Let Inga Tell You: Dirt be not proud


I’m not the worst housekeeper in the world. But I am a contender.

That said, I really do try to keep both clutter and dirt under control in my small garage-less house. I also have an alternate-week cleaning lady, so with the food-shedding goober-fingered grandtots in town only about monthly, the house really doesn’t get very dirty.

Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in La Jolla Light. Reach her at

Where my husband Olof and I disagree about housekeeping is the kitchen. Olof, I can assure you, would never have made it as a divorced working mother. For 12 years, I always seemed to have eight balls in the air between my job, carpooling, Cub Scouts, managing youth sports teams, and trying to keep my house and yard from descending into chaos and ruin. I can remember way too many nights when I fell asleep exhausted on top of the clean laundry piled on top of my bed, and way too many weeks when the dishes sat in the sink. There are only so many hours in a day.

When Olof came into my life and was commuting down from the Bay Area on weekends in the years before we married, he would joke on Sunday nights as I was taking him to the airport that he was going to make an X in one of the dinner plates on the kitchen counter to see if it was still there when he returned. Very funny, I said. Like I didn’t always make sure those Sunday dishes were done before I left for the airport on Friday.

Olof-loaded dishwasher
Inga-loaded dishwasher

Life is all about priorities. The kids turned out well. So if the dishes got a little furry sometimes during warmer weather, so be it. That’s what the fur, er, superwash cycle on the dishwasher is for. Astonishingly, Olof married me anyway, since Olof is not a furry dishes kind of guy.

Ah, the dishwasher. That is one area on which Olof and I will never see eye-to-eye. He took over the dishes when he retired two years ago. Though he’s too nice to say so out loud, I’ve sensed he’s never been all that happy with the job I did on the stove and counters and sink, which the dishwasher, maliciously, refuses to clean. (We can put people on the moon but someone can’t invent this?)

The sound of dishes being done and I’m not doing them is music to my ears. But it makes me truly crazy that he spends at least a half hour doing the dishes just for the two of us. I always had that sucker loaded up in four minutes flat. When he’s done, the stovetop is spotless, the granite countertops positively sparkle, and you could be blinded by the shine in our stainless steel sink. And then – listen to this - he sweeps the kitchen floor. Why, I asked him one night as he emptied the dustpan, would you do that when the cleaning lady is coming in another week?

Olof held out the broom. “If you want, I could teach you how to use this,” he offered with an evil smile.

For reasons known best to Olof, the dishes are so clean by the time they’re loaded, they probably don’t need to be run at all. Since I’m the dishwasher unloader, I couldn’t help but comment that if you can’t tell whether the dishes are clean or dirty, some of us could give them the benefit of the doubt.

But worse, Olof runs the dishwasher half full. Now, to be fair, I think the Bosch people would probably consider it correctly loaded. But seriously, I could have crammed three more days’ dishes in there, easy. (If you can see the bottom of the machine, you’re doing it wrong.) “Inga,” I have to remind, myself. “The man is DOING THE DISHES. If he wants to run it with two friggin’ forks, let him!”

But even after two years, I truly feel that spending a half hour on kitchen cleanup is time that could be used far more wisely. Like reading “War and Peace” with a snifter of Laphroaig. Or in my case, “People” with a glass of chardonnay.

Olof just isn’t getting it.

—Ingas lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at