Monday, July 16, 2012

Back to the quest for clean

Over the last two months, I've finally had help cleaning. 
We've found plenty of unopened mail that was boxed up by prior cleaners, including quite a few checks that can't be cashed because they're outdated (most banks will only give you six months) or because the person who wrote them has died and the account is closed.  Money that I really could have used but lost entirely because cleaners don't think about what they're scooping up to put in their boxes and hide away in the guest room.  All they're thinking is that they have to get the place ready for a House Beautiful photo shoot, and that means getting everything off the tables and couch, including the book I was in the middle of reading when I got up for a minute to go to the bathroom or get a glass of water.
A male friend came to visit, with the intent of helping me move some boxes, and when he saw the extent of the problem, helped me make a connection with a professional organizer. 
The people who call themselves "cleaners", instead of doing the heavy cleaning they were hired to do, take whatever they consider to be out of place and put it in a box "for YOU to put away!" but none of them ever want to help take things out of boxes and put them where they belong.  So there were boxes all over the place.  The professional organizer said she'd help me put things away.
The verbally-abusive neighbor needs to sell her house and decided she was going to force everyone else on the block to increase her curb value, so a few months ago she had me cited for the condition of my yard (the people hired to clean up had just been hiding the dead leaves under the green foliage at the edge of the sidewalk, instead of taking the extra step of putting them at the curb for pickup, and since I can't do it myself, the best I could do was to hire someone else and hope for a better result from the next person, or the next, or the next). 
This time, she reported both me and the woman on the other side of her for "hoarding", despite having never been inside either house.  The inspector wanting to find out if it's true arrived at the same time as the professional organizer, so he let me off with just a warning, since it was obvious that something was immediately being done about the few boxes he could see in the front hallway (the ones I'd already been working on, but didn't have a person with a healthy back to carry further into the house when I was done).
But with respect to the neighbor on the other side, the abusive neighbor's plan backfired.  The house is now boarded up with a sign on it indicating that it's been condemned, and there's a temporary chain link fence around it.  Someone who walked past it the other day when the temperature was 105 told me "it stinks"; there's apparently rotting food and animal waste in there. 
Living next to that is going to substantially bring down her property value.  Ha!  That'll teach her to plot devious schemes instead of just talking to the neighbors to ask for our help in achieving her goal.  (It was news to her husband that she's never said a civil word to me; all she's ever done is spew nasty comments, including stuff which, in this state, can be prosecuted as Hate Speech Against The Disabled.  That, too, was news to him, and he clearly now has educated his wife that I can send her to jail for her attitude, because now she's not saying anything at all to me.)
The professional organizer and her cleaning crew cost me $2000 for the first day, and after they left, I noticed that my expensive vacuum was missing (the guys admit to throwing it away because it looked damaged, and they "guess" they just "forgot" to ask my permission, which they were supposed to do for anything worth over $5), my computer printer was broken (they're trying to blame that on me), several hundred dollars of expensive specialty yarn and a dozen printer cartridges can't be found (even though I saw him with the box of cartridges in his hand, he denies having even seen it), and several hundred dollars of brand-new Tupperware, still in the factory packaging, was in a trash bag at the bottom of the stairs, apparently having been determined to be garbage not worth keeping. 
So, once again, the check I wrote to the cleaning company was just the tip of the iceberg of what the cleaning cost me, as I pay to replace things that disappeared, pay to repair things that were broken, pay late fees on bills that were removed from the coffee table before I could pay them, etc.
Oh, yes, and at the end of the first day, my entire bed was covered in newly-packed-up boxes "for you to sort out" (things that I knew where they were before the "help" arrived and disorganized my organization), so there wasn't even a spot for me to collapse until I moved three heavy boxes.  I wasn't happy that instead of the organizer and her crew putting things away as promised, they'd also just randomly boxed things up so I could pay them to come back a second day to unbox them and put them away.
Fortunately, there's Facebook.  When I complained about the cost-benefit ratio, an old friend noted that for less than the price of another day of the professional organizer, I could pay for a ticket for her to come out to visit for several weeks, and she wouldn't throw away expensive stuff.  While the house isn't spotless yet, we're getting there.  Most of what remains is either things I can do myself (the remaining boxes have been moved to the dining room table where I can sit next to them to sort through, instead of me first having to exhaust myself carrying them from their hiding place in the guest room) or calling Merry Maids to do an "allergy clean".
As we've been dragging those old boxes out to sort through, it's become apparent how many times the contents of trash cans or recycling bins were boxed up and stashed in the guest room rather than being taken to the curb.  Entire boxes could be hauled to the curb in a matter of just a few minutes, since it was obvious that the contents never should have been saved in the first place, so the trash and recycling bins were full to overflowing just a few hours after they were emptied.  Boxes of things that were being collected to be donated to charity had to be thrown away because of age or damage while they were hidden away.  We also found a box of dirty dishes; instead of putting them in the dishwasher, apparently someone boxed those up and hid them, too, so the Architectural Digest photo crew wouldn't see them.
Lots of half-finished needlework projects were unearthed and are now in a box in the bedroom to be worked on; some had been gifts intended for older siblings which will now have to go to younger siblings because the original recipient is too old for Sesame Street or Mickey Mouse.
Since we've found all the yarn I've bought over the years and put it where I can get to it easily, I should never have to buy yarn again the rest of my life.  I knew I had the yarn, but either couldn't find it at all, or could see it but would have had to move a wall of a dozen heavy boxes to get to it (on a day I don't feel well enough to do anything but lie down and knit, I definitely don't feel well enough to move boxes!).  Now it's all in one corner of the guest room, easily accessible.
And, over the years I've learned a few lessons. 
*  Buy and use Quake Wax ... not because of earthquakes but because the housecleaner will box up everything that's not nailed down.  Just yesterday we found the bedside organizer in a box, with all the things I was organizing (like important phone numbers and unpaid bills) still in it; obviously, she could pick it up, so she put it out of sight.  (This is right up there with the cleaner who boxed up everything from the bathroom counter, explaining "nobody takes that many pills!", so she'd left only the two bottles she considered most important and hid everything else.)
*  Don't drink anything before the housecleaner comes, because if you walk away from your knitting for 2 minutes to pee, you'll never see your knitting project again
*  Don't plan on doing any paying work while the housecleaner is cleaning; plan on keeping an eye on her every minute so you can stop her the instant she starts boxing stuff up "for YOU to put away!"
*  If you see the housecleaner heading toward the guest room with a box, intercept her and threaten to fire her if she puts anything in there. And make it clear that the other dodge, of putting the boxes just outside the guest room door ("I didn't put anything IN the guest room!"), is just as bad.
*  In fact, HIDE all the empty boxes and bags before the cleaner comes, so that she has no choice but to put things where you tell her to.  If the cupboards are the only place to hide things, maybe she'll use them for their intended purpose!
My house was spotless before I started to hire professionals to clean it.  Suddenly, dozens of unmarked boxes started to pile up, and I had to buy duplicates, triplicates, quadruplicates of essentials like scissors and staplers because the one I had been using at my desk got packed up in one of those boxes and it was easier to buy a new one than to locate the old one.  Since the boxes have to go somewhere, they were piled in front of doors and drawers, making it impossible for me to put things away myself.  The contents of my dresser have been inaccessible for 5 years because one cleaner put boxes in front and every subsequent one has refused to remove those boxes (apparently they'll only move heavy boxes that they fill up themselves!) Fortunately, that cleaner didn't put the laundry away, so at least I had a few clothes to wear!
And as the boxes started to pile up because I was too sick to sort through them and put the contents away myself, dust and cobwebs also started to pile up because subsequent cleaners couldn't get to the edges of the rooms to remove them.
Once my friend goes home, though, it'll be back to the endless quest to find a cleaner who cleans instead of one who takes shortcuts and leaves the real work for me to do (seeing that I'm so sick that I spent the entire afternoon in bed didn't communicate to them that they're being hired because I can't clean – it only told them they could goof off and I wouldn't notice they weren't working).

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