cleaning and organizing


The kitchen of the "Althuus" (meanin...

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Rob finished updating and switching over the electrical to the new kitchen today. I marvel without end at that insanely unreal breadth of that man’s basic knowledge base. As of this evening, the kitchen will be operational minus plumbing with the goal of sink and dishwasher quite soon.

Mom arrives in 27 days, and Rob assures me that kitchen, living room and a rudimentary dining area will be waiting for her.

This is optimistic of him because where the renovation is concerned, we’ve been miles off-schedule since the demolition last November. Life in the forms of work and family have screwed with us from day one, and his insistence that my help just makes more work for him has meant that he’s mostly been the lone wolf handy-dandy guy on a project of such daunting scope that anyone who’s seen it, or heard about even, cannot believe we didn’t just sell the house as it was and buy a new one.

While Rob laboured like a dwarf in the semi-darkness on the electrical panel tucked away behind a furnace and water heater that also needed updating, I zealously attacked Dee’s room – again.

I’ve lost track of the number of hoarding interventions I’ve performed on that child’s room. Over lunch, I informed her I was cleaning in there and she immediately went upstairs and rearranged in that perverse way of territory marking she’s carried over from her toddler days. But my strategy is a simple one of steady attrition. If I move with caution and at a slow pace, eventually I will rid her space of all the pointless clutter, leaving behind only what is useful and what truly matters. So far, it’s been a great success.

A tedious, time-sucking on the magnitude of a black hole success, but I’ll take it.

My basic problem continues to be the lack of finished space which in turn clogs up the user accessible space with non-related items. And it limits the comfort of the accessible spaces too. For example, we have two very plush sofas that are currently humping each other under tarps in the corner of the living room that’s blocked off by the dishwasher that can’t be installed until the plumbing is in and by the fireplace, which can’t be installed because there isn’t enough workspace to do so because of the stacked up sofas.

Rob took off two afternoons and Friday last week in order to really book on the kitchen. He lost nearly one of those afternoon and all of that same evening on a child issue and half of Saturday in the city. Life competes and our kitchen loses.

It is just a kitchen, I remind myself when my patience wears thin enough that I am in danger of letting the sanguine veneer I project on the state of the house slip. I certainly don’t want to be one of those wives because the reality is that even living in a complete state of unfinished, my life rocks and rocks again by nearly any comparison that might be applied. But at ten months of total renovation and still counting, I will allow myself this heavy sigh and to express that I am tired of trodding on sub-floor and carting the dishes from the dishwasher and sink in the old kitchen to their new homes in cabinets in the new one. And I want to be able to sit on my sofa.

 


Compulsive hoarding in a private apartment

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I am a purger extraordinaire. Nary a sentimental bone in my body. About the only thing I have difficulty shedding is paper. My desk and more than a few boxes can attest to the fact that I loathe chucking my own words or any scrap of paper that relates to anything I think might come back and thump me if I can’t produce it. The former is a side-effect of being a writer, and the latter stems in part from my father’s training concerning finances and record-keeping but more from the days of care-taking during my late husband’s illness. Between Medicaid and Social Security, keeping a paper trail become a bit of a mantra.

Where stuff is concerned though I am stone cold. Clothes in particular should be gifted, garage-saled or donated with merciless regularity. I don’t understand hanging on to apparel that you don’t wear and are unlikely to ever wear again unless you should find yourself suddenly thrust into an ice age survival scenario that requires you to don as many articles of clothing as possible.

My sister, DNOS, has a closet containing clothing from every era of her life . Acid washed jeans, Flash Dance sweatshirts and probably jelly shoes. There are articles of clothing in her possession that I gifted to her when I left college … in 1987. She comes by this as my daughter does – paternally. Our father kept dress clothing until the fabric was shiny and nearly transparent.

Recently, we helped Rob’s mom pack up her home for her move south. Boxes of things that hadn’t seen the light of day since her last move four years ago, were taken from their current area of limbo and packed into boxes that will eventually dump them in some new Twilight Zone space in Arizona.

Perhaps I am missing something but how important can something be if it’s primary residence is storage, and you only think about it on the occasion of moving it from one residence to another?

Because that’s the reality of most possessions. Think about all those dimly to not at all lit spaces in your home where stuff resides like residents of the Island of Misfit Toys.

The oldest daughter, Fare, reclaimed her childhood from the basement storage not long ago. Books, school records and stuffies.

“She says she’s keeping it for the children she wants to have,” Mick told me.

“You should tell her that there is maybe one thing I saved from my childhood that Dee ever glanced at more than once,” I said though that’s not quite true. She played with my first Barbie as a tub toy until the mold got it and my Malibu Skipper currently enjoys second youngest daughter status with the family of dolls currently residing in the doll mansion Rob built for her.

But Murphy’s Rule of Saving One’s Childhood Crap for Your Own Children states: they will ignore, hate or break the stuff. All of these things will make you regret having sired or birthed them in the moments afterward when you are cleaning up the remnants of your memories and tossing them – instead of your child – into the trash (though you may briefly consider mending the object and tossing the child).


Dead Snow Angel

Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Nagging health issues continue to plague me and keep me from focusing on writing in specific and general. I rouse myself for the occasional pet issue here and there about the web, but I haven’t written for the paying gig in about a month and am still mentally sorting through ideas for a longer offline project. Like winter, I guess, I am all about the hibernating and waiting.

Ruminating before leaping is not out of character for me. Really. When it appears as if I am pouncing like a rabid werewolf, it’s only because I’m unleashing on a subject that’s been throughly hashed out in my mind and is, in fact, an older than dirt topic for me.

New things? I window shop with glacial intent.

For example? I made a purchase via Old Navy last week. Yoga togs that I eyeballed near daily for over a month before committing to them.

So in matters of writing, I am more James Joyce than twit blogger.

Aches and pains and the fact that navigating a Canadian healthcare system designed more to befuddle and irritate than be helpful adds to my general lack of forward momentum.

Doctors don’t listen. Test results meander their way from one part of the labyrinth to another, and helpful insights like “it’s probably not cancer” add to the stress.

On the only bright side, today, an appointment with the physio went surprisingly well. As I go to each appointment with expectations one could sweep a floor with, finding a healthcare professional who makes eye contact in addition to being able to let a person finish a sentence or more without interrupting is positively soul cuddling.

My thoracic back, left shoulder and neck are totally fucked up though not in a unfixable way. Huzza.

And, it’s stopped snowing. No telling how long this will last but there is actual sunshine and the wind isn’t slicing through the house.

Which brings me to the house.  No, the reno is not done, and both Rob and I are weary past words of the whole thing. Drywalling may commence this weekend if he keeps up the same pace with wiring and plumbing but between my totally fucked back and iffy neck/shoulder and his recent gout attack – well – sigh*.

Dee chomps at the bit to be allowed to help but at nearly four feet tall and not 50 lbs drenched, she falls short of being useful.

Here is the worst thing right now – the hamster wheel effect. Since Christmas at least, it’s as if there is not one iota of difference from yesterday to tomorrow. I am Bill Murray living the same day over and over. People jet off to warmer climes. They throw dinner parties. Or have nights out without children. But we might as well be living in Pleasantville for all the difference in our white one white world.

Does that sound whiny? It’s not meant to. Just observing and wondering how much longer the quo remains at status.

 

*The worst of it is the lack of space with half the house in shreds. Barely room to spread a yoga mat most days and don’t get me started on the continually shifting of stuff necessary to even cook a meal. Weekdays I manage, but on the weekends – that’s at least two or more preps and I sometimes just want to sit on the floor and cry because it’s like Sisyphus and the rock.


Coat of arms of The District of Summerland

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Summerland, British Columbia is a place that’s name says it all. It’s a place that lives in the warm months and hibernates the rest of the time. Orchards and vineyards dot the landscape. Fruit stand every 100 metres and wineries nestled in any available nook or cranny.

Sitting along Lake Okanagan between another aptly named town, Peachland, and the retirement/summer playground of Penticton, I’ve only really seen summer there once. Most of our visits have occurred during late fall or winter when brown colours and cold air dominate, and even the local inhabitants seem to have snuggled in like bears for the duration.

In an attempt to make our hastily scheduled trip for G and G’s wedding more of a get-away than an obligation, Rob booked us into one of the nicer resorts on the lake, a place that is cost prohibitive in the high summer season.

Whenever possible we go for the suite option because it allows us all some space and Dee is no different from Rob and I in needing space.

It was a lovely set-up. One of the nicest kitchens I have ever seen in a suite with a full range, large fridge and a dishwasher. The cabinets were fully stocked with any type of dishware, pot/pan or utensil if cooking was a must, and the bath had separate tub/shower and an awesome vanity that stretched nearly the length of the room with an equal sized mirror and under the vanity a light that was motion sensitive for night-time use.

It also came equipped with two televisions.

TV is one of those weird things that while I don’t miss not having it on a daily basis, I do tend to check out when we travel.

Mostly, I channel surf. A few minutes here, twenty minutes there or just flipping at the speed of sound. I seldom watch anything from beginning to end because nothing is captivating or creative enough to compel me to do so.  And so much of it is horrifying anyway.

It appears that most television is some sort of reality themed show where the objective is to find the most objectionable representatives of humanity to showcase for entertainment purposes.  One such show – which I had no idea existed or that there were people in the world desperate enough for attention to agree to be a part of – is called Hoarders.

Part extreme intervention with a touch of home improvement via organizing, the show finds people who are steps beyond an Oprah moment in an attempt to help them reclaim their homes from mountains of crap and possibly direct them toward mental health services. The latter is, I suppose, noble. Every person they highlighted had severe OCD in addition to an alphabet soup of other issues ranging from personality disorders to dysfunctional family or intimate relationship problems.

I couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes or so at a time, but I kept coming back to it in my meandering in the same why you’d like to not look at the accident on the side of the road but you slow down, block traffic and size it up anyway.

The houses were nightmares. Not an inch of bare floor with all manner of items piled and mixed with garbage. Most of the people had animals, which totally contributed to the unsanitary conditions with their food and waste droppings.

One woman had two small children whose rooms she took over to store her “stuff” which forced one to sleep with her because his bed had disappeared and her daughter to sleep on the floor with her Dad in a child’s size sleeping bag. She was the one who thought there was nothing wrong with cat crap on the kitchen floor and a fridge stuffed with rotting food. Rotting. And she got all up and snarky when the psychologist insisted that she clean it out herself to see what was in it and understand why it was a hazard to her kids.

And that lady wasn’t the worst one the show highlighted.

“We need to clean,” I told Rob as we watched.

“We are not that bad,” he replied.

“Yet,” I countered as I thought about the box of cards I have yet to sort and Dee’s desk in the office which is the repository of anything that doesn’t have a home.

Granted. We are short on space because of the renovation. But the storage room in the basement, which we were able to walk through in the summer is now impassable and I can totally see how people can allow clutter to become hoarding, which flows like lava through the house, solidifying and turning to the emotional equivalent of stone.

My dad was a minor hoarder of tools, car parts and paper, but I didn’t grow up in a house where the floor disappeared for extended periods of time or the sink choked on dirty dishes until we were eating off paper plates. Even the rooms of my siblings and I never reached tornado strewn disaster level like Dee’s does though she isn’t as bad as she was when she was little.

She inherits her laissez faire attitude from her late father, who grew up with a hoarder mother.

One of the issues between my former mother-in-law and I was the perpetual filth and growing mounds of “stuff” in her home. By the time Will got sick, I wouldn’t even sit down when I visited – often because there was no place to sit – but mostly because the house was disgusting.

The dog, which wasn’t even hers, destroyed her backyard to the point that the neighbors were forever calling the city on her in the summer when the smell radiated to street side. When he died in the garage after days of bloody diarrhea and vomiting – she never cleaned it up. It dried and flaked off and as far as I know when the new owners began their renovation (it had to be completely gutted) that mess was still a giant crusted stain on the concrete.

Rob’s sister is a hoarder. The authorities eventually removed her teenage daughter and the girl, who is now a sixteen year old mother, is not allowed to move back in if she wants to retain custody of her son. It’s that bad.

My mother-in-law has a bit of a stuff issue too, but not to the point where her home is dirty. There are too many possession and no space, and one has to wonder why a person needs so much when it sits in closets, drawers and cabinets never to be used and probably often forgotten about.

TV is bad, but ultimately this foray into the kind of voyeurism that makes one want to use a wetwipe on her brain and scrub her eyeballs has renewed my purging purpose.


Australia Day Fireworks

Image by Sam Ilić via Flickr

Top tenning is THE new year eve’s week thing to do in the blogosphere.  Mostly because bloggers need vacation time too.

Thanks to the wonderful tech team at WordPress’s need to constantly justify their paychecks, I have a plethora of data aggregating goodies to help keep track of posts by popularity.

So here are the top ten posts by page views at anniegirl1138 for the year we are about to bid adieu:

10) Brad Pitt shaved the scraggly thing off months ago, but it lives on in my post about goatees and dead husbands.

9) Though I’ve successfully steered my daughter away from the cash-grabbing universe of “dance” studios, my contempt remains. Remember the Single Ladies? 9 year olds hoochie dancing for the dirty old men who troll the Internet?

8) Although I wrote this ages ago and it’s true intent has been repeatedly misunderstood, Angelina’s non-weight problems continues to be a big draw.

7) Another oldie but goldie, Lisa Parker still pulls readers and comments.

6) It’s hardly the only Facebook Meme worthy of scorn (I ignored the equally awful Movember Movement), but breast cancer awareness meme’s, and pink ‘s co-option by Susan Komen for that matter, sparked a rant that people read.

5) Jennifer Petkov was another post that missed its mark but certainly got read.

4) I’d originally planned to write this for Care2, or maybe I did and it got rejected, regardless, young and dumb in America was a huge hit.

3) Jillian Michaels is a poor role model and apparently I am not the only one who thinks so.

2) Musing on my life of plenty.

1) And the biggest post of the year? Women with no basic understanding of dressing for body type.

“You know,” my husband observed as he glanced through this list, “not one of these posts is about your family … or me.”

“Can you believe that? ” I said, “No one wants to read about you guys.”

“I am dismayed, disappointed and disgusted, ” he replied, ” but not surprised.”

Nor am I.  My best stuff is usually not the most popular, but that is the bane of all bloggers.

I hope you enjoyed the year’s effort and will continue to read in the new year.


Antique Maytag washing machine.

Image via Wikipedia

And by Titans, I mean my husband and Maytag.

For the last two years and change, we’ve washed dishes by hand more often than not despite having a dishwasher. I can’t recall the exact date of what is shaping up to be an epic war of wit and will between Rob and the dishwasher(s), but we awoke this morning to yet another mechanical fail on the part of a Maytag appliance, which brings to mind a mental image of a not so lonely repairman hiding in a closet as the answer machine takes message after message from irate customers wondering where the hell he is.

Friday night, we watched the remake of the cult classic Clash of the Titans. It was a questionable family movie night pick with an eight year-old in the picture, but she is Greek mythology crazy and we decided to chance it.

The plot involved a fed up human race refusing to give the gods of Mount Olympus their due obeisance through prayers and sacrifice. A royally pissed off Zeus decides to “release the Kraken” on them as a reminder of the order of things.

It calls to mind that we are not as free of overlords demanding tribute in modern times as we think. Our daily lives are highly mechanized and dependent on gadgets and technology that free us from much of the mundane tasks of our grandparents.

The dishwasher is one I would rank as a chief among the many appliances that have unchained women from household drudgery.

It is not a maintenance free thing however and those with the ability and means to create and maintain dishwashers or washing machines, to name another huge time saver, demand worship in their own way.

After Rob checked to make sure that the power source was not the issue, he put in a call for service. The machine is just a month or so old and is under warranty. He initially met with a recording telling him to call again on Monday during this and that time. A quick Internet search led him to a 24hr line and he managed to secure a technician for a week from Monday. Warranty items are not priority and I wondered fleetingly what a family with small children would do if faced with a week sans dishwasher with both parents working?

Eat out, no doubt.

It’s interesting that this latest dishwasher outage arouses no particular ire in me. Though I was at the weary end of washing by hand this summer when the last dishwasher died and I was back to the sink, my first thought upon discovering the body this morning was to minimize Rob’s stress over it.

“Don’t freak out,” I told him when he got up. “But the dishwasher quit in mid-cycle over night.”

“We need to quit buying Maytag p.o.s’s,” he said.

“Or figure out which appliance god to offer sacrifice too,” I replied.

“This is not funny,” he said.

I guess it’s not. The time spent trying to ascertain if he could fix it took away from time he’d budgeted to putting up stone on the house because “I am not hauling all those rocks back to the truck for the winter.”

Life is never simple. But I guess it never was.


Oil painting of a scullery maid by Jean-Simèon...

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There is a reason why women abandoned the kitchen in droves once the combined effects of modern conveniences and access to the workplace kicked in. And that reason?

Kitchens are the equivalent of salt mines. Backache inducing, mind-mushing and mostly unappreciated work.

Subtracting the last bit for myself personally because my husband appreciates enormously and often, the aching back and low-level of intellectual stimulation will not induce many of my gender back to the scullery no matter how Home Depot dresses it up.

Today I baked, laundered, raked and tidied.

For hours.

And I am not a pioneer homemaker or even my Grandmother. Despite my personal fetish of mixing up foodstuff from scratch, my wifely arsenal includes an industrial mixer, an oven that doesn’t require the need to stoke it with wood (that would need to be chopped), a microwave, a blender, a food processor and a dishwasher (which praise be to my husband is installed and in service again). And still, the morning and a goodly chunk of afternoon later saw me just finishing and not even close to cleaning or yard-work.

Here’s where the feminists – married some, but mostly single – chime in, “Where is your husband? Division of labor violation alert!”

But he was mixing cement and applying scratch coat to the sides of the house, and seriously, labor division is an illusion. Always was and continues to be this fantasy that ruins more relationships than it should.

Reality is that Rob tends to the big house things – like siding, roofing, knocking out walls, installing hardwood and all things mechanical, electrical and plumbing related. I make the trains run on time, which isn’t glamorous or easy to point a finger directly at most days but necessary none the less.

And I teach yoga. Which is fun and good for me besides while Rob girds up to head back to literally dig a salt mine at a nearby chemical plant. It is neither fun nor good for him – as his recent heart attack attests to.

The point then? There isn’t one aside from the obvious, which is that fair is an ebb/flow thing, and when one gets all bean-counterish about it – joy is naturally sucked right out of one’s  existence.

There is nothing overwhelmingly odious about modern life that probably isn’t self-inflicted by unrealistic expectations that are imposed on us from the outside.