Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Cleaning Game

I came home last night to an unwelcome message on my door. The complex's office was notifying me that sometime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. today, maintenance would be by to install a new smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, in accordance with some state law that got passed about all apartments needing to have them.

I'm not irritated about them wanting to keep me safe. I already have a smoke detector--more like a heat detector, really. I've never seen it respond to smoke. Opening the oven door if I'm checking on something I'm baking sets the thing off. So does boiling water. So does opening the bathroom door too soon after I get out of the shower. It makes an earsplitting noise, and while I know that's the point, it's aggravating because it's doing it for no good reason. And it frightens the cat. I usually end up waving a towel at it yelling, "shut UP!" until the air around it cools down a little.

A carbon monoxide detector sounds great, though, especially considering last year they replaced my electric heating unit and the water heater with a set that uses natural gas, so carbon monoxide could be a possibility if the thing isn't working right. I think.

No, the thing that made this news unwelcome was that some stranger was going to be in my apartment. I hate being reminded that I don't have the only key to this place, and that the people who have the other one could show up any time they wanted. I only get told they're coming out of courtesy. I don't think I can tell them not to. Also, as I mentioned in my first post, I am not the world's best housekeeper.

That's the major issue. After I read the note I took a look around the apartment, and suddenly I was ten years old again with my mother standing in the doorway of my bedroom, hands on her hips, disapproval oozing out of every pore. Like Bill Cosby, I have a mother who is an authority on pig sties. Sigh. I was going to have to clean up a bit.

I decided it would probably be more productive to go to bed early and get up at the crack of dawn to clean until it was time to go to work, rather than clean a little bit at night, go to bed, and lie awake fretting about how much I'd left undone. So I went to bed at 8:30 and got up at 3 this morning (oy!), dressed, overcaffeinated myself, and worked at straightening up until it was time to catch the bus at about 7:20.

Delilah (my cat) was completely confused and suspicious. I usually only get up that early when I'm traveling somewhere, but there was no suitcase in evidence. She decided to supervise. Much more interesting than going back to sleep.

The procedure went something like this:
  1. Identify an area that needs attention. Grab a trash bag and set it up so that it's open and easy to dump things into.
  2. Sort things in this area into three categories: Keep, Toss, and Unsure. Remove cat from trash bag. Throw contents of "Toss" into trash.
  3. Remove cat from space left by the "Toss" pile. Sort through the "Unsure" pile, and ask oneself whether these items are really necessary. Decide they aren't. Remove cat from trash bag, throw contents of "Unsure" pile into trash.
  4. Remove cat from space left by "Unsure" and "Toss"piles, replace with the contents of the "Keep" pile. Repent of some of the things thrown away and remove them from the trash--along with the cat.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until bag is full.
  6. Take bag out to dumpster (making sure the cat isn't in there). Upon return, look at apartment and realize it doesn't look all that different. Start over again, and be more ruthless about the "Toss" pile.

I really hate cleaning. It doesn't help that I've lived in the same teeny apartment for 12 years, and I have accumulated a lot of junk over that time. I really need to move to somewhere larger, but every year when that lease addendum shows up I look around and think, "Moving means packing. Ugh. Oh, just one more year," and sign the addendum.

On the positive side, the place is a little more tidy. On the negative side, it's only a little more tidy.

Also on the positive side, this activity afforded Delilah hours of entertainment. She loves the Cleaning Game. She forgot the second half of this game, though: spending the rest of the day cooped up so that she wouldn't get stepped on or accidentally let outside by the maintenance men. Believe me, I'm hearing about it now. It's a good thing I don't speak Cat, or I might get my feelings hurt.

And, one more positive, I found some things I thought I'd lost for good. But since the object of this exercise was not to Get Organized but simply to Get Things Out of the Way, I'm pretty sure I've hidden a few other things from myself. I probably won't find them until the next time maintenance threatens to come calling.

I should probably take this opportunity to start organizing the place for real: take it little bit by little bit, and really truly find places for everything. Maybe I'll do that.

Tomorrow. Right now, I think I'm going to bed.

Happy Groundhog Day.


G said...

You deserve chocolate.

What actually is Groundhog Day, by the way?

--V said...

Groundhog Day is this bizarre tradition/legend/folkway. On February 2, the groundhog wakes from winter hibernation, yawns, stretches, and decides to see what things are like outside. If upon leaving his burrow's hole he sees his shadow, it scares him back inside, and we get six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring will come early.

There's a town nearby call Punxsutawney where they really get into this. They have a groundhog named Punxsutawney Pete, and there a group of men who are in charge of consulting him (and probably of taking care of him for the rest of the year). They're called the Inner Circle. Anyone who's interested gathers around Pete's hole, which is located on (if you're eating or drinking right now, swallow or you'll choke) "Gobbler's Knob," and one of these top-hatted men lifts the groundhog up so that everyone can see him. He then makes like he's being whispered to by the poor critter. Mr. Top Hat then turns and gives the crowd the verdict. This year it was another six weeks of winter.

Bill Murray did a movie a while back called Groundhog Day, where he played a weatherman who gets sent to Punxsutawney to cover this. The place has always been lively on this day, but it's been absolutely crazy since that movie. It's like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or something.

Here's the official site, if you're interested. Any excuse for a party, huh?

--V said...

My mistake. Rodent's name is Phil, not Pete. Could've sworn it was Pete.

G said...

OK. This makes cheese rolling look like a sensible way to spend a morning.