The job had taken the whole week, working several hours every night until she finally had her room the way she wanted it.
She tried on every stitch of clothing she owned, checking her reflection in her armoire mirror. What items she wanted to keep were rewashed, pressed and hung in her closet or carefully folded and returned to her dresser. Everything else was boxed up and taken to be donated.
Borrowing a sweeper from the neighbors, spider webs clinging to the ceiling corners and the warren of dust bunnies under her bed were eradicated. She bought Lysol and Windex, and huge packages of off-brand paper towels from the Dollar Store. At least five huge green-black garbage bags sat at the curb, evidence of her efforts.
A simple call to city hall helped locate a recycling center that welcomed the vast years’ worth of magazines and newspapers, many which had never been read. Still she had to secret them out of the house under the cover of darkness, lest she be forced to leave them in teetering stacks in the already choked hallway.
After she had sorted through her surplus clothing, toys were the next items to go. So many dolls and stuffed animals, most she couldn’t remember ever playing with. She had no sentimental attachment to any them. Those would find a more appropriate home at the children’s center.
She kept no trinkets, no knick-knacks. The only books filling shelves were ones she chose. Her desk was finally used for homework and not as storage.
Tears came unbidden when she caught the first glimpse of a rug beneath the avalanche of household scree. She wondered if she could afford to rent a carpet cleaner. When it got to that stage, she wouldn’t worry about hiding what she was doing. There would be no turning back by then.
She really had nothing to worry about. All the activity inside her room had gone mostly unnoticed. Her parents, ensconced in their rubbish filled home, were little more than bits of debris themselves. Yet, had they been aware of her wholesale removal of so much of their treasures, they would have mourned as much as if actual, human loved ones had passed away, probably more.
No friends were ever invited over, no neighbors let inside the front door. Packages and mail were left outside, or her parents would arrange to pick up boxes elsewhere. She had lived this way all her life, this secret existence of manic clutter and hoarding.
That all changed when she finally realized her life wasn’t normal. For the first time a friend invited her home. A high school class project workday found her in a house not spilling over with cardboard boxes and plastic bags. The family could sit around a dinner table and enjoy a meal together without having to shift piles of trash to see each other. There wasn’t that lingering smell of mildew and spoiled food. The oven was used to bake food, and not store cans and bottles.
Now, there was a similarly frantic need to remove herself as far as she could from her parents’ compulsion. She wasn’t exchanging one obsession for another. She wasn’t a ‘saver’ like her parents, she was collateral damage, her room overflow from the rest of the house.
She knew it was hopeless to think she could change her parents, but she could do something about her small space. She could create a haven amid the storm. And that was what she did. In her mind, she wanted this room, free from the madness of her parents, to be a bubble of fresh air adrift in a sea of flotsam and jetsam.
Her parents, once they discovered the full extent of what she had done, were troubled by her erratic behavior.
I Challenged Supermaren with: a three-generation vacation.