Unexpected consequences of benign neglect

September 15, 2023

We arrived at our little East coast house two weeks ago to discover the unmistakeable smell of mold in our basement.

When I’d left in early spring, everything was fine. But then, while we were at our California home, an unusually long period of rain hit upstate NY, and we did not have a dehumidifier. Things started to …grow.

We didn’t know we needed a dehumidifier–as adult homeowners in California and Florida, we’d never had a basement.

And so, with horror, we entered the world of mold remediation.  More on that another time.

Our time spent in western New York is sporadic. There’s no schedule; we just go in between vacations and when we feel like it’s time. Sometimes we’re away for many months.

But no more.

We didn’t mean to, but…

We’ve come to understand the consequences of benign neglect. Oh, don’t get me wrong–our house is beautiful. Nice. Well-cared for. We don’t actively neglect it. It’s just that unexpected shiz happens while we are happily in California. And we’re not there to catch it. So we’ve made a decision to come more often.

But it occurs to me that there’s a lesson bigger than mold, or our house.

If we value something ( someone), we need to take the time to nurture it. Give it the attention it needs to flourish. I know I’m often guilty of not seeing some friends for a long time. Mostly it’s because my friends are spread out geographically and I can’t just meet them for coffee. One of us has to drive one or even two hours. Or more. Or fly.

So yes, some relationships have suffered from benign neglect. Just like our little home in New York. I may love our time together, but maybe it’s hard to find the extra time to show how much. Can you relate?

Aligning the stars

I love our little house, but to get there, all the stars must be aligned. One of our petsitters must be available. I have to leave my beautiful rose garden and patio. It has to be between vacation trips. We have to book a flight and get up off our butts and go. We have to make a big effort. We have to fight inertia.

But nurturing pays off, even for a second home….which I should have have realized from other parts of my life. For example:

When the pandemic began, we started weekly Zoom calls with M’s family. I don’t think any of the six of us considered that these calls would nurture the family relationship, which had laid fallow due to benign neglect. Easy to neglect: we lived almost 3,000 miles away from Boston and Rochester.

But on regular Zoom calls week after week over several years, family bonds strengthened. We learned how much we had in common at this age and how much fun we could have together. We had already taken one trip together (Maui) and are now planning London together next year. That nurturing paid off.

Showing our love

It’s time to show our little NY home how much we care about it, too. We’d already planned to return to Rochester in October and some of M’s family plans to join us for a long weekend of fun. We just hadn’t planned to also be hosting a team of mold remediators in the days before they arrive.

We’ve just booked a return to NY in December. My new word for the year is nurturing. And you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for benign neglect in all aspects of my life.

Do you feel me?

Oh, and about the mold: As I write, our dehumidifier has been running for several days and humidity downstairs is almost normal. Still smells, though. We searched, interviewed, then chose a remediator we were impressed with. NY requires we hire a mold assessor for consumer protection and he, like the remediator, didn’t feel our situation was severe. We’ll have a day and half of cleaning, remediating, sanitizing and deodorizing next month. The dehumidifier will continue to run while we are gone. We installed a sensor that will tell us if something is wrong with our sump pump, although as of this writing it’s not working (of course) and a camera is now pointed at it, too. Because we are, after all, 3000 miles away most of the time and need to monitor the situation.

Lessons learned from this, for sure.


14 comments on “Unexpected consequences of benign neglect
  1. Heather says:

    We have had our entire basement flood several times bc of sump pump malfunction or power outages. Once when we were gone on vacation. Sucks having to dry everything out.

  2. I can’t imagine how you must have felt when you figured out what you were dealing with.

  3. Alana says:

    It sucks. I feel you. Our basement has flooded twice from weather, once in 2006 and once in 2011 (3 1/2 feet of water that time to a storm called Lee, and, at that, we were fortunate – some people in our neighborhood lost their homes). The cleanup was hard, and we were younger. And we didn’t need mold remediation. Best of luck. Experience is a hard, but good, teacher.

  4. Laurie Stone says:

    Haven’t had to deal with mold, yet. We’ve had every other kind of problem!

  5. Diane says:

    Our problems with water have always come from above, not below. (Husby does a great job fixing and building things, but he has never yet been able to build on an addition and not have it leak! Ugh.)
    I love your analogy! My Dad always said, “You get out of something what you put into it.” And I think that goes for relationships big time!
    You always put so much of yourself into what you do, Carol, I find it difficult you could ever be guilty of benign neglect!

  6. Kristine says:

    Glad you are planning on being in NY more often! I am hoping the stars align and at some point we are there at the same time. X

    • I’m thinking it will if you are going in July ’24. We are likely to drive with the dogs and spend most of the summer.
      So keep me posted on your schedule and if Izzy is also coming. Or your BF!!

  7. Lauren says:

    Oh no. Mold is the worst. You should spend the summers there. No better place really.

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