flushed and poured a cup of bleach into the bowl, thrust in her hand, and scoured the porcelain with the same determined vigor she used on pots and pans. I learned this routine when I stayed home from school with a cold.

Just the thought of ammonia still burns my sinuses. But my mother appeared to enjoy sloshing a soaked rag over the windows then wiping the pane with an old, torn dishtowel until the glass was nearly invisible. Afterward, she would admire her wedding set, sparkling on her hand. "Cleans diamonds better than anything."

- judy b. is the author of the fiction collection Stories for Airports, and she leads literary bike tours with readings in the San Francisco locations that inspired the stories. She co-produced and co-starred in Kristin Tieche's award-winning short feminist horror film The Spinster and produced and co-starred in Gates and Strays, a webseries created by Jen Ralston. From December 2015 through February 2016, judy b. is a resident artist at Listhús Artspace in Iceland. Find her at onze11 and on Facebook.

How to Fold with Only Two Hands: Honoring the Integrity of Towels

This is how my dead husband folded linens.

 First, a towel, because it is easier to do alone, and because I still know what to do, even though he is not here. There is no gap in my knowledge about folding towels the proper way, only lapses of will and the urgency of daily life.

I often no longer do it. Here is a diagram of what I should do.

[figure 1]

[figure 1]

Fold horizontally, once. I often do the fold in mid-air, with a brave flourish, but then I have to lay it flat for the rest. It is the rest of this that matters, not that first impetuous sweep of linen through the air. After that bold start, what matters most is painstakingly matching the corners for this fold and the next. Do it again and again till just right.

Fold horizontally a second time. Again, be ridiculous about the corners. No. Not that way. Do it again.

Fold the towel into neat, even threes. It will feel just a bit like rolling, with a gentle smoothing motion to reassure your towel it is home. The result will be a towel burrito with reassuringly neat ends. This towel will display well on shelves, stack evenly in cabinets, and retain its architectural integrity when handed to a guest.

[figure 2]

[figure 2]