Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Do Rich People Iron Their Sheets?


You'll have to admit that when staying in a fine hotel that offers turn-down service it's always a pleasure to see ironed sheets and a chocolate on the pillow or bedside table. It not only lets you know that the bed has indeed been changed from the previous night's guest, but it also feels quite nice to slide in between freshly ironed bed linens.

But after that first momentary pleasure, five minutes later the sheets get all wrinkled again, don't they? Which is why in my own humble apartment the sheets come directly out of the dryer and straight onto the bed - skipping all the labor of ironing.

Hotels have these massive rotary machines to both iron and fold the sheets in one quick and easy task. But in a private home, there's nothing quick or easy about it. The whole procedure is labor intensive (to say the least!) and can take a couple of hours or more to complete. It's common knowledge that Martha Stewart has her sheets ironed and changed every day. But she's rich and has a full house staff (including a laundry tech no doubt) to accommodate this obsession without having to lift a finger herself.

The Butler Academy I attended attached great importance to ironing sheets for our rich employers, and part of my two-year curriculum allowed for home studies. So one day I got this box of freshly-washed but crumpled sheets from FedEx and my task was to both iron and fold them correctly and send them back to the academy as soon as possible.

Oh dear lord, what to do? I'd never ironed so much as a handkerchief in my entire life! My first thought was to hire someone to do it - which would be efficient of course, but cheating. And I really wanted to learn the job top to bottom, especially since part of a butler/house manager's task is to train new employees.

So the next step, simply borrow an ironing board and iron, right? But oops, not one of my déclassé wash-and-wear friends owned such a thing. So off to Walmart I went to purchase the clumsy instruments. (And then back again an hour later to buy an ironing board cover. Who knew, right?)

I have to tell you that this whole procedure, being the first time, took me the entire afternoon! The pillow cases were a snap and the king-size top sheet, while time consuming, was relatively easy as well - compared to the fitted bottom sheet that turned out to be a real bitch to wrangle and iron.

Then folding them correctly into tight little bundles was another nightmare altogether - especially, again, the bottom sheet sheet. Mercifully Cheryl Mendelson's brilliant book entitled Home Comforts (required reading by the academy) has detailed charts about how to fold anything from clothes to dinner napkins and bed sheets - which was a life saver! And all said and done I got a 90% grade on that test, which was a huge relief.

There are such things as small Rotary Irons for home use. Miele makes an affordable one (about $2,000) that's great for ironing dinner napkins, pillow cases, and the top bed sheet. But there's nothing on God's green earth to help with the bottom sheet.

I hope this post has been somewhat helpful in deciding whether or not to iron your sheets and how to go about it. Personally I don't recommend it one bit if you can avoid it. I think it was Socrates who said, "Work once begun must be continued." (Or was that Gandhi?)

Good night, and as always thanks for stopping by this evening.

Andrew


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Cleaning in the World of the Rich!

"Housekeeping ain't no joke!" - Louisa May Alcott

After a long and harsh winter it's that happy time of year again when the weather starts to warm up, birds begin their welcome migration north, and spring flowers start to push up through a thawing earth. While it's a cultural commandment that now is the time to start our spring cleaning, it's also a kind of innate awakening that makes us want to throw open the windows, let in the fresh air, and to clean up the mess from our winter hibernation.

I don't know about you, but for me this mixed blessing comes across mostly as a dreaded chore. When it's freezing cold outside all I want to do is snuggle up and watch Netflix - to heck with cleaning the house, right? So it just builds up and up until it becomes like this huge monumental task. And while you may begin your spring cleaning with a broom and a mop, it's like I need to start with a rake. Lordy lord!

For the rich and super rich, with their enormous mansions and multiple homes all over the world, you might imagine this is a gigantic, labor-intensive event as well.

But no, not so!

In these homes with a full year-round staff of housekeepers and groundskeepers, we do what's called Zone Cleaning on a continuing basis. This simply means that in addition to the daily task of tidying up throughout the entire house, one room is selected each week for deep cleaning, on a rotating basis.

Let's say a guest bedroom with a full marble bath is the zone for the week. Here's a list of what all we do, which might give some tips in your own spring cleaning.

- Open the windows and balcony doors to air out the room.

- Clean the inside of the windows. (The groundskeepers clean the outside.)

- Strip the bed and flip the mattress, including sprinkling both sides with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to absorb any odors, then vacuum off. Wash or send out the bed clothes for dry cleaning.

- Vacuum underneath the bed with a flat vacuum.

- Vacuum the walls, the ceiling, the drapes, and the furniture.

- Vacuum or carefully brush all the lampshades (depending on the delicacy of the fabric), and wash or polish the finals.

- Dust the artwork on the walls with a female ostrich feather duster.

- Dust the chandelier or light fixture. (There are outside services to polish the crystals, when needed.)

- Sterilize the door nobs, the light switches and the bathroom handles with an alcohol wipe.

- Move bedroom furniture and vacuum underneath. (The groundskeepers assist with this.)

- Polish all the marble in the bathroom. (We use products from Stone Care International.)

- Replace all towels (even if they haven't been used) with fresh ones.

With all hands on board, this task only takes a couple of hours, and every room in the house gets deep cleaned on a regular basis. So you see, there's no real need for panic come spring. The entire house is thoroughly deep cleaned all throughout the year.

Having said that, you'll likely want to have all the chimneys swept in the spring, but you'd engage an outside service to do that. In addition, some homes have both winter and summer furniture. So we might find ourselves lugging the dark heavy winter furniture up to the attic and bringing down the lighter floral-print furniture for the spring and summer.

And not forgetting that rich people are always toying with their homes; endless and whimsical  re- decorations, perhaps complete renovations, or maybe even additions added to the house. Spring seems to be the time of year when they want to do this, so be on the alert whenever this disruptive madness comes your way.

On this first day of spring, and as always, thanks for dropping by this evening!

I hope this has been helpful in some small way and that your spring cleaning goes smoothly. Martha Stewart has some tips on her website, in case you get stuck. But fair warning: it may give you a bigger headache than I have!

HAPPY SPRINGTIME!

Andrew


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Winter Doldrums in the World of the Rich!

"I'm seeing a lot of new faces in the audience tonight, especially on the old faces." - Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.

With the spring social season just around the corner, this is the time of year when rich people all over the world begin to trickle home after mysteriously vanishing to Switzerland for a few weeks. While their face lifts and other unmentionable nips and tucks might only take a few hours in surgery, it takes a couple of weeks or more for the healing and bruising to subside. And there are plenty of luxury spas in Switzerland to accommodate this recovery time.

At the end of the month we're hosting a small soirée for several couples who have just returned from their winter "vacations", ready to step back out into high society. Dame Covington is practically giddy in anticipation. Said she, "I wonder if we'll recognize anyone?"

My employer and his new girlfriend did go to a rejuvenation spa in Switzerland, but only for a week. And there are no discernible nips, tucks or bruising that we can tell. Ester, the Upstairs Maid, has a keener eye than I, and she suspects they have opted for Botox treatments this year, rather than plastic surgery. While I've noted some puffiness now and then, I can't really tell the difference between too much alcohol or if they're simply retaining and bloated.

But I'm looking forward to the party and the parade of stretched foreheads, alarmingly wide-open eyes, and the sometimes-permanent smiles that come from too many trips to the fountain of youth. Chef and I both agree that a snappy (if somewhat bitchy) cocktail party is just what we need to get warmed up for the onslaught of the social season - which could be a humdinger this year considering how politically polarized everyone has become in the last couple of years.

To be sure, it will be a welcome relief from a rather dull winter this year. Unlike in years past before the divorce, there were no large galas or other dazzling events, no holidays celebrated here in the house, only a smidgen of small rather-dull cocktail parties now and then - all of which I blame on the obnoxious new girlfriend. But nonetheless, we in the house staff tried to make the best of it.

In the last post I told you about Christmas with Dame Covington, which was utterly charming. Then New Year's came along and turned out to be totally uneventful. Although the new girlfriend said she wanted to have a quiet evening with just a few of her déclassé friends over for cocktails (which I really wasn't looking forward to) they wound up going to one of their private dinner clubs in the city. Which gave me the chance to celebrate the evening with a few déclassé friends of my own.

Then Valentine's Day crept up, like it does on all of us, right? And I really didn't know what to do. I did have the good sense to have our florist fill all the vases in the downstairs with red-rose arrangements. And Chef made sure we had plenty of champagne, chocolates and caviar on hand, just in case.

But again we got a reprieve! They booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel and had dinner at the Oak Room (on the ground floor of the hotel) the night of their arrival. And then the next day they had Valentine's lunch at the Plaza's Palm Court. As cliché as that all may sound, we were delighted to have the evening free! Chef made some chocolate-dipped strawberries for Dame Covington, and she was delighted as well.

I hope you got through all the holidays without undue stress, and that your winter blues have passed smoothly. Spring is just around the corner, with all the hope and renewal that always seems to bring.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening,

Andrew