Man-to-man guide helps guys face C-word
April 26, 2004
Men. Can't live with them - and can't leave them alone in the house, either.
Recently, I was away for 10 days, leaving He Who Must Obey in charge. Silly me. He did not once make the bed or brush the dog, left dishes to pile up in the sink, let dust bunnies run rampant and killed plants because he forgot to water them.
Imagine my joy when I came across a new book called Clean Like A Man, by Minnesota native Tom McNulty. Subtitled Housekeeping For Men (and the Women Who Love Them), it's a primer for guys who have a horror of the C-word, and, as the cover states, can't tell a mop from a hockey stick.
Chapters have titles like The Men Commandments (number six, for example, is Start High, Finish Low), Sheet Happens and Don't Stay Home Without 'Em, which is nine whole pages about the merits of various cleaning products and begins with a quote that made this girl's heart beat faster: "I love the smell of Windex Multi-Surface Kitchen and Glass Cleaner in the morning."
Forget Apocalypse Now and napalm; McNulty heralds a new era, one conquered with rags, dusters and good-quality vacuum cleaners.
Can you say, "Father's Day gift?"
Sure, McNulty, who is divorced and lives in a townhouse with Coco the mutt, was once a slob who tried to clean a carpet with a broom and slept on top of his bedspread so he wouldn't have to make the bed. But after moving into his first apartment, he saw the light, which pours in through streak-free windows.
"When I was younger, my mother took care of virtually everything for me," he said from his home near Minneapolis. "She washed, ironed and tidied up, so it only struck me when I got into my own place what a dirty world it is."
Thus, began his lifelong quest for the most clean with the least effort - he is a guy, after all. Consider his daily cleaning list: make the bed (two minutes), squeegee shower after using it and spritz with Tilex (two minutes), wipe out sinks after use (one minute), rinse dishes and put in dishwasher (two minutes), wipe off kitchen counters (one minute) sweep hard surface floors in high traffic areas (two minutes), put away newspapers and clear away clutter (one minute.) All told, this adds up to a measly 11 minutes.
His knowledge has been gleaned from books, his ex-wife, girlfriends, hotel chambermaids, Heloise and even Martha Stewart, who he says went too far when she counselled years ago that, when shovelling one's walkway, one should leave an inch of snow on it for the effect.
He adores household tips that are unexpected, like sharpening scissors by using them to cut sandpaper, or fixing a tiny hole in a garden hose by taking a lit match to the tip of an ice pick, then touching the tip to the hole.
The section on "When, why and how to line dresser drawers" contains advice on how to keep them smelling fresh: toss in a fabric softener sheet or an unwrapped bar of soap.
He insists doing laundry is therapeutic, and his motto is "Say No to Knicknacks," except for sports memorabilia like his collection of golf balls, all of which are lined up neatly on shelves.
Has there been a male backlash?
"At first, I joked that I was scared of bands of men surrounding my home with flaming torches," he said. "But I did this book to help men in a humorous way, like advice from one friend to another. I don't want to nag. Cleaning is a necessary evil."
Speaking of which, there's a kitchen to be cleaned and a stubborn man who must be made to see the light, one spritz at a time. With the book and a bottle of glass cleaner, the battle is engaged.
He Who Must Obey doesn't stand a chance.
Clean Like A Man (Three Rivers Press, $19.95) is available in local bookstores and online. Check out McNulty's Web site, cleanlikeaman.com