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house cleaning
by collette mcfarland 
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Monday, May 12, 2008

I jammed my hand between the layers of outfits in my closet and almost got a crush injury. I know that top is in here somewhere. In here or maybe...I traipsed back upstairs to the guest room for the third time. Looking for clothes in my house was good exercise. Aerobic and isometric. I had three closets to choose from and no matter how organized I had attempted to be things always went against me. Like the fact that I had no idea how to be organized. I abhorred neat people! Some people even had their clothes organized by season and colors. What made them so much better than me! Well I hate to state the obvious, but maybe they found what they were looking for quicker.

An hour latter I was getting ready to explode when Cindy, my lovely daughter, walked past the open door to my room; walked past, stopped in her tracts and backed up to scope things out.

"Did someone break in?" She asked as I sat on a mound of eclectic fabrics scattered over the bed and floor, with sheen of perspiration on my face giving me a soft glow and a unpleasant aroma wafting up from my underarms. “If they did you’d never be able to tell what they took!”

“I’ve been looking for a sweater I wanted to wear. I don’t know what closet I put it in.” I explained, exasperated after hours of relentless rummaging through closets, gym bags, laundry baskets, and under beds.

“Well, yeah, I can see you don’t have anything else to wear.” Cindy exclaimed flippantly.

“I-” I finished my sentence by simply staring at Cindy’s chest that was concealed by my sweater. She looked down with an awkward realization and slowly backed away focusing her eyes on mine trying to discern the depths of my anger, afraid to break contact for fear she’d miss an opportunity to escape.

Just before I lunged at her throat with my shaking hands, Cindy let out a horrified scream, but not out from worthy terror of me. She was focused on something over my shoulder. I spun about, lost my balance and fell into Cindy’s arms. There in the middle of the room some cloth had come to life. One of my jackets was levitating and moving forward. We stepped backwards.( there sure was a lot of back stepping going on today!) The jacket progressed forwards. Then it began a rapid succession of twists and gyrations sending garments everywhere that revealed a furry… slobbering ….growling…Scruffy! How long had he been asleep under all those clothes? I’m amazed he hadn’t been suffocated. Freed, Scruffy leapt across the pile of multipurpose carpeting into my legs begging for some loving while Cindy and I collapsed into gales of laughter.

“Give me my sweater,” I demanded once the humor generated by Scruffy departed and I waited as Cindy slipped it over her head and handed it to me draped over her arm as though I were the queen of England.

As she stood there in the hallway, with just a bra and jeans on, her dad rounded the corner, got an eyeful of embarrassment and retreated. Boy, like I said earlier, there sure was a lot of back stepping going on today! He had informed me months ago he wanted to stay ignorant of Cindy’s entrance into womanhood. She would always be a toddler to him and nothing I could say about her maturation would make him believe differently.

“Man, mom,” Cindy got out her cell phone and punched the calculator option, did some math and proceeded with,” You would have to change clothes four times a day in the summer and 3.75 days in the winter to wear all these clothes in one year!”

“So, maybe that has been my plan, dressing for each meal and snacks, I’m a messy eater.”

“And I just came back from a mission trip where one group of kids had to go home and give their brothers or sisters the clothes off their backs so they could come to the afternoon bible vacation school just to get some cookies and milk, which would be their only meal for the day.” Cindy proclaimed with an air of…self righteousness? Then she resumed her journey to her bedroom.

“Hmmm.” I rubbed my chin and started a chain of thoughts that swept me off my feet; I always lose my equilibrium when I think. That testimony hit a nerve. I had more than I could possible wear, definitely more than I needed. I walked from room to room. There were only three of us in this house. We had lots of space filled with unnecessary clutter. How many towels did we need? I laundered weekly. I remember buying everything in this house at one time or another and the most prevalent reason I bought them was self indulgence, and pride in my home, not to mention being able to show my friends I could afford some of this stuff. Stuff I had to dust, wash, and store. And storage was mostly where everything was, not on display. I really didn’t have that much of a social life, I didn’t cater parties nor have people over for dinner. No one visited from across country in need of a place to drop for the night. So why did I have so many blankets and sheets. We had heat, at least that’s what the electric bill implies. We each had a blanket, pillow and towels. We had enough dishes to feed an army regiment. Two sets of china, not to mention Christmas dishes, and a set of regular dishes. Let’s see, 32 plates for three people. Three people who seldom sat down together for a family meal. Thirty two plates for just three of us. When we did have company, we used china. China paper plates! (That’s a name brand of paper plates, so quit blinking, you read that right!)

I took off in my car and returned with boxes. Lots of boxes. I went diligently through closets. If I hadn’t worn something in a year (or two or three, yea, three was the limit), in to a box it went. I tried to stay firm with my resolve, even though it killed me to part with some exceptionally sentimental outfits. Sentimental because of the designer labels I was so proud of. Labels I made sure those in the pews behind me at church were able to see. Its mind boggling how often I was able to expose those labels! I didn’t have a problem with pride; I was perfectly comfortable being silently boastful. After all, I worked hard to afford good belongings. I convinced myself it would help people to get ambitious enough to get better jobs if they saw the name brand labels. I was helping the lazy and indigent desire to become worthy citizens. After all, wasn’t the size of one’s pocket book the criterion for success? So that’s how Cindy found me the next time she passed my room. Up to my waist in boxes.

“Wow, mom, I’m proud of you. You really listened to me this time!” She exclaimed after I filled her in on my plans.

“Well, you can be proud of yourself too, here are some boxes for your room. Fill them with your old toys and out grown clothes.”

“What! I don’t have anything to give away.” Suddenly her piety went south. Well I was also confident some of her junk was going south also. To Peru.

“You have a good start on a warehouse as big as mine, go pack a few boxes!” I declared. I was confident she’d out grown some toys and clothes that would give some poor kid a spiritual lift.

While Cindy was working I called our minister and got the number for our sister church in Peru where Cindy had just returned from last week. I managed to get a hold of the minister down there who listened to my plan with great awe. He thanked me more than I deserved. I had been selfish and stingy for too long to really appreciate his accolades. I just wanted to purge myself of all my possessions and return to a simple live that would still surpass the life of his parishioners. People with only one set of clothes that they shared with each other to go to church. Well now they would have some more sturdy garments shipped to them. Now that they could go to church as family units, they might have to expand the church building project!

The next morning, I took several boxes to the post office, after searching each of them to ascertain Scruffy hadn’t taken up residence in one while my back was turned, and shipped them to Peru. Man, I should have just sent money and let them buy clothes down there! Oh, right, they didn’t have any stores where these clothes were going. Then I made a trip to the homeless community under a nearby bridge and stacked several blankets on the ground, a good distance from the populace. I didn’t want my generosity to be the cause of my death. They looked like murderers and thieves. Sorry, I still stereo type, just because I’m trying to help doesn’t mean I’m not still skeptical! Hey, I’m only human. That’s more than I feel like some of the souls under the bridge were! Sorry God. Use me, but don’t make me talk to them! Those present stayed put. Don’t tell me I scared them. How dare they not trust me!

Then I took my dishes, towels, and Cindy’s things, which included unused makeup, shoes, books and stuffed animals that she had collected over the years from carnivals and ex-boyfriends, to the women’s shelter and donated them for women and their daughters getting rehabilitated for new lives away from abusive situations. It’s hard to set up house when you run out into the night with just the clothes on your back to avoid being beaten to death by an abusive partner. Partner. Partner means equal, companion, mate. What an inappropriate definition of some one that you can’t trust with your life. Well, maybe these dishes that gave me pleasure once, just buying them, will give some poor woman a sunny view on life. Like dishes can make up for all the suffering? I felt so contemptible. So unworthy to be called a daughter of God. I certainly didn’t feel like the women I spotted at the shelter could call me sister.

My minister was so stirred with my efforts he sent e-mails out to the congregation and my house cleaning experience became infectious as other members sorted out their garages and closets. Closets stuffed with boxes that hadn’t been opened in eons. Word spread further, to local churches and those in other states as members contacted families and shared their experiences. Then the media got involved. People who didn’t have faith in any deity at all got on the band wagon. (Yes, I know there is only one God, but not everyone has caught on to that yet) Not being “religious” didn’t equal being inhumane. Before the month was up women’s shelters, homeless agencies, rehab centers, mission groups and indigent people around the world were receiving blessings.

I was bowled over by the wild fire I had created. No, the credit goes to Cindy. Wrong again, the glory goes to God! Not to mention the blessing I received from a house clutter free. I could find things now. Apparently one person can make a difference if she’s contagious enough. I hope the Center for Disease Control doesn’t get wind of this illness and try to eradicate it! The barrenness of the rooms even produced faint echoes. This actually disturbed me but made my husband euphoric, he now had space to do things in, like spread out his elbows, expand his lungs and breathe. I had to get out of the house and get some air to think.

When Cindy came home from school she asked, ” Why is the car loaded down again? Where did you possibly find more stuff to give away? I thought we had reached rock bottom on ‘disposables’ ”.

“Oh Cindy!” I wailed and hid my face in my hands, alarming her
“Mom, what happened?” she cried encircling her arms around me, very concerned.

“It’s Friday.” I offered in the way of an explanation.

“So?” Cindy was completely clueless, and getting more alarmed.

“Cindy. Cindy. You poor innocent child. Friday is the day people with garage sales open for business. I passed by six sales today and found tons of stuff I need…wanted. What am I going to tell your dad?”

Scruffy, his alert ears hearing the front door open, scampered out of the room in search of a bomb shelter.

“Honey, I’m home!”

Proverbs 19:7
Prov. 21:13
1 Cor. 9:1-15
James 2:1-6James 2:15-17
Rev. 3:17

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