by Cathy Allie
We are on week 78, or thereabouts, of our COVID-19 isolation. I have had a lot of time to clean house (and point my finger at projects my husband needs to do). And I would like to say that my cleaning style could best be described as, “There appears to have been a struggle.”
I have been scouring counter tops, polishing sink handles, mopping floors, brushing toilets, and sanitizing door knobs. My fingertips have an eerie white glow from where bleach has seeped through my gloves. We are clean over here.
But I have lost the Stacks and Clutter War. And I don’t mean just narrowly lost, like a closely contested ball game. I got decimated, ruined, undone, whipped, destroyed, wasted, ravaged. Are you following me?
The first part of the defeat and carnage came in the form of work spaces. When we all came home to work and go to school, we all needed a place to put our “stuff”. I mistakenly thought that each night, folks would just gather up their stuff and put it away.
“But we will be using it again in the morning,” they said. “Seems silly to completely put it away! Here! We will just stack it neatly.”
In hindsight, I should have emptied a drawer, carried in a backpack, or even a milk crate and firmly said ,”Let’s start storing it here.” But I was weak from shopping everywhere for toilet paper, and I caved in.
At first the stacks looked pretty neat and tidy. But after a few days, they literally looked more like burial mounds. I did an about face and waved the white flag.
The next phase of the loss was closer to the front lines, in the form of counter tops. When we all came home to work and go to school, we all came home to eat as well. No more neatly packed lunch boxes heading out the door and then refreshed each night to head out the door the next day again. Instead, we grocery shopped, and our pantry became full and the counter tops held the overflow.
The super-giant bag of tortilla chips took up one corner. There were now two fruit bowls instead of one. Seemed silly to carry the soldier-like lines of bottled water all the way to the garage, so they found a counter top seat. Before I knew it, and literally overnight, there was no place for my important things like a bag of caramels, coffee pods , and nail polish colors I am choosing from the much needed pedicure I can’t have.
What room was left went to devices and chargers. I think I counted five computers, two I-pads, a Kindle, and four phones all lined up on the counter. Anarchy!
Then I lost the Battle of the Blankets. People who have come home to work and go to school, and then eat, often land on a couch or chair to watch TV. The 70 degree days have been few and far between, so the blankets have gotten used.
But late night movie binging means they don’t get folded or put away where they normally are, so when the next person goes looking for one, it is much easier to just grab another one. Exactly three of us live here (unless you count the dog, who as I shared last week is the only one I still like), and there were 11 blankets. Eleven!
I called a cease fire, and we spent about five minutes folding the ones that didn’t need a thorough de-lousing. My water bill will be five million dollars this month at this rate, as I am laundering everything in sight.
Sadly, I also lost the Battle of the Bedside Table, one of my usual strongholds. The offensive launched when Dr. Fauci said I would need to take my temperature, so I placed the thermometer there, nestled in next to a tank-sized box of Kleenex I was forced to buy at a warehouse store when my little square packages weren’t available.
I have recommitted to reading, so two novels joined all the medical supplies. I can’t sleep because I am worrying about the mess we are in, so I added a couple of crossword puzzle and sudoku books to the already crowded space. None of the pens I picked up worked, but instead of throwing them away, as is my habit, I left them on the table to try repeatedly in the wee hours of the morning.
I want my phone to be fully charged and not miss an important call during this insurrection, and I am now so desperate for adult conversation that it bunks on the bedside table also. On Sunday night, right before I went to sleep I propped the phone against the books, and sometime in the night, everything toppled over, making a great noise.
My husband jumped up and grabbed a baseball bat from his side of the bed, ready to swing at whomever was trying to steal our thermometer…that is after grabbing his reading glasses to make sure he didn’t miss. Now the baseball bat has joined the mess on my side of the bed, along with a nail file, in my own weapons cache, because Lord knows I don’t trust him with it.
Perhaps my final humiliating defeat came in the form of the stairs in my two story home. Something always needs to go back upstairs when you live on multiple floors. My mom made us an adorable staircase basket into which you are supposed to put things during the day, carry them up at night, and begin the process over again the next day.
But our basic training failed, and we cannot seem to do that. Items are stacked on the stairs like a crazy Jenga game, ready to roll all the way back to the bottom step when someone treads near them. I have been carrying up a load each time I go, and I encouraged the savages that live with me to do the same.
At first I thought it was my imagination, when I noticed things being moved up one or two stairs, however not all the way to the top. Hmmm. Wasn’t that on the third step yesterday, and now it is on the 5th? I spied on the members of my unit.
My suspicions were confirmed when I got to the second stair from the top last night and there sat two items. Are you kidding me? You couldn’t have carried them up just One. More. Step?
No one has confessed to the insolent stair moves, but I was reminded of an Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Debra and Ray wait each other out. They both know they have to put away a suitcase sitting in the middle of the stairs, but rather than taking the initiative, they wait to see who will finally cave and do it.
Hey, I am on Corona lockdown. Like a gunner with her howitzer, I can wait. And wait. And wait.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.