Alabama Living: Damn You, Dryer Vent Cover!

I am not great at handyperson work. I can clean, I can organize, I can approximate cooking even…but you might not want my “help” with “easy” fix-it things around the house.

I’m pretty sure as a child I absorbed the message from my dad that there is no such thing as easy where house projects are concerned. Any time he was working on something, my brother and I knew we’d get hauled to the hardware store at least three times and that my dad would be agitated until the project was done (meaning we knew to get lost).

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Cut to Alabama last week when I was drying some laundry and the machine kept shutting off and throwing an error code. I finally mentioned it to Amy, who calmly wondered whether I’d googled to find out what was wrong. Duh! GOOGLE ALL THINGS!!

The googs came back with: “If your LG clothes dryer is showing error code d80, d90, d95… this means there is an issue with AIRFLOW EXHAUST LINT BLOCKAGE.”

One point for technology! Thank you for telling me what you need, gorgeous and smart modern dryer!

I can clean out the exhaust line! That’ll be EASY!

And it was…at the start. I pulled the dryer out from the wall and cleaned out both where the vent pipe attaches to the wall and where it attaches to the machine. Easy peasy—look at me.

Then I went outside to battle the end of the line:

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My finger is holding up the flap to reveal the screen.

As you can see, there was a pileup of lint on the screen. I had tried vacuuming it the previous day, but it wouldn’t budge. Being then left to my own clever devices while Amy was at work, I decided I would remove the entire vent cover—so I found a box cutter and carved into the clear, thick silicone caulk holding the cover to the house. It took a minute but finally I extricated it.

With only a naked exhaust pipe before me, I was able to stick my arm in up until about my elbow to pull out what lint I could reach. The bits I could see much further down the pipe I dragged out with the handle of a broom. All told I’d liberated at least four giant handfuls.

And then I got a text from Amy: “Advice from the guys at work is to clip off the mesh of the screen. Apparently most dryer vents do not have them.”

Ruh roh.

Me: “Oh. Too late. I cut all around it and pulled the whole thing off. But that’s a great idea. Wish I’d thought of it.”

I forced the cover back onto the pipe as it had been (trickier than you’d think because of siding butting up against the top of the pipe) and called it a day. It would need to be replaced or recaulked, but at least now I could get back into the laundry game!

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A couple days later I had time to revisit the issue and here’s what I learned: It’s far more effective to clean out the exhaust pipe when the dryer is ON! (I don’t know that it’s advised, but it sure seemed to work!)

The dryer just happened to be running when I scaled the ladder and removed the vent cover (the screen of which had already become covered over again with lint). I was at eye level with the tube and of course looked directly into it. The hot air rushed at my face—followed by a massive pile of lint! (Oh to be a neighbor witnessing my surprise…)

Realizing I was onto something, I grabbed a mop whose head fit perfectly into the tube. I pushed it in as far as I could and when I pulled it out, another giant pile of lint blew swiftly into my face. (It was like a game to see how much I could dislodge and how much I could coat myself in lint dust.)

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Later that evening, the friend who gave Amy a ride home from work was sweet enough to let me pick his brain about the new vent covers I’d purchased that weren’t fitting. Within minutes he had it sorted. He took a pair of regular scissors (I thought I needed wire cutters) and cut the screen out of the original cover. Then he drove home, returned a short time later with silicone caulk, and reaffixed the cover to the house. Done and done. Yeah!!

I learned more about dryer vent covers than I ever thought I’d know in my lifetime. And now you do, too: They should not have screens on them.

Alabama Living: The Minimalist Warrior

I’ve been in Birmingham, Alabama, now for almost two weeks and I’m scheduled to be here for one more. I’ve officially embedded myself into my friend Amy’s family. (For the backstory on the history of our friendship, please refer to a previous post called The Move-In Day Miracle here.

Amy is renovating her kitchen and flooring so I’m here to be project manager, warm body in the house while workers are here, personal organizer, purging cheerleader, errand runner, design consultant, and backup responsible adult (in case of emergency only). And by purging cheerleader, I don’t mean I wear a short skirt, bounce around, shake my pom-poms and have an eating disorder. I mean that I’m cheering Amy on as she makes a zillion choices every day to get rid of stuff.

She’s the master of letting things go—she just needs me to harass her late into the night (I don’t have her attention until about 9:00 p.m.) with questions like:

“Hey, how attached are you to this?”

“Where did this come from?”

“What does this do?”

And all followed by some variation of:

“Can we (and by we I mean you) get rid of it?”

I ransack closets and pantries and drawers and make a horrible mess constantly—all in the name of eventually making it all pretty and (hopefully) easier to maintain.

As a single mom with a tremendously adult job who commutes through fiery rings of traffic hell, Amy has come to appreciate the importance of not wasting her time attending to her stuff. Her time with the kids is limited enough after 10-hour days, so her first priority is to maximize every moment she can with them. Too much stuff equals scattered attention, frustration, and overwhelm.

Amy is a warrior of minimalism fighting to rid her house of evil clutter. And damn is she brutal! With me to do the grunt work, she’s able to make the tough choices and then move on—I take it from there by counting, packing, and hauling the items to the garage.

Her goal for this year (2018) is to get rid of 2,018 items.

That sounds like a lot but I don’t think she’ll have any trouble hitting the mark. When I start “exploring” a new area and arranging like with like, it becomes obvious really fast which types of items are out of control. For example, the kitchen pantry had over a dozen lunch bags/boxes in it because her daughter LOVES lunch bags. She loves the kind that zip, the kind that have her art on them, the kind that have stripes, the kind that have handles, the kind that don’t have handles, the kind that are padded, and the kind that have a special pouch for an ice pack. The girl loves her bags! Fortunately she’s also chill about letting them go, which is fortunate for all involved.

The lunch bags have now been reduced to this:

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Lunch bags are in the purple tote. Plastic storage containers were also out of control!

Undoubtedly the stickiest items are the ones inherited from beloved (and now deceased) grandparents. Amy’s hesitancy to let something go is typically code for “that came from my grandparents’ house” or “that was my grandmother’s/grandfather’s.” In this case, I remind Amy that she has dozens of gorgeous items from her grandparents on display all over the house. And if they’re on display, they’re obviously meaningful. Now that I know where to look, her grandfather (who was an amazing human being) is all over the house—represented in items like this gorgeous creation he carved by hand:

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St. Francis of Assisi, yes?

Anything he created has his energy and love in it through and through. That’s the stuff of magic to keep and cherish. The stuff he just happened to own? In most cases it’s clutter (if not useful or brings great joy).

The purged items count is currently at 600. It’ll be fun to see how high we can get it before I leave.

For this weekend, however, we take a break from the house projects and head to the beach.

(More Alabama stories to come…)