Ah, me. The decluttering group I belong to on facebook posted the 40 bags in 40 days challenge. That made me think.
Time was, I lived in Amedeo Garden Court (5 different apartments over almost ten years) in Toronto. When I was living in the northwesternmost building, my downstairs neighbour, who was our childcare provider at the time, reported a most amazing story.
It started with a dispute between the landlord and her across the hall neighbour. Other tenants reported that this woman, a slender, sad looking person in her 40s, had an apartment that was full of garbage (when the door was open, you could see a human wide path through a debris field of pizza boxes and trash). It smelled, it was attracting pests. The landlord lowered the boom and told the woman to clean or move.
She hired two little Portuguese guys (in those days in Toronto every cleaner was Portuguese – I bet that racial balance has shifted dramatically) to clean. I’m sure their hearts sank when they saw the scale of it.
Well, in one day they hauled out forty large trash bags, forty empty 40oz liquor bottles, and disturbed a veritable army of mice and cockroaches. You couldn’t get close to the garbage bin; it was surrounded by the most noisome collection of trashbags shy of a garbage strike. The woman came home from work (and we’re talking about a hot day and no air conditioning) and berated them for ‘not finishing’!
My downstairs neighbour’s husband spoke Portuguese, and he said he heard combinations of curse words he’d never heard before, as he eavesdropped from across the hall. They demanded their money, told her in English that they’d see her in hell before they came back and did a stitch more of work for her… and then the troubles began.
We took five mice out of the apartment over the next week (I caught two with my bare hands, we trapped one, and Bounce got two), and I’ve never, ever seen that many cockroaches outside of films from the tropics. It was months before we got the influx of roaches down to a dull roar. Hoarding isn’t about moral panic, it’s a health hazard. Also, alcoholism. My neighbour was amazed this woman would arise from her trashpile everyday and go to work. I bet her clothing stank, even when it had been laundered. You can be really really sick and hold down a job.
I may have forty bags to declutter and take out (actually, I doubt it), but I think apart from spiders and silverfish it’s all good, and it won’t smell. After all these years, I don’t keep food in my room….