Tag Archives: cleaning

Purging and Cleaning and Finding Stuff

Matt Paxton Hoarders

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

I’ve been at it again. Cleaning out my house. My therapy. And also, kind of a strategic get out of jail plan. In the next year to 18 months I plan to move, and sell or rent out my home — the former hoarder’s house to which I fled upon the demise of my marital bliss — just one half step ahead of the hot flaming lava chasing me from my volcano of debt. Dramatic, I know.

So might as well start the pre-listing clean out now, right? Plus the kids are not here and I need to alter my surroundings. Again. And, it’s freee entertainment, which is a necessity right now, the free part.

I needed to seriously clean. Things are dirty. Even though I always felt like I was cleaning all the time, I wasn’t really cleaning. I was straightening up and clearing  and cleaning around things — and those people I made — and dogs — but I never had all the stuff out of the way long enough to get to the really deep cleaning.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

We had downsized already when we moved here and got rid of around 2/3 of our possessions. Many other belongings were removed along the way as I realized I still didn’t  have room for them. My parents got my formal sofa and chairs (and I got rid of their outdated stuff) some other casual furniture purchased for the house just didn’t fit.  I get rid of things all the time. But as the kids grew in our modestly sized home, we have been stepping over each other. Literally. We’re all relatively and objectively tall and have large feet and long legs. We take up a lot of room. And the sprints to be the first one to get the only bathroom in the house were getting serious, and a bit dangerous. But now the kids are gone for a while — a college thing  — to be discussed in another post — it’s time for me to, as a good friend I recently reconnected with said, “reset.”

“Reset.”  I like that.

As part of my clean out, clean up, and just clean, I  went through an ottoman that doubles for “storage”  of our miscellaneous electronics. I’d throw any cord I couldn’t identify, or those I could identify but did not need at that moment, old phones, parts of video games, remote controls, etc. in there.  Some of these electronics were even in baggies to keep them from tangling around each other. I was proud of that and that at least most of the stuff in there was part of the same category. But I hadn’t taken out everything in years.

Until now.

And at the bottom of the cords, games, adapters, phones, remote controls, and extension cords, there was a cassette tape. (For those of you who are not familiar, cassettes were used to store audio information before CDs, and CDS were and are used when music cannot be accessed from phones, or there is an absence of wifi or available data.)

 

raiders gifs

 

This particular cassette was an audio recording of my wedding.

Huh.

The church where I married recorded everything that happened there. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  I assume this was to preserve sermons and music. In my case it preserved our voices stating our now defunct wedding vows, along with some really good music (I had a brass quartet at my wedding. It was beautiful . . . but I digress) and it recorded the reading of probably the saddest poem ever read at a wedding, “The People Who Never Say Goodbye.”  This was a cry for help. As I’ve said before, ladies, your job as bridesmaids is not limited to showers, bachelorette parties, and shopping for dresses. Your job is to read the room, the bride, and call the whole thing off if necessary.  Almost a Runaway Bride

My first thought was just to throw the cassette away, like my husband did with our vows. No fuss, no muss, no pomp, no circumstance. A Twitter friend suggested that I burn the tape. I’m no stranger to the burn. This ain’t my first rodeo. My Wedding Album. In response I joked that if I was a guy I’d whip “it” out and pee on it. The same Twitter friend reminded me — “You could squat.”  Smiling about that, I put it on the table while I finished going through the electronics. Maybe, I thought, I’ll just listen to the music.

My next find wasn’t really a find.

crazy-ex-medication

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finds a pill on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet.

I knew they were there. While cleaning out the medicine cabinet, I saw my old friends Mr. Xanax and Ms. Ambien – relics of my clinical major depression, anxiety, and insomnia following that pesky time when my husband of many years and father of our many children broke up with me. The pills were expired of course, but I kept them. Weird, because I never really liked them much and used them very sparingly. If I took a sleeping pill I couldn’t properly wake up in the morning. If I took a Xanax I was just a little bit off, out of it. But I tell ya, this  was very helpful in certain situations. Very helpful indeed. It was my pharmaceutical prophylactic in difficult, awkward, or painful situations. Sharing Celebrations  .

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend French Depression

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Still, having the pills in the house gave me comfort. I think I kept these old meds, you know,  just in case . . .

After the scrub down and disinfecting of the cabinet (you’d be amazed at the mess that old razors for four girls leave), I found that the added  space in my cabinet was far more calming than presence the old pills.

So — I chucked them. I brought them downstairs, opened the bottles, destroyed the labels and trashed the pills so no one could find them and sell them (it would  be wrong for someone else to profit from my misery). And then? I casually dropped the wedding cassette —  the audio proof of the “till death do us part” fallacy — in the same trash bin. I don’t want any of those particular reminders of the good, the bad, the ugly or the pharmaceutically numbed in my house.

And that was that.

There has been a slight shift in the universe. Did you feel it?

The Good Place - Season 1

The Good Place

Just Me With . . . space, and some peace. Oh, and I found the remote control to the actual TV!  Now I don’t have to get up to change the input from cable to Netflix. Not too shabby. Plus, I already own a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and am blessed to have access to a classical music station, wifi, and a smartphone. There is no reason to listen to a cassette recording of my wedding music. Nope. No reason at all. 

Plus, one of the brass players was this asshole, I Don’t Go to Weddings.

 

Goodbye Hoarders

A&E's Hoarders

A&E’s Hoarders

It was with a heavy heart that I heard confirmation that the A&E reality show “Hoarders” would not be filming new shows.   Hoarders has been cancelled.

Having purchased a partially hoarded house I found some comfort in Hoarders, which profiled one or two homes an episode and “cleaned house” with the help of Psychologists, professional cleaning crews and the hoarder him or herself.

I know that some folks complained that the home owners were being exploited and objectified for entertainment, since audiences seemed simultaneously to enjoy and be disgusted by seeing the filth and mountains of mess (and sometimes poop).  It seemed to me that the hoarders were getting help that they would not have otherwise received and  were the better for it. The crew never laughed at or belittled the hoarders, instead they just tried to convince the hoarders that something had to change.  Getting rid of the hoard was always a safety and mental health issue, and usually a financial necessity.   Yes, it was a television show, but it wasn’t just about entertainment.

As for me, I found some brethren. I was not aware of the show while I was cleaning the worst of the worst out of my new house, a friend told me about it and said I should watch.   When I did, I found that  the shows  gave me comfort.

Comfort you ask?  Among the piles of wet papers and rotten food?

Yes, comfort.  Because until I saw Hoarders I didn’t know that I was not alone in stumbling upon a collection of bottles of urine.   Hoarders showed me that  people other than the former inhabitants of my house have found themselves at a point in life where the kitchen is as likely a place to dispose of  human waste as the bathroom.  In Hoarders I saw how, like with my house,  a home’s smell can make visitors gag while the inhabitants remain completely unaware of the stench.   And at the end of each episode of Hoarders, I was amazed at how the hoarded houses looked after they were cleaned out, and it reminded me of how far my house had come.

So yes, comfort.

Now, as I help my parents clear out some of the decades of accumulated clutter in their house, I find myself using the techniques I viewed on Hoarders.     I’ve learned to understand how so many things can simply be piled up —  unused or incorrectly stored.    My parents are not clinical Hoarders, and their house is still functional and the front rooms pristine.   However, the private areas and attic and basement are full, and unsafe.   My parents are like a lot of true hoarders in that  they are old and  grew up with next to nothing.  Though my parents went to college, married, had children and bought a home, they were never wealthy.     And they never moved.   As a result, decades of stuff has never been relocated or inventoried.

My parents, and their parents before them, lived through some of the most economically and socially challenging times in United States history — the Wars, the Depression, the time both before and after the civil rights movement.  I think they grew up with an underlying persistent worry that they could lose what they have at any given moment, or that someone would  try to steal it from them.  So, like some of the clients on Hoarders, they ascribe value to things that no one would buy, and by piling up mountains of stuff, they endanger the most valuable possession they have —  their house.

The show Hoarders helped me to know that even the most unlikely item has a story, that sometimes the story  needs to be told before the item can be discarded, and that when the smallest treasure is exhumed from its grave of stuff, it triggers a memory — of a different time, a different place,  a different person.

As I help my parents clean out I have specifically utilized a few Hoarders tricks:

1. Lay out a tarp to place items on outside, they look different in the light of day.

2. When cleaning out a closet, dresser, or any area, I don’t stand there  and pull out items one at a time.  Instead, I  take everything out at once and set it all out,  assuring my parents that we’ll return the items they choose to keep, but we need to get everything out first.

I’ve learned it’s easier for most people to  justify keeping an unused item in a closet– it’s not hurting anybody — but it’s a lot harder to justify putting useless things back in once they’re out.

3. Try to do as much in one day or sitting as possible.  It’s never a good idea to allow extra time to think about items.

This was the genius of Hoarders.  It wasn’t  just for filming that the task had to be accomplished in two days.  It’s better for the hoarder to have to make quick decisions.

4. Remove discarded items immediately.

Even when possessions are marked for trash, there can be a “declutter remorse” if there is a bag or piece of furniture or appliances or tools left in view.  It’s just too tempting for someone with hoarding tendencies to revisit the trash, go through it and bring stuff back in,  promising to fix it, or find a use for it, or sell it — later.  I’ve been known to load my parents’ trash in my car and take it home to put out in my own trash, just to avoid the temptation to “trash pick.”

A&E’s Hoarders may be cancelled, but it has and will continue to help me.  Now, as I watch my Dad go through piles of once expensive clothing piece by piece, stuff  that’s over forty years old, suits that he has never worn and he probably  inherited, clothes that have mice dirt on them and moth holes in them, I think,

What would Matt Paxton do?

and I feel better.

And as I clear an area, making it easier for my parents to get around and find the things they  actually need, I know that no matter how hard the fight was,  the process is important, especially when it helps them locate and display —  or even sell —  the things that do have real value.  Plus, I feel better making the home safer.  But it ain’t easy.  No, it’s not.

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

So thanks Matt and the whole Hoarders crew. You helped. You really did.

Just Me With . . . among many other things, a collection of vintage Ebony and Look magazines, a couple of flat mice (but not cats!), a tractor, bowling shoes, and more patience than I thought I could ever conjure up.

Related Posts:

Piss, Puke, and Porn — The discoveries I made inside my new old house.

That Hoarders Smell — How to get rid of that awful smell.

Toilet or Kitchen Sink —- Who Can Tell?  —  I saw some nasty stuff in the old kitchen.

Exhumation by Accident — I dug up something in my yard.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

Suck This! Mr. Dyson

James Dyson

I bought a new vacuum cleaner over the weekend.   The heavy-duty big fancy one I’d had at “The Marital Home” never worked as well as I’d liked and it was a mess to empty.  I tried to sell it at a garage sale and ended up just giving it away.  In my down-sizing frenzy for my small home, I bought a little stick , cordless, bag-less number that only worked a short while before dying in a corner, unloved, unused.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been sweeping my area rugs.

But I broke down and went to the store to get a vacuum cleaner this weekend because that’s how I roll.  Don’t be jealous, it was one of my more exciting outings lately, but I digress . . .

Once I arrived at the store I felt visually assaulted by the displays of the bright yellow Dyson vacuums.   You know, the state of the art industrially designed  models that cost between $300 and $700.    They are different from other vacuum cleaners because they have that fancy ball thingy — and maybe something new with the motor?  I don’t know, but  I bet they work like a dream.  They should for that amount of money.

I will never buy  a Dyson, however.  And it’s not because of the price (though I could/would not pay that much for a vacuum cleaner at this point in my life).

No, it’s because of the commercial, the first commercial that introduced the product and that  has always just pissed me off.   I’m not going to link it here because it still irks me.  If you know what I’m talking about you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The commercial features James Dyson himself with his gorgeous English accent, which to us Americans automatically makes him smart.  Well, according to the advertisement, Sir Dyson’s wife had asked him to vacuum.   Dutifully, he took out their vacuum cleaner —-  but he didn’t vacuum.  No, he examined the device and decided that it  had serious design flaws.  So instead of vacuuming,  he took their vacuum cleaner apart, analyzed it and eventually designed a prototype for a new vacuum cleaner to which he gave his name — the Dyson.

The rest is history.

Now,  the wife’s perspective.   Though I’m sure she’s reaping the benefits  of the Dyson vacuum cleaner’s wild success,  I think that on that day, in that  moment, she just wanted her husband to vacuum the freaking rug. That’s all.  Just vacuum.  No analysis necessary.  No deconstruction, no prototypes.  Just vacuum the freaking floor!!!!!

Imagine her surprise when she walked into the room and  instead of finding a clean floor she found her husband — on the floor — surrounded by  vacuum cleaner parts, dust and debris.  Anyone who has ever tried to take apart a vacuum cleaner knows that it makes a bloody mess. (Note the English vernacular? Yes?)

All that woman wanted was for her husband to vacuum the carpet. It’s a simple request.  But instead, he likely retired to the garage to begin to build his prototype for the best freaking vacuum cleaner ever invented, because what men and women — and his wife —  had been using for ages was woefully insufficient, malformed, mis-designed, inconvenient and just not up to par.

But for all of his superior, nay, grand design plans which revolutionized  carpet maintenance as we know it, Dyson did not vacuum the freaking floor when his wife asked him to!!!  Instead, he picked that moment to take their vacuum cleaner apart.

And we’re supposed to buy his Rolls Royce of vacuum cleaners?

What a pile of bollocks!

I say to Sir Dyson, I know you are brilliant, but:

Just freaking vacuum the floor.   Then, after you are done,  design your fancy, superior, super-expensive, ball-having, yellow vacuum cleaner.

That’s all  Dame Dyson wanted.  I don’t think she was asking for too much.

Just Me With . . . a Dirt Devil. 

Dirt Devil

Of course Mrs. Dyson can probably afford a golden vacuum cleaner and a maid and butler to do all of  her floors, but it’s the principle of the thing for me.