Ask the Existentially Troubled Housekeeping Expert, by Luke Burns

It feels like no matter how hard I work, I just can’t get the dining room to stay clean. Do you have any strategies that might help me stay on top of the mess?

—A.I., Oswego, NY

It sounds like your real struggle is not with the breadcrumbs on the floor, or the jelly stuck to the tablecloth, but with entropy itself! Your messy dining area is just one sign of the inexorable decay that will only end with the heat death of the universe. Here’s a hint: Try to avoid realizing that in the grand scheme of things, all struggles are pointless – especially your attempts to keep the breakfast nook clean!

I live in an apartment with four roommates and none of them do their fair share of the cleaning. What can I do?

—J.W., Marblehead, MA

It can be tough to keep an apartment clean when you have lots of roommates, particularly because human beings are fundamentally incapable of overcoming their inherent selfishness to work together! (I like to call it the tragedy of the common room, ha-ha.) Put up a sign to remind your roommates that it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep things tidy. Give this a shot: “Pick up after yourself! Your mother doesn’t live here and I can no longer tolerate the Weltschmerz I feel when I see empty bags of potato chips left on the coffee table.”

The toilet is, of course, a symbol of the mechanisms we use to repress that which we cannot bear to face. Inevitably, the things that we try so hard to ignore – to push away – return. What I’m trying to say is that my toilet keeps getting clogged up real bad. Is there anything I can do myself, or do I need to bite the bullet and call a plumber?

—D.T., Pine Hills, FL

You seem like you have a good head on your shoulders! Hiring a plumber now will definitely save you a lot of trouble in the long term. Conversely, you can do nothing and just hope that you die before you have to deal with something as serious as your septic tank failing. That’s what I’m counting on!

Bubbly brand soap products are a great deal, but I’m just not sure that they’re getting the job done. What do you use? Can you recommend some alternatives?

—J.F., Yuma, AZ

On the label of Bubbly brand soap products is an anthropomorphic soap bubble and the slogan, “Bubbly sez, ‘Make cleaning super E-Z!’” After extensive product testing, I can confidently report that the slogan should be, “Bubbly sez, ‘Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness, of all earthly efforts.’” So no, I would not recommend it. Then again, it’s no more useless than anything else!

I can wash all manner of stains from my sheets, but is there no detergent that can wash the stain of loneliness from my heart?

—R.B., Broomfield, CO

Only the sweet detergent of death.

What happens to food that falls into the space below the burners on my stove? Is there any way to, like, get under there and clean it out?

—M.Y., Slippery Rock, PA

Cleaning the stovetop forces us to confront not only stubborn grease spots, but also our own fear and ignorance. I don’t know what’s under the burners and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care to know. I’m too afraid of what I might find. (Pro tip: It’s okay to be disgusted by your own cowardice!) Every time try to clean my stovetop, I just can’t help setting aside my sponge and staring for what seems like hours into the total darkness below the burners. This void, which has claimed so many stray bits of food, is the same void that will one day claim us all.

Confidential to J.S. from Ann Arbor, Michigan: Seltzer water!

Luke Burns is a writing guy who lives in New York City.  His work recently appeared in The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.  Sometimes he tweets a little. Also he has a website.

The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.

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