Column

Oliver: Former clutterbugs now make life easier for this neat freak

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was living in some real-life version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I say this because someone has clearly made off with my husband and mother.

Oh, I’m not complaining; in fact, in this instance, I’m rather pleased. You see, I used to be the only neat freak in the family, the only one bothered by clutter and chaos. Suddenly, my formerly Oscar Madison roommates have turned into a couple of Felix Ungers.

The greatest transformation is in my mother. To look at her bedroom these days, you might be tempted to think she has taken some monastic vow. The room is devoid of almost everything except the furniture.

This is in complete contrast to the mother I’ve always known. I grew up in a house that kindly could be called “cluttered.” She grew up during the Great Depression, so she was a saver of everything. “You never know when you might need it,” she would say.

No corner remained unfilled, and forget about ever seeing a baseboard.

Things really got out of hand, however, when she lived alone in Georgia. She had an entire house to fill, and fill it she did. It wasn’t merely cluttered; it bordered on a hoarding situation. No doubt the onset of dementia had something to do with it.

When we moved her to Illinois, I had the unhappy task of clearing out the clothes she had accumulated. Articles of clothing filled every closet and hung behind every door. In the end, we donated more than 20 bags. And we still brought enough with her to fill my home’s largest closet.

Even after the purge, she had enough stuff to make her room here reminiscent of the one I remember from childhood. Cluttered, but comfy.

However, as her dementia has progressed, she has asked me to hide just about everything. She doesn’t want the invisible people to take anything. I’ve skillfully found places for everything, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t miss any of it. So that’s how we’ve gotten down to the bare minimum.

As for my husband, well, his slovenly ways haven’t been on display in years. His bachelor pad was, well, a mess, but he cleaned up pretty nicely after we got married. These days, however, he’s kicked up his game a notch – so much so that I have to keep my guard up.

For instance, no sooner is a meal finished than he already has the dishwashing started. Anything that is placed in the recycling area of the kitchen is out to the garage before you can say the word “recycling.”

No, I’m not complaining. Of course, one time I mistakenly laid a bill that needed to be paid in the recycling area while I did something else. I thought I was going crazy when I couldn’t find it only a few minutes later.

Then it dawned on me: Check the garage. Sure enough, there it was. Like I said, I have to watch what I’m doing. Mr. Neatnik is on the job 24/7.

Still, I have to say my house has become so much easier to clean without all the clutter and stays that way when I have such a diligent helper.

I’ll take it.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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