Forget the challenges on Survivor. You know, the ones where the scantily clad contestants have to swim out to a buoy, dive for sunken puzzle pieces, scramble back to the shore while tied to one another, navigate eight million knots, and then solve the jigsaw in order to raise the flag and win immunity for their team?!?
Granted, that's difficult to be sure, but it's got nothing on the challenge of trying to put my 89 year-old mother-in-law's freshly laundered, too tight, white slipcover back on her couch - while she looks on and gives directions!
"The seams aren't lined up correctly," she insists, "they're supposed to run straight across the front."
"It's pooling right there, try and smooth that wrinkle out on the arm."
"My cleaner in San Rafael would have done a better job."
"My housekeeper could whip these on in a minute and a half. She never had any trouble . . ."
And so it went until at long last, the job was completed to her satisfaction. For a gal with cataracts, she sure sees A LOT!
Hey, where's the "slip" in slipcover anyway?
My sister, Jill, and I pulled, pushed, prodded and manipulated those damn cushion covers (and their seams) into place for nearly 40 minutes before all was right with the world. Not since wrestling with a wet suit that was two sizes too small, have I experienced anything so difficult to squeeze into. (Actually, getting the wetsuit OFF after the dive was just as bad, but I was in my 20s back then and had more stamina.) In other words, it wasn't easy. But whether its a slipcover or something more daunting, there are persistant household chores that need attention on a regular basis. Following are just a few action items to keep in mind as you look around the house. Granted, these seem like no brainers, but it's precisely because they are "no brainers," that they are often overlooked and taken for granted as if they'll somehow get accomplished on their own. (They won't.)
1) Let's just start with light bulbs. If your house has grown dark, it may be as simple as burned-out bulbs. Replace with new energy efficient ones and they'll have a much longer life and you'll need to pull out the ladder less frequently.
2) Change the filters twice a year in your HVAC system. Some people never change these and as the air in your home is filtering though them, it's a task that's not only well worth your time but significantly improves the air quality of your home. This really is a "no brainer."
3) Change the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors annually - unless you now have the new 10-year detectors.
4) Clear the gutter of debris at least once a year. You'll need to do this more often if you have large trees above your roof line as I do.
5) Power wash pathways and exterior surfaces as needed. Bricks, especially, can become mossy and slick over the winter and slippery pathways are dangerous!
6) Wash windows inside and out. Nothing feels as fresh as sparkling windows. Frankly, I'd do this quarterly if the budget allows.
7) Caulk cracks in and around the shower as they appear. Water does more damage than anything else to a house. Small cracks in the grout can add up to thousands in repairs left unattended. This is a classic example of how an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
8) Touch up and paint as needed. Hallways really should be repainted every few years as they take the heaviest beating but painting a room is very affordable and delivers a lot of bang for the buck.
9) Remove dead plants and mulch beds in the fall and spring. Few chores are as rewarding as the garden which gives back in spades with new growth and colorful blooms and mulch is the botox of the garden!
10) Vacuum out the lint in your dryer vent. This is the number one cause of home fires in America.
11) Purge your closets and donate any unused, unworn or unwanted items so that clutter doesn't begin to rule your home. Anything your children have outgrown can find better use elsewhere.
12) Consider a pest or home inspection on a tri-annual basis. If you catch small problems early on, they won't become BIG, unwelcome surprises later on.
AND if you really want to get your "TO DO" list accomplished, throw a party and hire a handyman prior to the big date. We've become so specialized that these fairly basic chores aren't so basic for many people (like my husband) but trust me, nothing gets you moving quite as quickly as inviting guests over, and believe me, a good handyman is cheaper than a marriage counselor by far!
So short of wrestling with your slipcovers, how can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.