Geeky Housecleaning

Trusty Friend Samira would agree with this but would be far more diplomatic about it.

Geeks suck at housecleaning.

It’s not that we want to live in a cluttered house, it’s that we just don’t notice the clutter. I have a little pile of books in the bathroom and another large pile by the side of my bed. That’s because I might read one or two of those at a given time, and frankly, if I’m stuck in bed or the bathroom for awhile, I want to have a nice choice of reading material. So, I walk by the pile of books in either place and never notice that to anyone else it’s not ‘a nice choice of reading material’, it’s ‘clutter’.

It’s not helping that we still, six years after moving into our home, have moving boxes that have yet to be unpacked. I told Jimbo the other day that I should just take those boxes unopened over to the Salvation Army to donate them, and he nearly had a heart attack. I’m the Queen of Packrats and the mere suggestion that we should throw away a broken shoelace gives me angst. I mean, that broken shoelace could be used to tie something should we ever be in a situation requiring a MacGyver-style rescue. If we ever get attacked by the latest Evil Organization Determined To Stomp Out Democracy For Their Gain, I will be prepared. I have my broken shoelace, a kitchen knife or three, duct tape, a spare sock, and Hershey bars (you can use them to stop sulfuric acid leaks besides eating them, you know). So here we are, six years later, with some boxes still decorating the corner of our bedroom. Good thing it’s a big bedroom.

Anyway, there’s this curious phenomenon that when something has been in a spot long enough, you stop noticing it. For Packrat Queens such as me, you stop noticing stuff about 0.3 seconds after you set it down. Then you set stuff down on top of the other stuff, and it just builds until you have a four foot tall pile of things, at which point I stop because it’s inefficient to reach any higher than that to find things in that pile, should I ever need it about four years from now when the guys from the Evil Organization show up to take over my town. Never mind that my town is incredibly boring and would thus be of absolutely no interest to any Evil Organization. I have thought up this possibility, therefore It Could Happen and I Must Be Prepared.

Clutter usually does not bother our family, because we’re all geeky to some degree. That is, it doesn’t usually bother us until someone from outside our family comes over and (horrors!) actually wants to come into our house. This happened a couple days ago when my DSL went out.

Usually, when you call any utility to report a problem, they take a good few days to show up. I’m sure it’s because they have important things to do like eating lunch and arranging their tools artfully in their toolbelts. So I was stunned when I called AT&T to report the phone/dsl problem, and to my undying surprise, they actually said “we can send a guy out this afternoon!” I was elated and horrified all at the same time. It was thrilling to have someone come out that quickly, but the lightbulb went on: My House is Dirty! Thus began a frantic scramble to clean the house, or at least get the scattered toys, used juice boxes, and baskets of clean underwear out of places that could be viewed by those who are not family.

Now, when I clean, my bedroom is the last thing to get attention. First, it still has those boxes to be unpacked. Second, I never make the bed. Why? We’re just going to get back in it in a few hours. Third, the dirty clothes basket sometimes overflows. Fourth, I have stacks of books everywhere. I don’t let anyone outside of my family up there, so it doesn’t require the same attention.

I thought I was safe concentrating on the downstairs, where all the wiring and utility-looking stuff lives. Boy, was I mistaken. The phone guy wanted to see our router. I had made the mistake of taking it upstairs to our bedroom the night before to see if it would work in a different jack and had not taken it back downstairs. Well, when he said he needed to see it, I nearly had a heart attack right in front of him. Suddenly, I could ‘see’ the clutter. And it was Not Pretty. I had visions of him going back to the AT&T center in the evening, taking off his toolbelt with all the other guys and saying “Man, you should have seen the messy bedroom I had to be subjected to in my Quest to Fix Things!! I nearly fell into a bunch of moving boxes that must have been there like six years or something!!” I was mortified. I vowed to do better.

Now, of course, I can see the clutter again, and it’s bugging me. I have to start cleaning it up. Maybe I’ll start that this weekend.

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