To most people, rags are just that: a piece of waste cloth that can be used to wipe up a spill. Some people have little respect for rags. That’s not how it is in my house.

A lot of people will not understand what I am talking about here. These are the people who throw T-shirts into the dumpster because they are torn, stained or too small. That’s okay, but in my universe, T-shirts are not allowed to be tossed away into a dumpster. They are converted to rags. Even if they are blood splattered evidence, we do not put them into a dumpster; in such a case they would be incinerated in a private location … but I see I am drifting off-subject again.

I thought that I knew rags and how to use them until I saw my wife in action. Turns out I was just a rag consumer while my wife was a lifetime member of the Rag Illuminati. I never knew there was such a ridged structure to rag use and management. My wife could easily hold a seminar or teach a college-level course on rag systems and rag administration and not just Rags 101 but senior-level courses. Graduate students would audit the courses as they would be required for a master’s degree in such academic areas as “Thorough Organization and Cleaning” or “Understanding Obsessive Compulsion.”

As a career, she could head the government’s Ministry of Rags or the Rag Management Administration, which would have a prominent spot under Health and Human Services and, if she should find a spot within Health and Human Services, rest assured she would have it cleaned up in short order.

Although I am not the authority, by observation and admonitions I have come to a basic understanding of the subject. First you must know that there is a hierarchy of rags. Yes, there is apparently a rag class structure that can not be violated lest you be sent to hell to clean with dirty rags for eternity.

The most prestigious rag is the guest rag that may be supplied to visitors if the need ever arises. These can easily be confused with kitchen or bathroom towels but are well used and might be slightly stained, have a corner frayed or a small hole from an overzealous washing machine.

Just below this are first-class rags that are a pleasure to use and may also be a comfortably large piece of my old T- or sweat-shirts and similar garments. Like the guest rags, these are also folded neatly and may be on public display on a kitchen shelf ready for action.

Next are second-tier rags that guests are not allowed to see or use. These are veteran rags scarred from many battles with grease and grime. After laundering they are also folded but only for convenience and not for looks. They are never ironed. These are the rags I am allowed to use when I need some for painting or heavy-duty cleaning. Woe to those caught using a guest-quality rag to wipe a plumbing snake after a bout with a toilet drain.

Second from the bottom there are the raggy-rags. These have been laundered so many times their very fabric is barely holding together. These are never folded but placed in a bag for quick access. I am allowed to use these whenever I want. One more time through the laundry and these become “throw-away rags.” Those are the ones my wife does not want back. She piles these on me when she sees me doing automotive work or heading out with the grease gun.

I have not yet been able to sort out all the rules associated with rags. Indeed, one day I was caught using a clean, second-tier rag to wipe off a piece of fruit I just washed and was lectured about something for a long time, but I was too busy eyeing my fruit to devote enough attention to remember the lesson.

But marriage is like that. I obey the rules of the rags and she compromises by adhering to what she calls my “ridiculous list of rules” like checking to see if I parked behind her before backing out of the driveway. We get along very well for people who don’t even agree on basic rag protocol and don’t even understand what the other is thinking, but then again, we don’t live in Washington, D.C.