The Plague is Coming, Part 5 — How To Be a Germaphobe

In high school, my friend’s mom was a germaphobe. Sue’s mom had a very complicated system for containing the world’s microscopic creepy-crawlies. The house was divided up into various zones based on different standards of dirtiness.

The living room and dining area in the main part of the house were dirty zones; there was an alternative kitchen and living room in the older section of the house that was a clean zone. A dirty zone meant that only a handful of people were allowed in the house. These filthy outsiders (me) were allowed in certain areas of the dirty zone, once we took our shoes off. Those areas would be promptly cleaned with disinfectants after the fifty outsider left. She would remember where I sat and clean those chairs with rubbing alcohol later.

One time I made the catastrophic error of putting library books on the dining room table, because Sue and I were working on a group project for a social studies class. Library books were “dirty, dirty, dirty” and didn’t belong in the house at all.

She used to launder money. And not in the gangster sort of way. She would wash dollar bills in the sink and then hang them out to dry.

The rest of the house was divided up into increasingly clean zone with bedrooms being the only sterile place in her eyes. Family members would strip their clothes in the hallways and put on “clean” clothes that were only worn in the bedroom.

Yes, Sue’s mom had a lot of issues. But maybe it’s time to start thinking like Sue’s mom. It’s time to think like a germaphobe. As lots of smart people have pointed out, it’s coming. You’re probably going to get sick, but you might slightly improve your odds if you practice social distancing and clean like crazy.

Here are some measures that we’ve taken here at Apt. 11D:

  • When the college kid came home, I made him walk directly to the shower without bringing his bags in the house. We deep cleaned his phone, keys, wallet. We put the lanyard from his keys and the clothes directly in the wash.
  • I just picked up special cleaning wipes from Staples for the computer keyboard and mouse, but here’s more info on disinfecting electronics.
  • We’re washing all of our eyeglasses.
  • When someone comes in the house, they have to immediately wash their hands.
  • I have a tub of disinfectant wipes in the car that I use all day on the steering wheel, emergency break, and shift.
  • I highly suggest buying those items on Amazon right now, because they are long gone in every supermarket.
  • Last night, I took everything off the kitchen counter and did a deep clean. I’ll probably do that every night, until everybody in my family is home for good. Steve is still working in a building, where someone just tested positive.
  • Think closely about touching elevator buttons.
  • I’m going to wash bathroom towels and dish towels frequently.
  • I’m going to replace the kitchen sponge frequently. Don’t put a sponge in the microwave to disinfect! That just make the little buggies happy.

(I will keep adding to this list throughout the day. And several other posts are in the works.)

17 thoughts on “The Plague is Coming, Part 5 — How To Be a Germaphobe

  1. So Sue’s mom had OCD. I understand the dirty/clean concept from lab, but want to try to avoid exacerbated any OCD tendencies in anyone.


  2. Today employees at my company were told “if you are working from home, disconnect from the network when you complete your tasks to preserve availability of resources.” This is a huge national bank. I’m wondering if schools and other institutions have the capacity to accommodate such a giant increase in remote access. My company is already noting issues.


    1. I’ve been wondering about the load on Internets. A number schools in our area running Zoom video classes which must be bandwidth demanding. Maybe we have the bandwidth here, but I can imagine more critical services failing. The schools need to be ready for that possibility, because I think most of us would agree that zoom classes every day are not a critical necessity for Kindergartners, at least.


    2. A friend’s husband works for one of the large LMS companies. They are all FREAKING out – they do NOT have enough bandwidth. I am planning online courses accordingly.


      1. Courses are one thing. I’ve just started watching Arrested Development. I need the bandwidth. I had no idea it was good.


  3. Sponges do fine being run through the dishwasher. I’m making it a practice to wear gloves when on the subway, partly because then the glove touches the grab bar and partly because it helps me be successful in not touching my face. The mathematics of large gatherings are daunting!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We have a no shoes house. It just makes things easier if you aren’t going to vacuum very often. As far as COVID, I’m assuming it’s going to go through our household. I’m just hoping it stays out of mom’s nursing home.


  5. I agree about not touching elevator buttons (except if they are inside your house). Otherwise, I think it’s more important to clean your hands & not touch your face than to focus too much on re cleaning surfaces that are mostly touched by family members (steering wheel, for example, or a counter).

    I made the HS kid (whose school is closed as of today) shower when he got home, too :).


    1. except if they are inside your house

      That’s not really an issue I’ve come across.

      I can’t get our son to change clothes when he comes home without too much of a fight, so I’ve settled for washing his hands when he comes in. I can’t even get myself to stop touching my face.


  6. I bow to Laura-the-germophobe! I like the car idea a lot, as we unavoidably touch that stuff with dirty hands.

    We’ve had a number of visits to healthcare environments this week for labs and such and I am beginning to adopt a change-of-clothes-upon-return-home policy for large public settings. And it’s really for the best if the 1st grader doesn’t go at all. As I’ve been discovering (due to spring break togetherness and this week’s hyperfocus on the subject), the 1st grader touches everything constantly, touches her face constantly, has a lot of trouble staying out of people’s personal space, and also tends to use her clothing as a large handkerchief. And there’s no point in telling her to stop–she simply can’t remember long enough for verbal instructions to be effective.

    Our household has a tradition of no outside shoes in carpeted areas and no food outside the kitchen without parental permission, but that’s mostly been to cut down on cleaning work.

    Something I’ve been thinking about the last couple weeks and am just about to make a move on is my purse. I have a leather purse that I dearly love, but I need to start using a washable (or at least wipeable) bag for the duration.

    We’re starting regular electronics wipe downs, especially if a device has been used in a large public place. I’ve also started wiping down doorknobs and faucets–I’ll probably be doing that once a week.

    We’re not in the hot zone, but my comfort zone right now is small-scale socializing. Husband’s work has gone remote for at least the next several weeks. I’ve got half a dozen 15-year-olds from school coming to the 9th grader’s birthday party at our house and we go to a church service with about 200 people at a time–but there will be fewer college students around. We’re doing get-togethers with a couple of neighborhood families for the kids. We’re supposed to host a grad potluck at our house in a couple of weeks, which I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about–we’re querying the powers that be with regard to whether that should go forward. I’m also leaning toward no for the big kids’ conference in Houston at the end of the month. As things develop, we’ll probably tighten up our standards. But in the meantime, we’re preserving quality of life without going nuts.

    School has been suspiciously quiet. I feel like we’re due for a big announcement of some kind. There are a lot of healthcare workers among the parents, and there’s potentially a very direct infection route from the hospitals to school once we get any cases in the area, so I have a lot of concerns.


  7. My college kid just had to drive back to college, because he forgot a textbook. The student scuttlebutt is that two kids on campus have tested positive.

    I was hoping to write more today, but the college kid is having a meltdown.


    1. Laura said, “The student scuttlebutt is that two kids on campus have tested positive.”

      With Rutgers being so enormous and the NE going the way it’s going, somebody HAD to have it.


  8. My wife is suggesting I wash the inside of my nose. Which seems worse than keeping a bunch of zones in the house.


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