The Art of the “Half-Clean”: 21 Rituals of a Neurotic Guy Preparing for a Dateby Walker James Loetscher on May 16, 2012
So my friend — let’s call her Sonya — went on a date the other night, during the course of which the guy offhandedly recommends that they have their next drink at his place, since it’s “conveniently” nearby.
Sonya’s a good sport, so she humored him and obliged, but at the threshold to his apartment she said “If your place is, like, immaculately clean, I’m going to know this was all planned.” And, of course, it was. Sonya isn’t exactly a fan of this type of male-imposed entrapment, so while she hit him up for the free drink, she did not grant him a second date.
I’ve found myself in a similar predicament many times, which is why when I prepare my apartment for the potential arrival of a female, I have this routine we’ll call the “Half-Clean.” The great thing about the Half-Clean is that it suggests that my apartment (upon her entrance) is existing in its natural state; it conveys that I am a fairly well-kept person ALL THE TIME, when in reality I am anything but.
Why not full-clean? For the exact reason Sonya’s suitor was denied a second date: if a girl (especially one you’re still getting to know) thinks that you went to extreme lengths at her expense, she’s going to assume you have expectations, and expectations lead to pressure, and pressure makes her feel uncomfortable. And discomfort was what you were trying to avoid by cleaning your hovel of a living space in the first place, right?
Phase One: Extreme Makeover, Apartment Edition
Before mussing things up, you want a pristine base layer. So basically you’re going to tidy and scrub your quarters into a state of perfect cleanliness only to reintroduce some semblances of male living and attendant disarray.
Here’s a breakdown of the most important tasks:
1) Shower curtain Is it covered in mildew on the inside? If so, toss it and hang a new one. Not only does it look gross, it’s probably acquired a stench which you may or may not be aware of, as well.
2) Trash can Empty it. But not all the way. Leave some scraps in the bottom — maybe not those tissues, though.
3) Toilet This thing should be so thoroughly scrubbed and lacquered that it could double as an eating surface. (Obviously, you’ll want to wait to do this until the date is imminent, so you don’t have to do it twice.) And close the toilet seat. She might suspect this part was premeditated, but she’ll think it flattering rather than hold it against you.
4) Towel Replace it. Regardless of how many days you’ve used it. You can always reintroduce it into the mix tomorrow when she’s gone. Tonight, though, you don’t want her to catch that telltale wet-dog scent that tends to taint towels in humid cities after about three or four uses.
5) Vacuum Not just the floor. The real key is hitting those unsightly couch cushions, which are probably powdered with the crumbs of the various bags of snacks you routinely pass out with your hand still buried in.
6) Hide Your Illicit Materials Any and all tobacco products, nudie mags, pills, papers, pipes, poppers, latex dress-ups, needles, tourniquets, shoeboxes full of non-sequential bills, cassette recordings of your calls to that late-night singles hotline, etc. should be cached in a place where she’ll never happen upon them. And if you own all those things, I hope you have a big closet.
7) Wash the Dishes I know, I know: that pile has grown to such unmanageable girth that you can’t even locate the faucet. And, yes, half of them belong to your equally slothful roommate. If you were smart, you would have orchestrated a date for him the day prior to yours so that this task fell his way. But now it’s too late, so put on the closest thing you own to a Haz-Mat suit, break out the industrial-sized jug of dish soap and scour like you mean it.
8) Refrigerator Dispose of anything that has visibly changed in hue since the last time you ate it. Then arrange things in some pattern other than “where they ended up after you Frisbeed them through the door.”
9) Change the Sheets Because you smell. Duh.
10) Make the Bed Sort of. What I mean is, don’t pull the corners tight and fluff the pillows and top it off with a mint chocolate like you’re J.W. freaking Marriott. It should appear as if it were made hastily, thus implying it’s something you do everyday.
Related: The Best Mattresses for Sex
11) About that Pile of Dirty Laundry … You probably won’t have time to make it to the laundromat, considering the nuances of a thorough Half-Clean. So gather all the articles that are visibly overflowing from your hamper, pack them into a laundry bag, and then make that bag disappear somewhere. Maybe in the same place you stowed all your paraphernalia, assuming there’s still wiggle room.
Phase 2: Shake Things Up
Now that your apartment is tidier than the day you moved in, you need to construct a facade of prior habitation (and awesomeness). In doing so, you will create an image of yourself as a competent (but not obsessive) housekeeper, rather than the guy who frenetically detailed his apartment for the express purpose of some girl’s arrival.
So do some of these things, incorporating your own personal touches as you start to grasp the model.
12) Your Brand New Wine Cabinet Your instinct might be to buy one bottle of wine. I would advise you to buy three or four. Listen: let’s say you invite her back to your place after you’ve been out to dinner or a movie or a high school play or whatever the kids are passing off as dates these days. One bottle of wine says “I bought this because I intended to bring you back here and get you tipsy.” More bottles says “I am a nascent enologist. Care to sample from my bouquet of reds?” Of course, more than one bottle always permits the possibility of, like, drinking more than one bottle as well. I dare say it’s a good date if you achieve that juncture.
13) Books and Magazines Lying About Like White Goodman says in Dodgeball: “Oh! You caught me. I like to break a mental sweat too.” Make sure you have read/are reading at least one of them, since there’s a good chance she’ll quiz you on it.
14) Background Music Bonus points if you stalk her Facebook in advance to discern her preferred genre (DO NOT play the exact artists you find there — she’ll see right through that. Play something similar). Try to be discreet and/or casual when you flip the tunes on; if executed tactlessly, this maneuver can pass as an exceedingly heavy-handed moodsetter.
15) Empty Beer Can in the Shower Hopefully she notices it when she’s going to the bathroom. In which case she’ll probably giggle. #sorryforpartying
16) Candles They don’t need to be lit. In fact, lighting them might be creepy. Just have them there. Candles are cool, smell good, and add a touch of class to any room.
17) Your Roommate’s Guitar Leaning against the wall. This says: “Oh, hey, I was just strumming along to this stellar playlist earlier. Play you something? Oh, no, I’d be too embarrassed (slash I’d probably hold it upside down).” [Ed. note: We'd put "guitar you don't know how to play" on the "don't" list -- but your call.]
18) Toys You probably don’t want to take this to the extreme that Steve Carell does in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, but a couple funny action figures will tell her that you haven’t completely lost touch with your inner boy/nerd, which is potentially endearing.
19) Something That Says “I Work Out!” Kettle balls and a bench propped against the wall might be overkill, but that yoga mat rolled up in the corner or a pair of dumbbells peeking out from underneath the end table will tell her you are interested in maintaining (or perhaps obtaining, depending on your present state) a svelte physique.
20) Recycling Bin Being green is super fashionable these days. Impressing girls shouldn’t be the only reason you care about preserving the planet, but if you don’t recycle already, it’s a reason to start.
21) General Disarray Scatter some papers or trinkets around the living room. Hang a coat over the back of the couch. Get creative.
The key is this: you want your place to appear put-together but lived in, which is how it would look if you cleaned up on the reg. Come to think of it, maybe I should just start doing that… nah. That would be too much work.