Back into the closet

Well, maybe you guessed it from this heading. If you’re following my blog, you’ll know that I (sometimes we) spent the entire weekend cleaning out the bedroom closet. Today we had cleaners over, because we’re getting ready to show the house early to our neighbor’s realtor, since our neighbor wants to buy our house (but so far hasn’t offered us anything for it). I got home expecting to see a sparkling, neat house, as my husband had called me several times during the day to ask me about the disposition of some items.

All this shelf had on it last time I looked was a package of toilet paper and my flute.
All this shelf had on it last time I looked was a package of toilet paper and my flute. Which also means, I don’t know where my flute is.

The girls weren’t finished. Yes, our house was so dirty, despite being professionally cleaned two weeks ago (by a different company) that the girls spent five hours at our house yesterday and still weren’t done. That was embarrassing but understandable, because since we started clearing the house out, I have stopped trying to clean, too.

But later I went into our closet and maybe you can guess what I saw. Yes, indeed, the closet that I spent two days cleaning out was full of boxes. He did it again.

This shelf didn't have anything on it at all.
This shelf didn’t have anything on it at all.

I tried to keep my mouth shut, but finally I pointed out that I had repeatedly asked him not to fill up places that we had already cleared out, because the end effect was that we weren’t making any progress, and even if we were, we would feel like we weren’t. We ended up having a big fight (unusual for us), during which he accused me of saying the same things all the time and I told him that was because I thought if I said them enough times, he might listen. (That sounds horrible, I know, but he also has a memory problem, so it’s hard to know when I have to repeat myself.) Then he pretty much admitted to me that if I asked him to do something, he was not going to do it. (I had already suspected this was going on.) Since he also refuses most of the time to have a calm talk about what our next steps should be and he isn’t going to do what I ask him to do, I have to admit to being totally stymied. Do I just let him work at whatever, even though it may not make sense at the time and may create more mess? (For example, right now I am working on removing clutter, but he has decided to start removing furniture from the house, sometimes creating more clutter.) He has taken months to motivate to work at all, so I feel like if I say nothing, he will just relapse into inactivity.

Tonight I will ask him how he wants to proceed. I have tried this tactic before, and I can pretty much guarantee that he won’t have an answer for me, but at least I’m still trying.

Out of the closet

This weekend’s project was to clear out our bedroom closet. The state this closet was in was as much my fault as my husband’s. We have far too many things in it. But it also got out of hand because of my husband’s propensity for organization run amock. We don’t have any linen closets, so when I was single, I had my sheets up on the top closet shelf and the toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet. But after my husband was in the house for a while, the bathroom cabinets got out of control, and my husband installed shoe racks on the closet shelves. One of these, on the left side, was handy because it had shoes in it. But the one on the right side just made it impossible to put the sheets up there or anything else.

The top closet shelf became the repository for things like toilet paper and tissue, which my husband buys in bulk (buying in bulk being one of our problems). Then Wayne put the rack of shelves at the back of the closet, and they became stuffed with sheets and towels. Eventually, we ran out of room to put anything else in the closet, so there started to be so many things on the floor that I kept tripping every time I went in.

I know this doesn't look that neat, but you should have seen it before.
I know this doesn’t look that neat, but you should have seen it before.

So, I started out on Saturday by removing everything from the top shelves and the floor of the closet. It took most of the day to go through that and pack things, put them in a bag for Goodwill, or throw them out. Later in the day, I packed most of our towels and sheets, only leaving a few sets of sheets and towels to use while we sell the house.

On Sunday, I started on the clothes. I thought this would be easy, but it took two hours just to go through my husband’s clothes. Most of the time, he wasn’t helping me, but when he finally came in and started helping, it was a mixed blessing. We were able to go faster, but he didn’t throw away as many of his torn jeans as I would have. It has always been his custom to keep any jeans that fit him as “knock-around” jeans, even if they’re full of holes. This is a nice concept, but when he is doing something really dirty, he just wears whatever jeans he already has on. He never remembers to put on his “knock-around” jeans. Fortuitiously, I was able to toss out a whole shelf full of jeans before he came into the room. He probably had 20 pairs of “knock-around” jeans and about as many pairs that didn’t fit him anymore.

My back had been bothering me from lugging around heavy boxes, so I didn’t get too far into my clothes. Finally, I decided to quickly go through my clothes to sort out the ones for Goodwill and come back and pack a lot of them later. I am pretty good at keeping my clothes culled, so that part went quickly. We are trying to pack most of our clothes and only keep enough to get us through until we sell the house. I have to keep out more because of work, though.

That’s what we did, and we ended up with six large contractor bags full of clothes to give to Goodwill and two bags full of garbage. We also packed three large boxes of linens and clothing and I suppose will have part of another one when I get done packing my clothes. I wanted the clothes on the racks to look pretty sparse, but we’re not there yet.

I admit to being guilty to my own act of hoarding. Even though it doesn’t quite fit me anymore, I couldn’t bring myself to donate an iridescent blue/green three-piece suit trimmed with black and sequins. It is beautiful and just my slightly odd style. Aside from having to lose a few pounds to wear it, I will seldom have an opportunity to wear a dressy suit ever again. Still.

Later that afternoon, we took the car out and made another trip to Goodwill and another trip to our library bookstore to give donations. When we got back, I took a nap.

What led up to this

I have been trying to motivate my husband to start cleaning out his stuff since January (except that in almost 20 years of marriage, I’ve never figured out how to motivate my husband). My original schedule was to finish the clean-up by April with the assumption that we would be hiring a contractor to fix up the house, at least to repair the things that were obviously in bad shape, and we wouldn’t know how long we would have to wait for one or how long the work would take. But May came and little work had been done except some sorting I did myself on the weekends. My husband is retired, but I am still working 40 hours a week. I pretty much felt like a purple googly eyed squid.

This is me, only I don't have tentacles.
This is me, only I don’t have tentacles.

Then my husband went outside one evening to feed the raccoons (yes, that was what he went to do) and fell down. He tore the tendon right off his kneecap and was basically disabled for two or three months. He wasn’t in pain most of the time after the initial injury, but after his surgery he was the world’s worst patient. (Why don’t them call them “impatients”?) I had to do both of our chores and take care of his dog, who is large and unruly, plus respond to my husband’s almost constant requests. During the first month, I never once stated an intention of doing something (nothing fun, mind you) that he didn’t tell me to do something else. “I’m going to do the dishes now.” “First, give the dog some water.”

In situations like this, you feel bad, partly because you think you’re making it all about yourself, but at times, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. I figured I couldn’t even think about getting ready to move, and for a month I tried not to.

But of course I want to move so badly!

I finally had to convince myself to think about only one thing at a time. That’s pretty much impossible, but I tried.

I have a good friend whom I’ve known for about 30 years, and when he heard what had happened, he came out for five days in June from Denver just to help me get the upstairs of the house cleared out. He brought most of the things downstairs and I sorted through boxes and broke them down for recycling and put them in trash bags or set them aside for donating or repacked them. My husband was mobile by then, and he helped a bit, but my friend remarked to me “It’s almost like he doesn’t want to move.” I know my husband can’t wait to leave Austin, but I clarified that point with him and he said he wanted to live in Washington but he didn’t want to move. Sigh. Does he think I don’t feel the same way?

While my friend was here, he and I made two trips to the recycling center, two trips to Goodwill, and two trips to Half Price Books to sell books.

We got one entire room cleared out, but when my friend started on the other one, my husband stopped him. He said, “I can do that in a week.” By then he was walking, but he certainly wasn’t up to traipsing up and down the stairs all day. And anyway . . . Well, note that it was another month after my friend left before I hired THE GUYS to come do that work that my husband said he could do in a week. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve realized finally that my husband just can’t cope with this.

But thank goodness for my friend! I will be forever grateful to him. Still feeling those little flutters sometimes at night, but everything is a lot better. And that about gets us up to date with the first entry on this blog.

 

Adventures in storage

What a fun weekend we just had! (Sarcasm intended.) Our realtor came out last week and looked at the house, and he told us that we should not put any money into fixing it up or even staging it, because it will probably be a tear-down. This was sad news, since our house was once beautiful, but not surprising. It’s not that there is anything wrong with our house besides needing some minor repair work and upgrades, but in our neighborhood that’s what happens with all but the newest homes.

We had worked like dogs just to get the house semi-presentable, although it is still full of clutter and the closets were stuffed with things my husband thought shouldn’t go into the shipping container because of the heat. The realtor advised us first to clear out the closets so that people can see what size they are. So, during the week I went online and found a climate-controlled storage facility and a truck to rent.

This in itself was a bit of an adventure. Both the truck and the storage facility sent me messages explaining that my reservations weren’t confirmed until I spoke to the local manager. The storage facility manager was supposed to call me within 24 hours, and she didn’t (I thought). The truck company sent my husband an email asking me to call, and he didn’t tell me about it. So, I didn’t know about it until I got home from work, at which time their office was closed.

The truck was easy to sort out, but the next day I called the storage facility five times! The first time, I got a person, and she told me the computer system was down, but she would call another facility and have them check my reservation, and then she would call me back. She never did. It wasn’t until I had left three messages that I realized I had typed my phone number one digit off on the electronic form, although I had left the correct number with the person I talked to. Finally, after work, my husband and I just went over there. I still don’t know if they never called back or if they called back the wrong number, but the computer was still down when I went in. The manager told me she had confirmed my reservation the same day I made it, but of course to the wrong number.

Then she explained that her voice mail goes directly to her computer, so if she doesn’t get the phone, with the computer down, she doesn’t get the message. While I was there, she ignored the phone several times. (Side point: I get that not answering the phone while dealing with a customer is normally good etiquette, but when you know that the phone customer’s messages aren’t going to be conveyed to you?) Anyway, we finally got all checked in to the storage facility, I thought, and got our code for the gate. Big caution from the manager: don’t be in here later than 10PM or you’ll get locked in. (This is important later.)

So, Saturday morning I go up to start pulling things out of the closet and find that the two rooms we spent so much time cleaning out are all full of junk again! I kid you not! And this is not the first time it has happened! This time, my husband had been helpfully pulling things out of the closet already, but seeing it like this had such a devastating effect on my energy that I was appalled. I would have been fine just pulling things out of the closet a few at a time and taking them down to the truck, but seeing that room messed up for the third time just felt horrible. (The second time was when I went up the night before we were supposed to shampoo the carpet.) I have explained to him the psychological benefit of knowing you have made some progress. “We cleaned out this room so we don’t have to do it again! Yay!” I don’t think he gets it. (I have also explained to him that moving things around isn’t cleaning. He has piles of boxes behind the screen in the living room right now. They have been there for three weeks. With him, things are truly out of sight, out of mind.)

Well, we are two old people. I am 64 and my husband is five years older. You can imagine how much fun we had taking a bunch of boxes down a flight of stairs. It took us all day, although we took a long break in the middle. This was work that those guys I hired could have done in a couple of hours. To make matters worse, it hadn’t rained all summer, as is frequently the case in Austin, but it was raining that morning when we first started taking boxes out and it rained all evening while we were unloading.

Finally, we got smart enough just to take everything downstairs, and once we had it all down, it only took another hour to put the rest in the truck. We stopped to give our animals dinner, and we got to the storage facility at about 7 PM in the pouring rain.

Our code didn’t work.

We didn’t have our cell phones with us. The office was, of course, closed.

Our truck was due back at 9:30 AM, and the storage facility office didn’t open until 11.

We had to go all the way back home and call the main number. They gave us a temporary code, but it took them about 20 minutes to do it. By the time we got back, it was 8 PM. We had two hours to unload the truck and get out of there. It was still raining.

Well, the good news is that it only took us a little over an hour to unpack the truck, so we didn’t spend the night in the storage facility (with the woman I saw that, I swear, did). The storage facility had these big carts that we could load up, which made the job a lot easier (as did the elevators).

The result of my husband's driving
The result of my husband’s driving

Then we went to leave. On the way in, my husband was unable to get the truck close enough to the keypad to put in the code himself. I had to get out of the truck, walk around it, and put the code in, and then run through the gate. On the way out, he got close enough, but when we were going to leave, he put his foot down on the accelerator hard, and BAM! We ran into one of the big yellow posts that protect the keypad. While we were sitting there being discombobulated, the gate started to come down, and my husband had to gun it to get through! (Well, actually, it started back up when we were under it, but how did we know that was going to happen?) These were just two of the terrifying driving events of the evening.

And that is the story of our weekend adventures!

How this all got started

I have lived in Texas for more than 30 years. I am from Michigan, and Texas’s climate is not my favorite. When I first moved here, I thought I would stay here five years, tops. To make matters worse, it has gotten significantly hotter in Texas since I originally moved here.

I always thought I’d retire farther north, but when my husband (also from Michigan) and I got married, he stated a preference never to have to shovel snow again. So, we bought retirement property in the Davis Mountains in far west Texas. But as each summer got hotter and hotter, I started to wonder whether it was a good idea to retire in a desert.

Family
My family at the reunion

Coincidentally, some of both of our families now live in the Pacific Northwest. Since most of my family is somewhere on the West Coast, we started having family reunions in Washington. My niece has a home in the countryside of Southern Washington, about an hour from Portland, OR.

Four years ago, we went to the first reunion. My husband and I got up early on the first day and started wandering in the large garden my niece has planted. Chickens were clucking to our left, and a bee hive was humming to our right. There were two aisles of ripe raspberries. The property is lush, a green lawn surrounded by forests, with blackberries and blueberries growing along the edges. I looked around at the thriving veggies and ate a few raspberries and said to my husband, “This is like paradise.”

Then my niece’s husband mentioned that a short distance away was a house for sale. Well, we ended up buying it, and we have been renting it out for four years. Now, if we can only get going, I am almost ready to retire. I can retire in October, and we can leave any time after we sell our house in Texas. But the catch is, I can’t retire until we sell the house.

Some major progress

I wrote the first post at midnight about two weeks ago, when I was feeling low. Since then, we have made some definite progress.

upstairs
Before

If you read my first post, you know that I called in reinforcements to try to clear out two rooms upstairs that my husband had completely filled with junk over the years, so much so that I refused to go upstairs. For more than a month, I had been going up there trying to work on it, going through a few boxes, then getting discouraged and going away again. We had made huge progress when a friend of mine came in from Denver just to help us clear out. We got one whole room cleared out while he was here, but when I went back upstairs a few days later, my husband had moved a bunch of things in there from the other side, so it didn’t feel as if we had made progress. This before picture is just one corner of one of the rooms, and it doesn’t show the four big steel shelving units filled with boxes.

Well, I left my husband in charge of the reinforcements and returned from work at the end of the day expecting one of my problems to be solved, only to find very little difference. Sure, some heavy electronics had been hauled downstairs for us to recycle, but the overall effect of looking at the room was that it was no different.

I called THE GUYS back, and after a few days, we rescheduled. I took the day off and did the supervising myself. They sent out two great guys who organized our storage container first and then started disposing of things as we directed, in the trash, in the storage container, in the Goodwill pile, or in the closet. Every once in a while during the work day, I got discouraged, but the guys were upbeat and kept saying, “Sure, we can get this done.”

After
After

And folks, here is a shot of the same corner from a similar angle. You can see that the bookcase and dresser are still there, but what a difference. Of course, we had to clean up after the guys left, because there was paper all over the place. Now we have to shampoo the carpet, and we still need to do some major tidying. But I feel so much better! Note that off to the right of the picture is a pile of boxes my husband put there that wasn’t there yesterday. Sigh.

 

I can’t stand it anymore

This is the post excerpt.

I have thought about writing this blog for the past few weeks but was worried what my husband would think. But right now I don’t think I care.

After trying to sort through (mostly his) junk and get our house cleaned up just enough to talk to a realtor, I finally hired some guys to come out to the house and haul everything out of the top floor. We have an open plan upstairs, which used to be my guest room and office. I haven’t set foot up there for seven years because my husband had made it such a mess. This is what it looked like when I finally decided to call in reinforcements. The only thing in that picture that is mine is the gray bookshelf (not the books) and the dresser with the mirror on it so mistreated in the back.

upstairsMind you, this is after we’ve been working on it for a solid month.

So, today THE GUYS were supposed to come out while I was at work. All my husband had to do was tell them which things were to go into our shipping container, which things back up in the closet (things that can’t be out in the heat), and which things go to Goodwill.

I wasn’t making him throw away anything he wanted to keep. If he wanted it, they were supposed to pack it up and put it in the shipping container.

When I got home that evening, expecting to see a huge pile of stuff in front waiting to be picked up, there were four things there. I walked into the house to be faced with piles and piles of things in the living room. And guess what the upstairs rooms looked like. Almost exactly what they looked like before.

I have no idea what to do next.