What’s a “Cookie Problem”?

One of my favorite books as a kid was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. It tells the story of a little mouse wearing overalls who is given a cookie. In enjoying his cookie, he spills a few crumbs and that starts a chain reaction of his little mouse-OCD tendencies whereby he ends up cleaning the entire house. (How this story may relate to the development of my own OCD tendencies is for another discussion.)

But, because of my love for this book, any project that we encounter that has the potential to snowball quickly into something much bigger gets deemed a “cookie problem”. Case in point, our biggest cookie problem so far: the tile.

It’s the biggest cookie largely because we encounter it on a daily basis. The tile in our house is awful. On the floors extending from the entryway through the living room, dining room, and kitchen are these awful 12″ square tiles that are white with grey swirls with the shiny finish wearing off in high traffic areas. Worse than the tiles themselves, however, is the installation job. In areas, the floor looks like Sid and Nancy went on a bender and decided to lay some tile. It’s not level from tile to tile, and the idea of spacers clearly never crossed the mind of the retired New Jersey couple we’re told laid the tile themselves. My personal ‘favorite’ part of the tile is the grout line that starts at the kitchen sink about 1/8″ wide, and ends at the garage door 10 feet away over 1/2″ thick. It’s pretty impressive.

It’s not a trick of the camera angle, the horizontal grout line here is about half as wide as the vertical grout line. Also hard to tell in the picture, but the main tile on the left in this shot is actually a millimeter or two higher than the other ones. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s noticeable.

As much as we love to hate the tile, though, it’s going nowhere anytime soon. Because replacing it would cause a chain reaction that I don’t even want to estimate the total cost of. Here’s about how it might go…

  1. The first crumb to fall in this cookie would be the kitchen cabinets (which are themselves a cheap mid-80’s relic of faux-wood laminate. Moving them to try and install tile properly underneath them would probably cause them to fall apart, so they may as well get replaced…
  2. The next crumb would no doubt be the sliding glass doors to the patio from the living room. We’d love to replace these with French doors, and because the current slider track is pretty much cemented to the grout of the current tile, with the floors up, it’d be a good excuse to go ahead and replace these.
  3. If we replace the sliders off the living room with French doors, we should do the same with the sliders from the bedroom to the patio as well since they’re only 10 feet away from each other.
  4. Now you’re into the master bedroom, and since the floors in here were another awful type of tile (albeit professionally laid awful tile, so not quite as painful as the original tile that we started with), and they were no doubt damaged in the removal of the old sliders, this tile would have to go as well.
  5. The tile in the master bedroom is cocaine white and the same tile is in the other bedrooms as well… so for consistency sake, we may as well just replace the flooring in all the bedrooms at once so they match. Hardwood? Parquet?
  6. The bathrooms are off the bedrooms and share the ugly tile, so they’d get new flooring as well.
  7. And if you’re replacing the floors of the bathroom, you may as well remove the ancient fiberglass bath and shower stalls and replace them with something a little more timeless (read: less stained).

At this point the cookie has now caused major construction in every room of the house except for the garage. And come to think of it, the Mr. is always wishing for more garage space, so why not just build an extension onto the house with a new 2-car garage and master suite on a second floor. Obviously the original floor plan would have to shift to accommodate this, so you’d need new floors, and cabinets, and doors, and bathtubs, and… well you get the picture.

So for now, we keep this tile cookie locked up tight, weary of the day we have to deal with it because of the havoc it might be capable of.

Cookie problems can appear anywhere – not just in homes or physical construction. Maybe a small tweak to a big project that means you basically have to start over? This has happened tons of times in coding projects…

What do you do about them? That’s up to you… but being aware of them before they turn into something huge has paid off dividends for us already.



Mrs. PoP



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