While I did find the recent note from Werner Herzog to his cleaning lady up on Sabotage Times to be really quite hilarious, I think I’d be at fault if I didn’t extrapolate on the obvious lesson learned: We should all be cleaning ladies. How many times have I attempted—in vain—to invade other people’s houses? There’s so much to learn! So much to explore! Do you have any idea what you can learn from people’s objects? Have you stolen this information and put it in a story? Maybe it’s time.
While my cleaning lady credentials really aren’t up to snuff—the last time I cleaned anyone’s toilet, it was 1994 and occurred in the previous residence of Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner (he wasn’t living there anymore, but he totally pooped there!)—I have had a vast amount of experience dog-sitting, which grants you a similar type of access to people's private lives. Sure, there is a bunch of actual work involved, but you need to focus on what can be gleamed from your physical surround.
First off, there’s no need for snooping. Secret drawers and hidden cabinets don’t need your attention. That’s for perverts. You are a writer. Presumably. And anyhow, there are too many details out in the open that you need to pay attention to in order to reconstruct the proper environs for your next American novella. Here’s a run-through of the most important rooms and what you’ll need to consider.
The Bathroom. How I love bathrooms. What kind of soap do they use? How many of the items are purely aesthetic flourishes, e.g. is that loofah there for a calm bath or to insert personality? Do perfumes or a rusty razor grace the counter? An overflow of cosmetic devices or a pristine assortment of decided upkeep? Remember: you are not here to judge, but to learn.
Kitchen. A whole book could be written about what’s left in the sink. Do your hosts require the most advanced of gadgetry or is it difficult to even locate a working can opener? Is there a smell? What have they left in their cupboards and fridge? Capers and produce? Perhaps a can of soup and something sour with packaging from the 1980s? Feed on this! For information. There should be take-out menus in the left hand drawer.
Bedroom. And how do they sleep? Is that shit a pillow-top? Does a television sit alone in the corner? Is there any reading to be had at night or do your absent hosts sleep fast to chillwave performed by whales?
Having made these rounds, you'll have all you need to reconstruct your unwitting clients. A house, even a one-bedroom apartment, as long as it’s not yours, should provide years of fiction fodder. Screw your corporate longings with the health insurance and dependable pay; what you need are some rubber gloves and a vacuum.
But please, please, be careful. Just in case you end up with a client like Mr. Herzog. "The situation regarding spoons remains unchanged. If I see one, I will kill it."