Friday, April 2, 2010

Cleaning the Attic

This is an old house. When we moved in, the attic was stuffed and I do mean stuffed with the detritus of nearly two hundred years of broken toys, books, missing puzzle pieces, games without instructions, and mice nests in every box of woolen goods that had been stored for future braided rugs. We took thirteen (13) truckloads to the dump, and that was it.

38 years later our own layers of detritus have become so overwhelming that last week, when I decided the occasional chairs stored in the front room had to go back in the attic, I realized the reason they were IN the front room was because there was no place for them up there. So for this week I have been sorting, tossing, hardening my heart over broken this and fractured that, and coming across things that I never remember buying or getting and neither does the mister. We seem to have an attic where ur-burglars are sneaking in and deposting things from their overcrowded attics...and as I said to him tonight, if neither of us remembers this stuff, why do we have it?

Gravity, apparently, is suspended in old houses. All you own floats upward, from the dining room to the upstairs hall, and then into the attic, one slow step at a time and all the chairs and bits of furniture that are gradually moving us out onto the porch will go up into the newly arranged attic, and for a little while at least there will be space.


  1. hmmmm, we have the same problem here, but its our garage. Our grand daughter is a pack rat.

  2. we are the packrats, although I do lay about me with a broom, a box, and attitude now and then. my husband has a hard time letting go (he still has all his college texts and work papers), so when he is in the right frame of mind I make it a point to bring him things for his tossing approval.
    Some lines are never crossed, but some lines he never knows were there. bwahahaha

  3. J cleaned out my office last year while I was out of the state. She says she threw out two large garbage bags full, but I don't believe her as I have yet to find anything missing...

    As a fellow packrat, my heart goes out to you -- and would you accept this intrinsically valueless but nicely shiny bauble in exchange for that unidentifiable but undoubtedly cool knicknack? Than Queue!

  4. It is a known Mysterious Fact, Eponymous, that office trash compacts more effectively than any other known substance. The fact that J. managed to find two trashbags full and you havent missed a thing should tell you 1)how skilled a sorter she is and 2) how much glop you had, floating about and eating your socks right out from underneath you.

    Exchange accepted. thank you.

    It's lovely. whatever it is.

    Oh, i tried to post a comment on your blog, sir, and the post box refused to let me. What am I doing wrong, and could you email me about it?

  5. Mom was a packrat. I'm her boy. I wrote about it recently, here:

  6. That's it, blame mom. My mother was the exact opposite, she would throw away anything that wasn't immediately useful in her universe, and assumed (usually wrongly) that it wasn't in yours either. Including the first six copies of Fantastic Four that she basically bullied me into throwing away...what they were worth a few years ago could have paid for a college education. sob.

    And now I will go see what you has to say about packs and rats.

  7. Oh, gravity is strong here in this old house. It pushes everything into the basement. The fruit cellar!

  8. Both of my parents were packrats. When my father died, his office in their house was stacked so high with papers and manuals and books and office equipment that there was only a narrow path from the door to his desk.

    Their basement was full of boxes, many of them unopened from previous moves years ago. Plus all the machinery (my father designed and built machines, and was also a devoted "tinkerer"), tools, toys, rocks, shells (we lived in New England before moving to Ohio, so we all tried to take as much of the beach with us as we could when we moved), discarded furniture, crafts supplies, pet god, it was overwhelming when we finally went through it before the house was auctioned.

    It was heartbreaking to see all those years of accumulated stuff leave in the hands of strangers or worse, end up in a dumpster.

    I've become so adamant in my resolve not to become a packrat that I fear I've swung too sharply in the opposite direction and lean more and more towards an austere, almost posession-less existence. I'm getting to the point where I think if I had just my cats, a computer, a microwave and an inflatable mattress and a roof over my head, I'd be happy.

    It's the hardest thing in the world to let go of the things that you think mean something to you, whether those things are clothes, books, jewelery or objects.

    If I'm in the right mood, though, man oh man, can I let go. I can declutter in a very thorough, Grant-through-Richmond, utterly demonic and merciless fashion. I recently threw all of my papers from school, poetry, disks with poetry, and artwork from art school that I attended 20 years ago in a dumpster...and man, I felt so light and giddy afterward, I swear, I could've floated away.

    When you haul all that accumulated stuff around for years and years, when you have to move it from place to place, when you have no attic or cellar in which to stash it, it really begins to weigh you down, you know?

    I'm still a little giddy from that decluttering. I think I'm up in the clouds somwewhere. (grin)

  9. I save things, probably in a kind of retaliation for mother tossing the stuff I now wish I had. But like you, I get in the right mood and I can feel mother's heritage stirring. Toss toss toss, ill worry about that later...We can now walk upright in the attic (as long as you stay in the exact center and duck when you go around the sharp corner) without being goosed by the dress dummy or attacked by three pairs of an attic like this a bowsaw and a bad mood are my friends.