Tag Archives: home truths

The Dishwasher Commandments

I have no qualms about admitting that I’m a lazy git who is happiest slouched on a sofa watching the idiot box. Unhappily, by the time we moved and I realised that I would have to attend to housework, I had degenerated into a lump incapable of doing the dishes.

After six months of painful incidents hunched over the kitchen sink wearing rubber gloves, I figured that having a dishwasher was going to save my ass.

Shortly after which I realised, the hard way, that a dishwasher only helps those who help themselves.

So here then are my Dishwasher Commandments which can enable you, night after night, to maximise the time that you revert to your inherent state of Being a Blob on the Couch, whilst the Dishes Magically Get Done. I don’t quite mean this of course.

>Thou shalt scrape the dishes. It’s amazing how many people are hopelessly optimistic that their food scrapings will miraculously disappear when the dishwasher is switched on. No, they do not evaporate into thin air. Yes, the god of dish scrapings will ensure they eventually block the plug hole, and finally the darn thing will overflow at 2am on a Friday night, when you are hammered from one rum-and-Coke too many, and have no hope of getting a plumber to come anytime soon.

>Thou shalt keep thy warranty alive. Or at least have a maintenance contract with a plumber or the manufacturer. Or if you’re in a rented house, keep handy the hotline to the landlord or his agent. It’s very often the case that the cost of repairing a dishwasher is the same as buying a new one. And ideally one doesn’t want to keep buying a new dishwasher every few months.

>Thou shalt empty the dishwasher. If as soon as the cycle gets done, you empty the dishwasher out, you can start putting in the dishes one by one as soon as they’re used. If, like me, you fall into the rut of using the sink as a holding area, (a) it’s going to be much more of a chore because the loading and re-loading has to be done twice, (b) it’ll add to your work in terms of cleaning the sink as well, and (c) obviously, your kitchen sink will be full of dirty dishes and that’s not very appealing after a hard day at work. Additionally, if like me you have a dog walker who comes in when you’re out, it will save you the embarrassment of a smelly sink and a slobby reputation.

>Thou shalt not break its back. A dishwasher build for 12 place settings is certainly not going to wash double the amount with the same efficiency. Chances are half the dishes won’t get done and will have to be put in with the next cycle anyway, so basically one’s doubled one’s effort without any substantial gain. And it goes without saying that if you really overload the top drawer it might break.

>Thou shalt follow the loading laws. Glasses and smaller stuff need to go on the top rack. Plates and bigger dishes need to go below. Non-dishwasher safe items can’t go in at all. Cutlery goes into the cutlery holder. Knives, if you must put them in, need to be in a place (perhaps a special compartment) where they won’t go flying during the cycle and won’t go blunt. Violating any of these rules is just trouble waiting to happen.

>Thou shalt know where the mysterious pipes go. A basic idea of the plumbing disappearing behind your dishwasher will go a long away. If like us, you pretty much installed your dishwasher, you may have a better idea. If a plumber is fitting it up for you, take the time to check out what happens behind. Chances are when the thing conks you’ll have to take stop-gap measures yourself till the plumber arrives.

>Thou shalt clean thy dishwasher once in a while. Not once in a blue moon. Or lifetime. Personally I find my cheerful yellow rubber gloves (clearly I am not alone!) go a long way when I need to do these ughsome tasks. I would go so far as to say I wouldn’t be able to do a darn thing without them.

>Thou shalt be nice to thy dishwasher. Thou shalt top up the salts and the rinse-aid. Apparently white vinegar works as well as rinse aid but I’ve not tried it so far. If you want to be extra-nice to your dishwasher, go ahead and by all means use the deodoriser or the dishwasher cleaner (cue smirks from people who can’t understand why a dishwasher additionally needs to be cleaned). Hey, I’m no dishwasher expert. I just try to keep mine happy so it can keep me lazy.


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Wrapping up- a checklist

The world isn’t necessarily a kind place to a bookworm. Read a book while walking across a road, and you might get knocked over (was almost there). As a child, sneak in a pile of books into the loo- after getting emboldened by efforts to sneak in a book at a time- and you might get a clout from your mother (been there).

Moving is no different. Your movers, like mine, might wonder why you have so many books piled up. “Strange people”, they said, scratching their heads in amazement, “they have more books than anything else in the house”.

Yes, moving is a time when a judgment will be passed on you. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

But don’t, for god’s sake, take all your books with you.

Don’t take that tatty volume of Housman that you haven’t read forever and will never read again, and only keep because it makes you feel more intellectual. Don’t be tempted to take that moth-eaten copy of Essays of Elia because you like the way the hardbound cover looks. Please pause a moment and spare a thought for the moth infestation that you will carry across continents, possibly to a wooden framed house. Dump your hard bound coffee table volumes on Monet because you ain’t going to get artistic inspiration from them if lightning hasn’t struck you in all the five years you’ve had ’em.

Best case– you’re adding to the number of things you have to unpack and store.

Worst case– To add insult to injury, your employer isn’t paying for your movers and you’re paying to give up the additional storage space in your new home.

Moving across continents is, I find, a very spiritual exercise in assessing just what’s important to you. A forced purging of worldly goods and streamlining your existence.

From bitter experience, the things that you will need to remember are:

  • To pay off your mobile phone bills and terminate the connections. Easier said than done, especially if you had a household with two people and four mobiles (two for you guys, one for your driver and one for the help, but all in your name)- which is quite typical in India. Mobile phone companies don’t always coordinate things properly, and bills have a strange way of coming back from the grave and biting you on the ass months later, when you thought you were home and dry. And then you have to make long distance calls to the India helpline number asking them to terminate the connection. If you do find yourself in that boat it’s best to somehow obtain an email address (no, they won’t proffer it voluntarily, and yes, it will be like pulling teeth from them, but it will make the job easier once all your letters to them are recorded). Check for hidden costs. Ask for a breakdown of all charges. And do ask for a confirmation that all your dues have been paid. You don’t want another set of charges hatching for another 12 months and coming back with interest and possibly threats of civil suits.
  • Ditto for internet connections. Don’t forget the internet connection and the wireless dongle.
  • Terminate the gym membership (if like me, you went twice in four months, this wouldn’t be something you’d remember about straightaway).
  • Let the help go. Give them some severance pay- chances are, they’ll get another job soon, but on the flipside they’re faced with financial uncertainty too. It’s helpful to try to find them an alternate post with family or friends, but I wouldn’t be too bullish on their sticking it out, or even landing up. They might be shy about saying it, but they simply won’t land up. Our live-in lady took the view that she had simply made too much money from her years with us and could now retire happily (she didn’t land up for the job we had found for her). Our driver took the view that he might as well try his luck in a different city (he took an advance from the friend we had recommended him to, and jazzed off without a by-your-leave). It’s best not to expect too much. A measured recommendation might go a longer way than singing their praises. Else you might find you’re in hot water later when your proteges let you down!
  • Sell or give away stuff. Perhaps your parents had a second flat where they needed a fridge. Or they needed a bed for the spare bedroom anyway. If not, sell it (don’t give them stuff they don’t need – (a) they had enough of your junk when you were growing up (b) you’ll never hear the end of it. You’d be surprised at the level of enterprise in India. There is a buyer for everything. Pots and pans, crockery, furniture, furnishings, paper, glass, old electrical appliances, inverters, everything, I kid you not. Your help can get hold of the neighbourhood kabadiwala. Sell him everything, and keep the money. It might pay for food for the first few days before your bank account gets set up in the new country! If it won’t come to that much, it might just pay for the taxi fare to the airport!
  • Terminate your lease on time. And remember to extract your deposit from the landlord.
  • Send your stuff on ahead. The best way is to clear up shop about a week or two before, send your stuff on ahead (by sea is cheaper and takes more time, so there’s not much danger of it reaching before you do). Assuming your stuff takes four weeks to reach, you will have two weeks to find a place to stay before you are reunited with your beloved odds and ends and accoutrements. Con an unsuspecting kind friend or long-suffering family into putting you up over the last few days.
  • Get any documents you need from your ex-employer. It’s hard enough chasing them when you’re not employed with them, than to have to chase them from a different time zone altogether.
  • Have a chat with your accountant and settle your finances. Get copies of your tax returns and bank statements. There’s a very good chance you’ll need them. And get his phone number and email address- these will be your lifeline before the next tax filing!
  • Make lists! Make a list of lists. Worship your list every morning when you wake up, and before you go to bed at night. Hang that pencil from your neck to tick off each point on your list. The List Monster Rules.

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The Nightmare that is moving. With a capital N.

It’s always difficult moving lock, stock and barrel (and in our case with live and quite vociferous baggage) across continents. It’s like a massive war effort on several fronts, especially if one had anything like a running establishment already.

If like me, you’ve never done that before, you’re likely to make the same mistake I did, which is- (a) try to take too many things with you– either because you are under the mistaken belief that they will come in handy (yes, that means that bed which will not fit, that bedsheet which you will never use again, and the tea cups that are merely decorative and serve no useful purpose to man or beast in a household where no one drinks tea. I’ve learnt the hard way that there’s no point being endlessly optimistic about the weights that you will never use again, or sentimental about the vase you got at your wedding that you hate.

(b) try to pack your own things, in a mistaken control-freaky belief that you, and you alone, are capable of packing the stuff that matters to you in a way that will not destroy them! That very smart idea (or so it seemed at the time) you had of packing your crystal in cotton wool and then in cuff link boxes will backfire spectacularly when you can’t remember where you packed the damn box in the first place. I think it’s better to leave it to the professionals- they know what they’re doing, and even if they don’t, it’s wiser conserving your energy rather than sweating the small stuff. God knows it’s stressful enough! If it’s that precious, leave it with family, or put in your hand luggage on a later trip when there’s less to transport.

(c) try to pack up all your stuff before you’ve read what is and isn’t allowed as cargo– yes, this includes the bottles of perfume you’ve been hoarding since the ninth grade and never found it in your heart to use, and the bunch of dried wildflowers you pinched from your mum seven years ago. Show me a country that will allow you to send in liquids and plant matter as part of personal cargo, and I’ll.. well, I’m basically confident it’s never allowed.

(a), (b) and (c) all have one inevitable outcome, as I am painfully aware. Clutching your forehead and trying to soothe your raging migraine, at a time when you would be far better served having said headache by getting gloriously drunk with your mates before you leave!

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