A little bit of all you got, can never bring you down…*

*Lyrics from You’re The Best (Around!) from THE Karate Kid (1984). I probably should have used ‘INSPIRING GUITAR SOLO‘ as my lyrics, but these words were slightly more accurate. I urge you to watch the video, at work, and loudly, preferably, and then do the crane kick at everyone you see for a whole day. Do it. I dare you.

Yep, karate training (slash cleaning) sucks. I feel you, Ralph.

So, yesterday I saw a dude who walks like Ralph Macchio. Jeff claims to not know what that means, but I ask you this: if you’ve seen The Karate Kid as many times as we (of my generation, you young’ns) have, don’t you instinctively know what I mean? I dare say he could pick Daniel-sun out of a walking line-up. Maybe it was a girl thing to notice. But, I digress. Ralph Macchio was likely on my mind because of the one-day Miyagi-style boot camp I held for myself yesterday.

Let me back up. One of the biggest challenges in living in a rental apartment – especially when you were once a homeowner yourself – is to find ways to make it your own without breaking any of the rules of renting. Don’t damage the place, don’t make permanent changes (unless you know for a fact that the landlord won’t mind), don’t make them come up there to fix your mistakes. You know, the basics. But, you simultaneously need to make it feel as if it could be yours, and you need to make it feel like home, even if only temporarily. And the first way to do that is usually with a thorough cleaning.

BEFORE: Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?!

Up until last week, I hadn’t properly invested in the cleanliness of the place. I mean, I mopped, dusted, vacuumed, etc., but I didn’t do any heroic cleaning. No extra effort beyond basic maintenance. I had the gorgeous home that I was keeping clean for the new owners, so my energy for further cleanliness investment was low. I just kept on keepin’ on. So to speak.

Anyway, so, buoyed by my good night’s sleep, or perhaps by my need to do something productive, I decided I’d try my hand at scrubbing the dingy, dirty, stained, and otherwise grody bathroom floor. It’s not original – when we lived in the upstairs flat the floor was indeed original, and the patina on the marble and grout was charming and beautiful – so I had no problem unleashing my inner karate student by scrubbing in opposite circles with opposite hands (you know, to practice blocking any kicks that might be coming from the grime on the floor), and by experimenting with a little homemade cleaning concoction. (Full disclosure: due to the uneven installation and nature of the mosaic tile, circles didn’t really do much. I went in broad sweeping straight lines, and it completely kicked my ass.)

DURING: My armory - vinegar, baking soda, a toothbrush, a spare bit of rug pad folded up to create a knee pad, and my large scrub brush - were what got me through. Thoughts of Elizabeth Shue should have been what got me through, but I'm not actually Ralph Macchio.

I had read that vinegar was disinfecting, and I knew that if you add baking soda to the mix you get some foamy bubbles, so I thought it best to begin there. I’m not into using mega harsh chemicals unless it’s warranted (and believe me, I know there are times when only proper chemicals will do). I totally made it up as I went along – wetting the floor, sprinkling baking soda, then splashing on the vinegar – and scrubbed until I was literally dripping with sweat. I worked that tiny bathroom floor into submission, stopping after two hours of solid hunching, crouching, and blister-on-my-palms-making-intensity to reveal a floor that was not only pretty clean looking, but also felt clean underfoot. I hadn’t realized that it was so grimy to the touch, even with regular mopping. After a couple of incredibly thorough rinses (once with mild soap, and once with plain water), I mopped the floor one more time, just to make sure that it didn’t smell of vinegar, and looked upon my hard work as Daniel-sun had after waxing that old yellow car.

I was justified in my pride when Jeff got home and emphatically let out a few expletives in appreciation. And, even though I know it’s not perfect – the grout was probably never sealed when it was installed, so there is some permanent staining – I know it’s clean. And that makes me feel more comfortable in calling this place home. For now.

Pictures! xoxo


  1. siegellb@yahoo.com'Laura

    I’ve read that hydrogen peroxide can whiten grout. Maybe mixed with something? It’s been all over FB and I’m sure it’s on Pinterest.

    But go you-it looks great!

    1. So Happy Home Post author

      I read that too! I might try spraying it on and seeing if it works to brighten up the grout. From what I can see, the grout has been touched up over the years, with some of it whiter to begin with than other spots. It might never be perfect, but the improvement was worth the effort. Go Team Elbow Grease! 🙂 xoxo

    1. So Happy Home Post author

      Cleaning up after my own mess is one thing; handling years of previous tenants’ business is something else altogether. I’m glad I did it, but I don’t aim to do it again. Hoping I won’t need to.

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