By Kay Brown
The clutter in our home has reached critical mass.
Eight pack-rat people, one cat and a smelly box of beetles can collect a lot of stuff. It piles up. Even my usually oblivious husband has observed that the paths between rooms have become narrower. Lately, instead of calling in a tow-truck, or actually throwing something away, I have been fantasizing about calling in the de-clutter professional, writer and speaker, Don Aslett. He calls himself "America’s Cleaning Man."
Really, I need Superman.
Unfortunately, in the middle of my fantasy, in which I gloriously lounge outdoors with a pina colada while Mr. Aslett and his crew efficiently haul off tons of broken, useless and dust-gathering items, I remember the Tightwad Gazette lady, Amy Dacyczyn.
For years, Mrs. Dacyczyn’s books have inspired my thrifty shopping habits at the grocery market, the thrift store and, yes, hundreds of wonderful garage sales. I went to a lot of trouble to collect all of this stuff! Amy would not approve of my de-cluttering fantasy.
Picturing the scene is easy. As he enters my home, Don spies sixteen, three-pound bags of breakfast cereal I have stacked on top of my kitchen cabinets, near the ceiling.
"Get those bags down, men!"
Amy shrieks, "No, Don, she paid six cents an ounce for that cereal – that’s a 39% discount off the retail price! Feeding six kids cereal over the course of a year, she will realize thousands of dollars of savings. You can’t take those; this family needs Marshmallow Mateys to survive."
Don, a nice guy at heart, concedes, "Okay, let’s put them in the cabinets, then." Not realizing the obvious, he opens a cupboard and looks inside. He grimaces and shuts the door. He opens another cabinet door. And another. And another. All of them are packed full of things I need, things I want, things I love. But I cannot actually find any of them.
Finally, he shrugs and moves his crew to the bedroom. "Okay, guys, let’s get that five foot pile of mending to the thrift store." As the men eagerly start stuffing clothing into black bags, Amy grabs the burliest guy’s arm.
"Please, sir, just think about it! All of her kids are different ages. Even if these jeans have been in the pile for seven years without a zipper, her youngest won’t be out of that size for three more years. Do you know how much that brand costs, at retail? If her sewing machine weren’t broken five years ago, she would have had all of this mended …"
As the word, ‘broken,’ reaches Don’s ears, his eyebrows shoot up. "The sewing machine in this large dusty cabinet is broken? Aha! Quick, get the dolly!"
With a pained expression, Amy bites her lip and starts to speak, but is distracted by one of Don’s henchmen looking under the dust ruffle. He has discovered a goldmine.
"Hey boss, look under here! ‘Dere must be 20 cases of tuna and veggies undah dis bed. Yah want me tah get rid of it?"
Before Don can answer, Amy jumps in.
"I taught her that! That is wasted space, Don, and you know it. Under-bed canned good storage is wise and prudent. Those cans were four-for-a-dollar, you know."
Muttering about needing to retire soon, Don moves on to the homeschool room, where he thinks he has hit the jackpot finding early elementary toys, puzzles and schoolbooks. Smugly, he points these items out to his restless de-clutter team.
"The owner’s youngest is eight years old now, men, everything in here that’s third grade and down is outta here," he barks.
"Grandchildren!" shrieks Amy triumphantly, throwing her body across the stack of stuff. "She has six grandchildren, all of them seven and younger. She is going to send all of it to them!"
"When?" Don asks suspiciously, glancing out the window at me snoring in the hammock.
"Uh, soon…just as soon as she can get the boxes packed and saves the money for postage," she offers, glancing hopefully around at the impossibly humongous pile of items to be shipped to the grandchildren.
Uneasily, Don’s quick eyes land on my box of outdated computer supplies, along with a printer, a scanner, a keyboard and an assortment of software that only works with DOS. Raised eyebrows top a little devilish grin and he quizzes her with a grin, but she is ready.
"Missionaries – she’s praying that someone in ministry will need this stuff. You don’t want to get in God’s way, do you?"
He does not buy it. He pulls out a C.D. and reads the fading label.
"Some missionary somewhere needs ‘The Adventures of Freddy Fish?"
You would think he had her with that one, but this woman is amazing.
"Grandbabies! I told you her grandchildren need that sort of thing," she quips, as she deftly snatches the disk and tosses it into the to-be-shipped pile.
On and on they courageously battle, room-by-room, item-by-item – both of them accomplished professionals in their fields, both of them published authors, both of them talk show guests. Both of them begin to weary.
"What about the broken lava lamp?" Don half-heartedly queries.
"She’s buying a bulb tomorrow," Amy retorts.
"This coffeemaker in the floor?"
"It’s just there till she finds a new carafe."
"Unattached, large, heavy light fixture?"
"Waiting on husband to install it."
"Boxed, new faucet assembly?"
"Ditto. Check and check-mate." Amy now sits on the couch, filing her nails as she checks the local newspaper for grocery prices. She has a reasonable, thrifty answer for every piece of junk lurking in my house. Don, visibly shaken, heaves a big sigh and signals to his deflated crew.
"It had great potential, guys, but as long as this…this…woman is here, we can’t do any real work. I’m sorry I got you into this."
"It’s okay, boss," the biggest goon consoles, "I got some great storage ideas for the wife."
A disgusted, low groan escapes his lips, as Don takes one last look around.
"When this dump collapses from the weight of this junk, don’t come around asking me to clean it up," he snaps.
Amy smiles condescendingly, "It will make a great garage sale, Don."
Kay Brown homeschools her rambunctious brood in the mountains of Northern New Mexico while dreaming of getting her laundry caught up two days in a row. Despite a burning desire to share deep spiritual truths, she finds herself struggling with the same weaknesses as everyone else and clinging to the Lord Jesus.
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