With life expectancies rising and marriage having devolved into a flip of the coin, it's entirely possible for a man over 50, like me, to have experienced recidivist bachelorhood two, three or more times. Legal fees aside, this can be stressful on many levels. Most older bachelors, even those in so-called egalitarian marriages, have limited experience in the domestic arts. I was raised in the comfortable, compartmentalized era of June and Ward Cleaver (Comfortable for the man, that is). My mother hadn't a clue about how to use a pipe wrench; conversely, dad wouldn't know a broiler rack from a branding iron.
Like others in my situation, the over-50 divorced bachelor has strolled the Elysian pastures of ironed sheets, sparkling windows and cocktail coasters. When married, things were cleaned under large objects, not just around, and the term "wash and wear" was not taken literally (You should see the rumpled button down shirt I am wearing at the moment.)
The average bachelor's idea of a clean house is a tidy house: magazines stacked neatly on the bathroom floor, liquor bottles capped and removed to the refrigerator, golf balls returned to the fruit bowl, and dirty dishes arranged in the sink so that visitors cannot see them from the couch. And while behind the recliner there may be a dust ball the size of a St. Bernard, to the bachelor the place is in ship-shape.
Bachelor housekeeping is like sex--best approached spontaneously and with little regard for the fitted sheets. Whereas the bar of civilized living may lower with time, the over-50 bachelor remains unfazed, for he has seen it all, done it all, and meekly adapts to any dispiriting circumstance--" I am man, hear me belch." Descartes, a three-time bachelor, summarized it in his famous treatise on the duality of mind and matter: "I think, therefore I'm slovenly."
In many cases children are in the equation, showing up at your door several times a week. And staying. So long as they do not race around the house stirring up dust they pose no serious health hazard. And it's not a bad idea purchase a backup TV so the youngsters remain transfixed in once place between trips to Pizza Hut.
Following are some home care strategies for the over-50's bachelor, all thoroughly tested during my frequent banishments to near-empty residences.
Baking soda: I have found that this substance does as much for refrigerator odors as a football jersey. A better approach is to discard all contents once a month and restock.
Beds, under: One of my least favorite places. Under a bed is a dystopian landscape of crumpled tissues, coffee cups, twine, the missing tape measurer, newspapers, camera chargers, and single socks. Why would any bachelor go near that?
Blinds: Forget them; they're dust magnets. If they are already installed, stabilize the dust by spraying every three months with white or beige paint.
Clothes, stains: For white dress shirts, correction fluid has saved the day for me. If you do not wear white shirts, start.
Clothes, washing: Chances are the over-50s bachelor has enjoyed little or no contact with modern washing machines. I hadn't, so imagine seeing this: Pre-wash/Spin Try/Heavy Reverse/Delicate Lift-Puff/Blouse/Spin-Spin/Vivaldi/Off-Churn/Delete. Fill green lawn bags with dirty clothes, and leave them somewhere.
Clothes, washing II: You may already know this: The more bleach the cleaner the clothes.
Clothes, drying: Near the dryer door is some thickly dusted thing called a lint filter. How in the world, I thought, can there be lint on soaking wet clothes? Disregard the filter, or toss it. This is just another of the manufacturers' ploys to hike the price.
Cobwebs: These are one of nature's little miracles, fulfilling a spider's needs as well as those of the insect-plagued bachelor. Do not destroy! (For a festive holiday effect, spray them with silver paint.)
Glasses, cocktails and beer: My well-tested technique for avoiding streaks and spots on glasses is to drink at a friend's house. At home, drink from the bottle or, as I do, use a single glass for everything.
Coffee filters: Over-50 bachelors can live without their ex-spouses, children and the Land Rover, but they cannot survive without coffee. Lots of it. Don't try to re-use a paper filter more than five times; in a pinch, an old T-shirt work fine.
Couch: This is the most important item in the over-50s bachelor's home. Clean, wipe and water regularly.
Dishwashers: Considering that many of the bachelor's meals will be consumed from cardboard or foil in front of the television (Please do not eat over the sink--it's all downhill from there), dishwashers are of secondary importance. They come in handy, however, when the arrival of unexpected visitors--like your ex-wife--requires rapid concealment of alcohol, dirty clothes, cigarettes, ice cream cartons, scratched CDs and, if you are so fortunate, articles of the feminine nature, like eye liner.
Dust prevention: As I warned earlier, never stir it up by running through the house.
Food: All foods can be frozen and thawed as many times as you like. Just don't eat them.
Kitchen, floor waxing: With all of the greasy substances that drop onto the tiles, this is rarely necessary.
Oven, cleaning: Buy new range.
Painting: It's a good idea to paint the interior every two years. Paint makes dust stick to walls. I use spray gun to achieve a stucco look.
Plants, dead: Ashtray; a good place to hide keys or valuable jewelry left behind by the ex-wife.
Property: If you can't afford a gardener, let it blossom and label it a wildlife sanctuary.
Shining shoes: Here is one I have used numerous times in an emergency. Crisco; buffs to a high gloss and is somewhat waterproof.
Socks: Except for dogs, no one really notices how many days you wear socks. Spray with lemon-scented furniture polish on Day 4.
Toaster: Your wife never got electrocuted while cleaning the toaster. You will.
Throw pillows: Dust Velcro; throw them out.
Windows, cleaning: If you live where it rains regularly, your windows are automatically cleaned. As for the inside, they can take years to reach a state where you no longer recognize the mailbox. Relax.