The Playroom: Plungers

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I have an organized linen closet. It’s the only thing in my life that is organized. I’ve got the sheets folded and stacked according to size, the towels sorted by color, baskets for washcloths. Every time I open the door it makes me happy, this microcosmic fantasy life in my upstairs hall.

Until you get to the floor of the closet, there are three smallish plastic baskets on the floor, the sort I bought at the hardware store “2 for 99 cents!” In the baskets I keep the plungers, plural. Well, in the first two anyway.

After being married for closing on 20 years, I have decided there are three things in life men cannot find: Ketchup, light bulbs and plungers. “Where’s the ketchup?”

Being snide, I answer, “It’s in the dishwasher.”

Where is ketchup supposed to be? There are only two places to put ketchup. In the cupboard before it’s opened, and in the refrigerator after it’s opened.

“It’s not in there.”

“Yes, it is. It’s a large, red, plastic bottle on the door of the refrigerator next to a jar of pickles, on the first shelf, about four inches from the outside handle, and it says ‘ketchup’ on the outside.”

“Oh, I was looking in the dishwasher.”

I suppose when looking for a plunger this morning that’s where he looked too.

A woman would look for a plunger. A man approaches problems differently. A man has a slop problem in the toilet, he doesn’t see a plunger sitting next to the toilet, so he gets in his car, drives to the hardware store and buys a new one, returns to the house, plunges the toilet and then asks his wife, “Why don’t we have any plungers?”

The entire episode takes him about 13 minutes because he can get to and from the hardware store in 10 and in and out of a hardware store in three. A woman, me, would take the 13 minutes to look for the plunger, because there is no way I can actually get in and out of a hardware store in three minutes.

Hardware stores have light bulbs and scented candles next to the paint samples. I always have to smell the candles because I’m curious about what “winter moonbeams” smells like. The store will have plastic storage baskets on sale, “2 for 99 cents!” and that’s a good deal but I’m not sure how many I need or what colors to buy. And because I am not an organized person, I’ll forget what I came in for in the first place. I’ll text my husband in the midst of the garden hoses and then I’ll have to go find some guy named Bob or Ken or Bill who works in plumbing to help me find the plungers so I can buy the most expensive one.

The nice thing about my microcosmic fantasy life in the upstairs closet is that it is my husband, not me, who goes to the hardware store to buy the plungers, and there are three storage baskets on the floor to hold them. When he needs a plunger, he won’t look in the linen closet, he’ll just go buy another one. I know that, and I’m okay with it, until we get to four. I’m not sure where I’ll put that one, probably in the dishwasher.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at