Home Improvements

When I go into Shirley’s Hardware for just one item, I invariably come out with four or five. Like any good hardware store, it’s full of charismatic shiny things that become totally indispensable as soon as you look at them. So I keep a running list of things I need, and when there are four or five items on it, into Shirley’s I go.

New laundry gizmo

Yesterday was the day. Car-washing soap and car wax had been on the list for a while; Malvina didn’t need washing and I waxed her a month ago, so they weren’t urgent. The lesser urgency was the plastic gizmo that holds the two strands of the clothesline together so the bottom one doesn’t sag. These tend to blow off the clothesline in high winds and disappear into the scrubby underbrush. Maybe the scrubby underbrush eats them? Plastic isn’t supposed to decompose that fast, but when these things blow away, they’re gone for good.

I was planning to do laundry today, so this moved up a notch on the “do it” scale.

The greater urgency was four new drip bowls for my stove. The old ones were unbelievably disgusting. They’d long since passed the point where steel wool could scrub them even passably clean. Had the board of health raided my apartment, I might have been banned from taking food to potlucks for the rest of my life.

The drip bowls were so gross that my whole kitchen seemed dingy.

The shininess of new drip bowls

For once I remembered to measure the burners before I went, so I came home with the right sizes: three six-inchers and one eight-.

Now the whole kitchen glows with possibilities. One distinct possibility is that I’ll scrub down the counters and the cupboards so the new drip bowls aren’t embarrassed by their surroundings.

Another formerly pristine thing had grown so grungy that even my cheapskate self thought it needed replacing: the baby gate at the top of my outside stairs that keeps Travvy on the deck when I’m not looking. After five-plus years, its white plastic was mostly gray with dirt, grime, and mildew. More important, it was starting to come apart. Trav has a lot of respect for that gate, but I wouldn’t bet my life savings, puny as they are, on his self-control under pressure.

Besides, I had a gift certificate for SBS, the feed and garden store, which is just up State Road from Shirley’s. I’d already scouted out their gates and spotted one that might do. Measurements in mind, I checked it out — and bought it. It’s classier than the old one, it fits securely, and Trav seems to think it’s solid. The instructions warn against setting it up at the top of any stairs, but I ignored them.

Will it last as long as the old one? Maybe not, but for now it’s looking good.

Looking at those blackened drip bowls and that broken, mildewy gate was bumming me out. I didn’t realize how demoralizing they were till I consigned them to the trash. And the cost of replacing them was way, way cheaper than therapy. Clean laundry doesn’t hurt either.


About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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5 Responses to Home Improvements

  1. jo says:

    trying to motivate myself to do some things like that. of course, one of them is to snake a drain…


  2. Bonnie in East Tennessee says:

    Aluminum foil is your friend here — I have a gas stove now, but when I had an electric one, I just lined the drip pans with foil. When it got disgusting (which was fairly often, considering the tendency of potatoes to boil over), I just peeled it out and started over.


  3. Sharon Stewart says:

    I didn’t know that you could replace those drip pans. Grrr… it makes me mad when I think of how hard I have scrubbed those darn things all my life. From now on it’s into the garbage they go when they get too hard to clean anymore.

    Thanks for saving my sanity, Susanna. And yes, it sure is cheaper than therapy.


    • Part of my problem was not knowing what they were called. This is an advantage of shopping in a store: Monkey see, monkey read the name. 😉 “Burner liner” is also used. They can be washed in a dishwasher, so I hear, to prevent disgustingness buildup. I like the idea, but I don’t have a dishwasher. But if you’ve got the kind of electric burners that pull out, the drip pans are easy to replace. Household Hints R Us — once in a while anyway.


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