My Grandma’s 30-Year-Old “House Rules” Taught Me How to Keep a Clean Home

published Jun 17, 2021
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"House Rules" sign, Grandma, Annita and Grandma
Credit: Photos: Courtesy of Annita Katee

If a friend comes over and compliments my cooking, it’s one of three things; a lie, a fluke, or store-bought. But as I’ve gotten older, one of my goals has been to get better in the kitchen. So the other day after hours of mindless scrolling on #FoodTok and pinning trending recipes to my new “Make Me” board, I decided to attempt an easy-enough-looking bolognese. 

Is it just me or are more plates and utensils used when following a recipe? In the course of preparing dinner that night, frustrated with the number of times I was re-opening the same drawer to get yet another spoon, I decided to go against everything I know — everything my Grandma Gigi taught me — and leave the drawers and cupboards open. It would prove to be a bad idea.

Another thing I should mention, as well as not being the best cook, I’m also incredibly uncoordinated. With a newly sharpened knife and literal swimming goggles on because I couldn’t stop crying while cutting onions, I turned my head towards the TV for just a moment. Within the next three seconds, I had cut my hand, which led me to bump into an open cabinet door and then an open drawer — all while the very sharp knife fell onto the floor, which thankfully, just missed my bare foot. 

Along with the importance of closed-toe footwear, that day, I learned that I should consider my Grandma Gigi’s commandments unbreakable. And they may actually have been my saving grace at home all these years.

Grandma Gigi’s 9 House Rules

I was taught self-explanatory “house rules” at a very young age by my grandmother. Grandma Gigi is 91 years old now, and while still quite the shopaholic, she still keeps a tidy home, with everything in its place.  In her bedroom, you’ll find a vintage khaki-colored stainless-steel wardrobe closet with a magnetic “house rules” poster taking center stage. As a little girl, I remember being made to recite the commandments like scripture when I’d visit, and to this day, I do believe they’ve been a big part in helping me stay neat and tidy. 

  1. If you open it — close it 
  2. If you turn it on — turn it off 
  3. If you unlock it — lock it 
  4. If you break it — mend it 
  5. If you borrow it — return it 
  6. If you use it — take care of it 
  7. If you make a mess — clean it up 
  8. If you move it — put it back 
  9. If it doesn’t concern you — leave the bloody thing alone!

As I was writing this, I FaceTimed Grandma Gigi to ask her about the very old magnet — a real estate advertisement — she still has on her cupboard today. While she couldn’t recall when she got it, we know it’s over 27 years old by the phone number on it, as Sydney, Australia, updated their dial code style back in 1994.

What she could tell me was her favorite commandment, commandment number 9: “If it doesn’t concern you — leave the bloody thing alone,” she recited while chuckling. “It really is the truth!” 

If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Grandma Gigi, you’ll quickly learn our family’s quick-witted matriarch loves having the last word. “I don’t know why they only had nine commandments, they should’ve gone to 10,” she quipped. “If I had to add another it’d be, ‘Now pass it on!’” 

So on behalf of Grandma Gigi and myself, we encourage you to close your drawers, return that thing you borrowed, and if it doesn’t concern you, leave the bloody thing alone. Oh, and closed-toe footwear in the kitchen, always.