It’s Like Someone Took Desperate Housewives and Silence of the Lambs and Shoved Them Into My Autobiograpy
With all of the crime shows that I watch and the homicide novels I read and the fact that I’ve twice been the victim of aggravated assaults, it’s pretty amazing that I do not obsess all of the time about serial killers. The only time I am somewhat concerned about them is when I am in my car alone and I am singing with the radio at the top of my lungs. Even then, I am torn between worrying about the guy laying in wait in the trunk of my car who may have just discovered that he has a bigger motivation to slit my throat than he thought and the guy in the car next to me at the stop light who never pondered serial killing until he heard me belting out, “Hey Soul Sister.”
But those moments are rare – maybe once a week.
No, I spend far more time worried about the aftermath of being serially killed. This puzzles me because I will be dead and presumably will have less anxiety at that point. Nevertheless, I am increasingly fearful of what people will think of me when I am dead. Specifically, I am tormented by thoughts of what they will judge to be my less-than-stellar housekeeping skills.
I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before – which only goes to show how much it bothers me.
For some reason, this affliction seems to have worsened during the summer – maybe because I have a bit too much time on my hands. I look in a closet, and am suddenly acutely aware that there are too many clothes in it, that if anyone else should happen to see that I still own 3 bridesmaid dresses that I wore twenty years ago they will be incredibly astonished at the levels that my hoarding reached and how could they have never suspected that I was so deeply disturbed?
Yesterday, I noticed the light switch in my bathroom had accumulated about 5 years of dust on the top rim and nearly had a panic attack while I tried to finish up my business so I could get to some cleaning supplies and rectify the situation before I die.
The funny thing is that you would walk into my house and never think to yourself, “This is someone who is obsessed with cleaning her house.” That is because I am very self-aware, and I realize that if I give in to this craziness I will lose my mind completely and become like that lady on Desperate Housewives who may or may not have become a serial killer herself (I’m not sure because I stopped watching it after the 2nd season). So, I allow myself to freak out for about 20 minutes a day and then I collapse in exhaustion on the couch and force myself to read.
Another serial killer book.
That describes the abode of the victim in great detail.
Detail that I hope no one will ever feel the need to go into when I am serially killed.
“Do you have anything for me to do?”
“The thank-you card for your grandparents? Or how about cleaning the – ”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. You’re not good at that.”
“Giving me something fun to do.”
Someday on my tombstone it will read, “Here lies my mother. I hope God doesn’t ask her for anything to do.”
This exchange happened between my sister, Crash, and me a few days ago. You see, about 20,000 years ago I did what I thought was a really nice thing and surprised my sister in North Carolina for her birthday. Her birthday usually coincides with my Spring Break, so I figured I would give her the best gift of all – me. She seemed quite happy about it at the time, but little did I know that I was setting her up for an annual hopefulness that seems to have gradually turned into full-blown paranoia. Every year at this time, she asks if I’m going to surprise her again. And, of course I say “no” because, even if I was, I’m certainly not going to tell her. This year, as you can tell, the hopefulness has turned into fear, and I’m trying not to take it personally.
I mean we all know the difference between “half-ass” cleaning and the cleaning you do when you are afraid you are going to get murdered by a serial killer and your home is going to be featured on C.S.I. But my sister should know by now that I would be perfectly satisfied with no-ass cleaning because that’s exactly the kind of house I live in on a regular basis.
The other day, there was a story in the news about a woman who got injured because her friend decided to keep his ammunition in his oven, and she decided to preheat it to make some waffles. Now, there are a few things wrong about this story, but my biggest question is: why do you need to pre-heat the oven to make waffles? I mean, I’m not a kitchen person, but I’m pretty sure you don’t bake waffles.
You might ask what that all has to do with this post, but I think that you will agree with me that keeping your bullets in the oven is a perfect example of, half-ass, “Oh crap, I have a visitor, what am I going to do with this armful of armament, I know, I’ll put it in the oven” kind of cleaning. Never predicting that, when you left the room to go take a whiz, your neighbor would suddenly take it upon herself to make some kind of mutant form of waffles that must be put in the oven instead of in the waffle iron that was sitting on your counter.
What I’m getting at, Crash, is you can totally put your ammunition in the oven if you want. Because: A.) I don’t cook, so I think we are all safe on that account, 2.) I don’t clean, so I’m never going to find it in there, and III.) I’m not coming to visit this week, so I really don’t care where you decide to store your ammo.
Although I do feel obligated to mention, Sis, that someone who earned the nickname “Crash” because of her less than graceful performances in the past, should probably not be around live ammunition on a regular basis.
Oh, and I am coming to visit. No, I’m not. Yes, I am. No, I’m not…
Don’t you love having a sister? Happy Birthday.
If you can look at this picture without having a panic attack, then you are a much stronger person than me. Or, perhaps I have not done a very good job of showing the depth and breadth of this unbelievable amount of stuff that we must painstakingly plow through if we ever want to see the floor of our garage again.
I should have put our bulldog in the picture and done a “Where’s Wonderbutt?” post. Oh well. I think there’s still plenty of time for that.
I think that I mentioned awhile ago that my mother-in-law was in the process of moving, and that we had been tasked with clearing her old apartment by the end of July. This began as a methodical examination of each item, and subsequent determination of appropriate categorization: keep, throw, sell, or give away.
By the end of July, it became a frantic assembly line of wrapping fragile items in newspaper, throwing them in boxes, and writing, “Keep – For Now” on each lid. We realized that we needed to consult with the entire team from Antiques Roadshow and probably a few history professors before we could make any decisions on half of these items.
Amongst the piles of Englebert Humperdinck albums and ornate boxes for delicate panties (that did not contain the advertised item – thank goodness) we have found paperwork tracing the family back to British barons and pocket watches that still tick despite their broken faces. And, of course, we have a cannonball.
The initial idea was to have a garage sale. But that’s going to be hard to do until we find our garage again.
Today, I would like to talk about Mother’s Day. Haha! See how creative I am? Everyone else is posting about Father’s Day, but not me. I do not bend to society’s norms. I do not do what everyone else does. I do not –
remember what I was going to talk about.
Oh, yes. Mother’s Day. So, I never mentioned what Cap’n Firepants gave me for Mother’s Day. (On a half-sideways note, I must say that I don’t really understand why husbands give wives anything on Mother’s Day. After all, I am not the Cap’n’s mother. But, I certainly am not complaining about getting an extra gift.)
Anyways, despite the fact that I really meant it when I said that I didn’t want anything except to be able to sleep late, the Cap’n gave me a gift card to The Container Store. Now, I am pretty certain that it is no coincidence that The Container Store happens to be across the parking lot from the golf store that he went to that same day. But I was not unhappy with the gift because he wrote a very mushy note inside the gift card, and I have been asking him for about 10 years to write me a mushy note, and I would not have cared if he wrote it on a napkin that had been chewed up by Wonderbutt. And, no, I will not share the mushy note with you, partly because it’s private, but mostly because I’m not exactly sure what I did with it. But don’t tell that to the Cap’n.
Now, I do like The Container Store. But I did not realize at the time of receiving the card that it would save my marriage.
I have been referring to this summer as the Summer of Purging. And I am not referring to any kind of eating disorder. First, I moved my classroom to a new school, which necessitated some major disposing of unnecessary curriculum materials that had accumulated in the nooks and crannies of my previous room over 13 years. Now, I am in the midst of my normal Summer Closet Inspections and the Attempt to Save my Daughter’s Room from Being Overcome by Silly Slappy Hands. And, I am helping my mother-in-law scale down her belongings so she can move into an independent living facility.
Out of all the people I am dealing with, I appear to be the only reasonable one. Everyone seems intent on trying to save every last insignificant item from the Death Squad Judgement of Mrs. Cap’n Firepants. Even Wonderbutt snatched back a completely disemboweled toy I threw in the garbage the other day.
After a particularly grueling day trying to convince my mother-in-law that the entirety of her 1200 square foot apartment will not be able to be squeezed into her new 300 square foot room, the Cap’n and I then began to have a slightly not very reasonable discussion about the possibility of storing some of the apartment contents in our home. And I became pretty sure that I needed to initiate divorce proceedings immediately.
Then I remembered my gift card.
“I have some errands,” I announced to the Cap’n and Dimples.
I drove straight to the Mecca of Organization, and strolled down the aisles, leisurely admiring the order and color coordination of each section. Every time I turned a corner, I felt a bit more tension roll away.
After spending 2x the amount that was on my gift card, I was ready to return home with enough containers to control the mess that my life has become. And I told Cap’n Firepants that whatever doesn’t fit in one of the many repositories that I purchased can NOT COME INTO OUR HOUSE.
And we lived happily ever after.
(Mom Camp Update – For those of you who read about the Great Compromise of 2012 last week, most of you will be happy to know that Dimples was mostly able to keep up her end of the bargain. We decided this week to actually specify the number of acceptable hours using the television or video equipment. She said 5, and I said 2. Then she said 4, and I said 3 1/2. And she agreed. Which was the number I wanted anyway.)
Deeply embedded within the DNA of the Firepants family is an inherent reluctance to part with any material belongings. Fortunately, I married into the family, so I do not have this gene. My mother-in-law, husband, and daughter, however, all share this trait. And during this Summer of Purging that has come upon us, I find myself doing daily battle with it.
The most recent disposal dust-up occurred last night as we finally “forced” Dimples, our 9 year old, to give up her twin bed that she had slept in since she was a toddler. It did not matter that she complains on a regular basis about the uncomfortable mattress that shrieks whenever she even thinks about moving a muscle. It did not matter that she is being given the full-sized bed that has the best mattress in the house – luxuriously comfortable and minus the mildew smell I still detect in our newest mattress. It did not matter that we are not throwing her old bed away, but giving it to a relative who needs it even more.
“I can’t watch,” she dramatically declared as her eyes filled with tears and she backed out of her bedroom. Cap’n Firepants pulled up the mattress, leaned it against a wall, and then gathered up the box-spring.
“Well, look here!” he said, disapprovingly, as the floor beneath the bed was revealed for the first time in probably 2 years.
“Oh, look!” Dimples said, excitedly, as she peered around the doorjamb to view the treasure that had accumulated beneath her sleeping form after 24 months.
Cap’n Firepants went to get a trash bag. Because he assumed the detritus needed to go in the garbage. Silly man.
Tears forgotten, Dimples leapt into the middle of the bed frame and began to inventory the new discoveries. Reunited with fuzzy socks and puzzle pieces, she suddenly cared nothing about her bed.
Cap’n Firepants returned, and started “cleaning up”.
“NO!!!” Dimples yelled as he grabbed a sticky looking item and routed it toward the garbage bag. “That’s my slappy hand!”
The Cap’n looked doubtfully at the lint-covered stretchy toy he was holding, and looked at me.
I shrugged. “That’s her slappy hand,” I said. Frustrated, he returned it to her, giving me the look that I probably give him every time he refuses to part with one of his Extremely Valuable Belongings that he had completely forgotten existed.
And why, you may ask, had the canine vacuum we call “Wonderbutt” not taken care of this mess a long time ago? Primarily because the bed was too low to the ground to permit His Rotundness underneath. We now know, however, why, when allowed in the Forbidden Section, he generally made a beeline straight for Dimples’ room.
After somewhat sorting the collection of debris into piles elsewhere in the room, and thoroughly sucking up all dust and microscopic mites, the old/new bed was installed. Dimples declared it a success, completely forgetting her initial hysterics over the entire episode.
And I realized, a bit belatedly, that we had just expanded the Underground Railroad for runaway socks.
During a recent rare, somewhat supervised, exploration of the Forbidden Section, Wonderbutt immediately latched on to the Swiffer Duster I had carelessly left on an ottoman in our bedroom.
Wonderbutt took his new prize out to the living room. I was totally psyched. The living room has been needing a good dusting. Among other things.
It’s hard to find good help.
I am obsessed about death. Well, not about death, itself. More about what happens afterwards. No, this is not going to be a religious rant.
I am worried about dying and people subsequently discovering what a horrible slob I am.
I have an anxiety that I will die one day, and people will go through my house and declare, and rightly so, that I was a very mess person. Why I would care after I’m dead, I don’t know, but it’s a fear. Apparently not a well-documented fear, as I discovered when I Googled it in a failed attempt to find an actual name for this fear. (Ataxophobia, the fear of clutter doesn’t quite describe it. People who suffer from that condition apparently actually clean on a regular basis.)
For those of you who know me, let me assure you that I don’t plan on this happening any time soon (the dying part).
Anyone who has seen the very untidy state of my house would probably doubt that I have ever given cleanliness a second thought. However, I think about it quite a bit. I just don’t actually act upon it as often as I should.
I think it started with C.S.I. When they showed graphic pictures of people who had been horribly murdered on the street, I didn’t blink an eye. But when they showed dead bodies in houses full of clutter, that kind of made me think about the uninvited people who get to wander around your house after you die – particularly if it is a not-so-normal expiration.
The onslaught of reality shows like Hoarders did not help to alleviate my phobia. Most people that watch that show are thankful that their homes are not that bad. Conversely, I watch that show and begin to hyperventilate. Sure, you can walk through my house now without towers of old computers falling on top of you, but I bet the people on T.V. had a time before the piles overtook them, too. Could that junk drawer in the kitchen where I keep old birthday candles signal the beginning of my descent into Hoardership?
Some weekends I will frantically empty out entire closets and fill up bags of things for Goodwill, energized by the fear of dying with mismatched Tupperware strewn around my pantry. I clean out drawers, organize shelves, and dump out boxes. Only to find that they magically disorganize and clutterize themselves again within a matter of weeks.
The good news is that I will never commit suicide because I’ll never think my house is clean enough.
There has seriously got to be a name for this. I can’t be the only person that suffers from this syndrome/phobia/virus thing. I am trying to sensibly confront my fear, but it would help if it had some kind of clever moniker like Triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13 – God I love that word!). Your job is to identify this disease and, more importantly, let me know if you, too, suffer from it!