Thursday, November 29, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 649: Grain of salt

The first time I visited SH at his bachelor quarters, I was a little concerned. His office was half-filled floor to ceiling with boxes, boxes I later discovered were empty. He was keeping them for the next time he moved. There was no room for them in his little storage unit in the garage because he had his wine in there. The wine couldn't be in the apartment because the apartment had landlord-supplied heat, which was one of the factors that tricked me into moving to this arctic wilderness - I was never cold in his apartment because we cranked the thermostat. Oh - and the wine would have been too warm, so it had to be in the garage, which was also heated and which did not require that I set foot outdoors to reach. I was warm, I never had to shovel, and I didn't have to go outside to get to the car. You would have been fooled, too.

He had stacks of newspapers, junk mail, magazines, and expired coupons behind his sofa. I learned later that he had learned his hoarding from the masters, his parents. I still shudder to think what will happen when their house has to be cleaned out. Who does that to their kids? Sticks them with a houseful of crap that neither the parents nor the children want or need? Clean your own crap out of the house, I say, or it's all going in the dumpster. My co-worker says her mom's house is full of crap. Marcie has asked her mom if she's going to clear some of the stuff out and the mom says no, it's for Marcie to do when mom dies. After all, the mom says, she did it for her mom.

"I'm sending it all to the dump," Marcie says.

I'm on Marcie's side. Leaving a mess for your children to deal with upon your death is selfish and mean.

But SH's parents - well, anyhow.

The other thing SH had that worried me was that under every jar in the cupboards and in the fridge was a square of folded paper towel.

"What's this?" I asked. "Why are there all these paper towels? It looks trashy."

"So the shelves don't get dirty," he answered matter of factly.

I shook my head in confusion. "What?"

"So the shelves don't get dirty!"

"You mean so food doesn't run down the sides of the container?"


I shook my head again. "That's why you wipe the container off before you put it away. That's how civilized people do it."

"Nope," he maintained. "This is how you do it."

I rolled my eyes. I later learned that this, too, was something he had come by honest. Not that his parents used paper towels under everything but that their jars and containers were dirty on the outside and the contents ran down to the shelves, leading to very sticky and messy shelves, the cleaning of which turned into one of my many chores upon visits to those premises, not because I was asked but because it turned my stomach every time I opened the fridge and saw the mess.

SH's response to his raising was not to clean jars - which involves nothing more than a quick swipe with a dishrag - but to catch the contents on paper towels.

We have changed that paradigm in our house. I have mostly broken him of the habit. We keep our food containers clean. Sure, stuff gets on the refrigerator shelves occasionally, but that's why those shelves are removable. Twice a year or so, I take all the shelves and drawers out of the fridge and wash them. It takes half an hour and zip - done!

But every now and then, there is a relapse. As shown in the photo above. Which inspired me to inform SH that SALT DOES NOT LEAK.

But it's better than it used to be.


Alicia said...

When my father died, my half-brother (the only family member who lived in the same state as he) literally got a dumpster and just threw piles of stuff in the garbage. In his latter years, my dad just tossed things down the stairs to the basement, and the pile grew and grew and grew ...

My sister and I were so grateful that our mom got rid of most of her "junk" when she got sick. Even so, there was still a lot of stuff to go through, and we gave away and threw away so much. I'm tucking this experience away, hoping I remember to do the same courtesy for my own children.

Abiding in the Secret Place said...

When my mother was first diagnosed with dementia, we cleaned out her house. We filled 3 dumpsters with her clutter. A few things we pitched: my dictionary from third grade, jars of canned food from the 70's, table linens she had stored in the attic which had been damaged by mice. It was so sad. When we finally moved our parents into assisted living we split up or gave away the rest of their possessions. i promised my children that I would never own more than 2 sets of dishes and never leave them with clutter to go through after I die.

webb said...

Some friends cleaned out 13 dumpsters when mom died. It's a terrible thing to do to your children. I swear I will NOT.