If you happened to be in Queensborough today and drove or walked or biked by the Manse, you might have found yourself wondering what on earth that woman was doing in the front yard with a bucket of water and a deconstructed chest of drawers. Well, since that woman was me, I’ll tell you. I was trying to get the musty smell out of that chest of drawers, which Raymond and I bought a while back at an auction.
It seemed like a bargain at the time: $40 (as I recall) for quite a nice old piece of furniture in good shape. (I have since been to a lot more auctions and have decided that I overpaid. But I was an auction rookie then.)
After we got it home to the Manse we wiped and vacuumed it out, and put it upstairs in one of the spare bedrooms. (“The boys’ room,” Raymond and I call it, because it was the bedroom that my younger brothers John and Kenneth – you can see a cute photo of them at the bottom of this post – slept in when we were kids growing up in this house.) And we didn’t think too much more about it.
But in recent days I’ve developed a determination to get my clothes (of which I have way too many, like most 21st-century North Americans) actually put away in closets and drawers, as opposed to the alternative, which is messy piles and whatnot. Now, this is easier said than done in the Manse, because chests of drawers and closets are in extremely short supply; when this house was built in 1888, people just didn’t have all that many clothes.
I, on the other hand, do have lots of clothes, and that’s why I decided it was time to put that auction-sourced chest of drawers to use. Unfortunately, when I opened one of the drawers up, I was taken aback by the musty smell that came out. No way was I putting my nice clean sweaters in there.
And that’s why you might have seen me out in the front yard with the drawers taken out of the frame of the chest and the frame itself upside down. Employing a de-mustifying method that I totally made up, I scrubbed everything down with a combination of very hot water and Murphy Oil Soap. Then I left everything out in the hot sun and the steady breeze so that they would dry out and in the process (or so I hoped) the smell would dissipate.
By the end of the afternoon, when we moved the pieces up onto the Manse’s front porch, they definitely seemed to smell a lot fresher, but I think another scrubdown and day in the sun might be in order. Or – is there a better way? One suggestion I heard today was boiling water followed by hot sun. Or would industrial-strength vinegar and water be a good idea, I wonder? If you have any suggestions, please send them along.
Because, you know, if this doesn’t work out, that chest of drawers is off to the dump. And I am off to Ikea.
Meanwhile, I have made a mental note to self: before you buy, or even bid on, a piece of old furniture at an auction – or anywhere else – for goodness sakes open up the drawers and sniff!