Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cabinet contents

I write a lot about running, parenting, farm life, my community, and writing itself. You could say those are my leitmotifs. In fact, I’m pretty sure the bio on my website does say those are my leitmotifs.

What I don’t think I’ve ever written about is medicine cabinets. But there’s a first time for everything.

I’m not interested in medicine cabinets in the aggregate; just one specific medicine cabinet. My family doesn’t really understand this particular hang-up of mine, but the one medicine cabinet that occupies far too much of my attention is the one in the guest bathroom at my parents’ vacation home.

You see, once a year I clean it out. No one else in my family understands why I consider this such an important job. It’s not that they don’t appreciate my work; they just really don’t see why I make such a big deal out of it.

But the reason is this: I’m the only family member who ever looks in that medicine cabinet, and every time I do, I experience a wave of frustration.

When each adult couple in our family – my parents, my older sister and her husband; my younger sister and her husband; or my husband and me – stay in the vacation house, we use the master bedroom, because it never happens that more than one of those couples is vacationing at the same time. (This isn’t so much a coincidence as by decree of one of the aforementioned family member, but that’s another story.) We don’t use the guest bedroom and bath; our occasional guests do. So it’s one of the only places in the house that we never have any reason to inspect.

Twice in recent years, though, I’ve ended up staying in the guest room: once because I was vacationing all alone and it felt weird to use the master bedroom by myself, and then last week because my mother and I went on vacation together. And that’s why this topic is my pet peeve and no one else’s.

My mother and I have discussed more than once the proper way to furnish a guest bathroom. I believe it’s appropriate to have a supply of shampoo and conditioner (a very all-purpose kind: no highlight-preserving, gray-reducing, fine-hair-amplifying or curl-relaxing) along with a fresh bar of soap. My mother, who is in every way an exceedingly generous person and an unfailingly gracious hostess, agrees about the soap but maintains that everyone has an individual hair care preference (along the lines of the options mentioned above) and therefore likely travels with their own products.

Either way, what frustrates me is the accumulation of health and beauty products that guests leave behind. These same guests wouldn't think of leaving a full wastebasket or a dirty tub; they do this presumably in the belief that they are being generous to the next visitor. Well, I want to say as I grind my teeth, you’re wrong. Take your toiletries with you, please. No one wants to use someone else’s organic lipstick, toddler vitamins, menthol shaving gel, herbal sleeping remedies, peach pit facial masque, all-natural baby shampoo, or cuticle strengthener, to name just a few of the items I’ve disposed of in the cleaning blitzes I regularly make on that cabinet. Hostess gifts? Great idea. Half-used allergy remedies? Thanks anyway.

I’ve just vacated the premises, so the cabinet is once again down to its bare essentials. I apologize if any future guests arrive hoping against hope that they’ll find a nail extension or two waiting for them in the bathroom. But as far as I’m concerned, guest bathrooms are like camping areas: If you bring it in when you arrive, take it out when you leave.

Of course, not everyone is going to follow this rule, so maybe the truth is that I need to chill a little bit and not make such a big deal of it. Happily, some previous guest left a bottle of organic stress-relieving drops in the cabinet. Before I throw it away, I’ll give it a try.

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