Having out-of-town visitors wonderfully concentrates the mind.
Longtime pen pal Noah was visiting for the first time in 18 years (he came at fifteen, to witness the miracle of the tubes and the sparks, being a bike-obsessed Edmonton “Bush Pig”).
We’d be face-to-face with a young man we’ve been in steady contact with the last three years, and meet his Japanese wife, Chikako. He’d mentioned she’s a person who abhors clutter.
They were coming to Taj Mahovel!
Where clutter is king.
We took drastic measures.
The usual rule is OHIO (only handle it once) but I cannot follow rules;
they lie broken all around. By the time I’m forced to deal with a heap of clippings, I’ve handled the damn scrap at least three times:
Deciding I liked the story or photo after all and churning through all the recycling to reclaim it. Then, if I do like it (”for a collage”, I tell myself) I’ll take the scissors off their handy nail-on-the-kitchen-wall, and snip away. And lay it on a corner of my desk, until it’s in the way. Then it is transferred to ‘Angle of Repose Mountain’, which always begins as a humble hummock on some unsuspecting couch, chair, or dictionary stand.
After this grows to the proper Vesuvius mass and volume, and it has a cascade or two, it’s time to either pick through it with a nostaligic flinch, page at a time (maybe putting one or two in my journal vol. 14) or more likely get mad at my sick inability to abandon things (newspaper clippings? COME ON!! Didn’t you say yourself: people that read the newspaper with scissors in their hands have a little problem with separation anxiety?). Worst case: or shoveling everything into bags without looking (prevents bonding, dallying, other time-wasting activities).
“Charlie, we need the kitchen table cleared” I said innocently.
A groan comes from the In Between room (which in this cold weather doubles as an auxiliary fridge).
The next two hours, each of us slaves away in our own private (ha! Not anymore, with this on the internet, huh?) hell.
He mutters because there is so much Chuck-Stuff leaned against the back wall (vitamins, clippings, catalogues, veggies and fruit) that he has to find new homes for it all, to make room for a fourth person at the wall side of the small wooden kitchen table. I hear cloth rubbing vigorously against wood, smell dust being raised, feel a grumpy vibe from a few feet away.
“This is traumatic” he says, slightly whiny.
“Think how neat it will be to have room to eat for four people” I offered consolingly.
By ten p.m. we have to surrender to sleepiness , but I’d put in a valiant ten minute final sprint shuttling baskets of paper between the slightly emptier living room and “my room”.
Our beaten-up wooden living room floor was swept. Towels laid down to catch tracked in leaf litter.
But don’t look in my almost impossibly cluttered Walk-In Augean Closet! (a.k.a. original homeowner’s bedroom. We have no bedroom, since it’s in a tree).
Dressing each morning requires a yogic pose (”grasping one-legged egret”), as I cantilever myself over bags of vintage velvet hats, banjo cases, and sweater middens.
Add to this the shin-gouging stance and the foot-sweep advance maneuver. Not to mention dodging the haphazardly stacked file drawers from the Faux Purge of July 07. Metal boxes– located directly behind the inward-opening front door–that for years had added a jaunty je ne sais boite to the decor.
My resolve not being what it should, I assumed that because there were two of these overcrammed filing cabinets, their constituent drawers could support one another during their diet. Several months later, it’s obvious these ugly and very heavy filing cabinet drawers have no intention of losing an ounce without my direct intervention.
When I was travelling I saw a nifty solution (to the gouges inflicted by drawers): black Hefty sacks. They have all the features of the drawers:
-inscrutability of contents
-inconvenience of location
-eventual invisibility in full sight
But none of the sharp edges!
Noah and Chikako arrived around supper time laden with bags of To-Go Thai, and their faces said it all as they came in: “We didn’t know people still lived like this!”
And we fell to eating.