This series is about working with a now-28-year-old homeless-man-by-choice, whom I hired to help me clear out my double-car, dirt-floor garage that was piled high with boxes and maintenance paraphernalia. I first met him two years ago when his pal was flying a sign — “Will work for money” — at the Wal-Mart exit. Here, I call him Heathcliff (from Bronte’s Wuthering Heights), “Heathy” when he’s having an “UP” day, or just “The Drifter” when he’s being … difficult.
“I Am Woman. Hear Me Roar!”
Friday, 10/ 5, last day of His contract
When I heard nothing from my helper, the Drifter, whom I expected to check in regarding the concrete drying or not, I realized I was abandoned again. He broke his contract AGAIN!
My first thought was to call the man at Manna Soup Kitchen to ask for another helper. I left a message and dealt with other things for a while.
By noon, when the guy at Manna hadn’t returned my call, I realized that the job of putting all that stuff, including the pallets it set upon, back into the garage was mine to do. And so, I put on my old shirt, jeans, and “tennies” and found my gloves. It was my job. It was up to me.
I worked six hours with a 30-minute sandwich break. In that time, I
- Washed off the mud that had splattered onto shelving units
- Dried them with paper towels and put them inside the garage
- Loaded them with products I wanted to keep – e.g., “painting stuff.”
- Stacked boxes I needed to sort on the sidewalk
- Brushed the dirt and debris from the pallets
- Put the pallets inside, by the big garage door, labeled re’ destination
- Sorted every single item/box I took off the pallets
- Emptied the green garden cart and dried off the soaked contents
- Carried 40-lb. bags I couldn’t lift in July all the way inside the garage
- Set up pallets with space in between, without knowing why
- Sorted my boxes with the destination pallets and a new one: SHRED
- Piled 7 yrs’ of tax returns with their supporting receipts on 1st pallet
- Piled cats’ travel carriers and extra cat boxes on the 2nd pallet
- Piled boxes I didn’t have time to sort on the 3rd pallet
- Put the new snow shovels in the entry corner with ladders that fit
- Put the old shovels in the junk pile
- Brought extension ladder inside to the space between the pallets
Huh! So that’s why I left space between this pallets! S the giant extension ladder would have a place that is out of the way!
It would have taken the Drifter two days to do what I had just done in six hours! Ha!
“I am woman! Hear me roar!”
But the truth is, he could not have done what I did because it wasn’t his stuff to organize or to make sorting decisions about. I’m pretty sure God knew that and left it for me to do. That’s part of the deal when you’re in alignment with The Force. First, you express what you want:
I want a clutter-free garage with a concrete floor.
And then you take action. And I had worked on this project going on three weeks now, clocking more than 120 hours to my helper’s 30.
Saturday, October 6
There was only one section left in the yard to do: the blue tent by the fence. This one was going to be fun because it was paint stuff and tools. All I had to do, I thought, was load up the tool rack I’d already cleaned and put inside the garage, and then sort the paint supplies.
But when I removed the blue tarp, I realized sorting — “keep,” “donate,” and “trash” — would be involved for all that stuff, including the tools.
First thing was to get pallets inside the garage by the big double-car door. I labeled the pallets with a black marker for their destinations — e.g., Humane Society.
When all the stuff was sorted and put away, I had filled up the trash cans again. The 30-gallon can was filled with wet cardboard from the boxes that had gotten soaked because my helper had not covered them well. (In fact, I had paid him three times to cover the same stuff.)
I managed to drag the 30-gallon can to the front where the dumpsters were and dump its contents into the Single-Stream blue dumpster. But the 40-gallon can was so heavy with junk that I could not drag it, much less lift it.
I took a deep breath and said, “You can do this. All your life you’ve been surrounded by “spiritual helpers.” Ask them to help you now!”
Instantly, I was pushing the dumpster with wheels to the back of the house where that garbage can was waiting. I opened both lids and took the garbage out by gloved hands until I could pick up the trash can. Voila! I had dumped the remaining contents into the dumpster.
I even managed to push it back where it belonged in front, despite having to go over paving stones that were not flat with the ground.
I returned the garbage cans where I ordinarily kept them for collecting rainwater. But this time I put their lids on because the evening temperatures were approaching freezing and the expanded water could break them.
Turning around, I discovered my sweet backyard. Filled with sadness about how it had been treated during this project, I walked around and apologized to the irises, the cherry and apricot trees, and all those bulbs that died from lack of water in the summer without rain, despite my watering them with city water every week.
I checked my watch. The job had taken 3 ½ hours.
My sorting had created a “pallet wall” between the garage door and the rest of the garage:
- Habitat Restore
- Humane Society
- SHRED (all those papers I had tossed the past three weeks when sorting boxes of all the “careers” — like teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses, workshops, teaching yoga, and taxes.
This wall solved, at least for the moment, the dilemma of letting tenants use some space versus renting the garage for $200/month as my friend, the concrete contractor, had suggested. The stuff still needed to be delivered and, without a truck, I had to let that part of the project go; I drive a Honda Civic.
While I had made great progress — ripping out the room a previous tenant had built when I was in Canada, eliminating most of the contents of the garage, reinforcing the walls, getting a concrete slab, and even painting walls — “clearing clutter completely” was most likely delayed by weather until next summer.
I was okay with that. The tenants would be grateful if they still wanted to have their own garage space in return for helping me (so far, they only wanted it for free: LOL). And the little princess inside was thrilled: she might finally be running on her rebounder, the mini-trampoline she hadn’t used for years because she lived upstairs.
Monday, OCTOBER 8
The Drifter did not show up as he said he would on Monday, October 8.
When he finally phoned at 3:28 p.m. offering excuses, I just let him talk. He asked if he should wait until the next day because it was raining.
“It’s been raining since I finished putting everything back in the garage last Friday, and the forecast says it will continue until this coming Saturday. There’s no work for you here. The last job is staining the rest of the cedar fence, and I’ve already hired the teenager to do that when it dries out. Is that apple-picking job still available?”
“I’ll call them and let you know.”
Friday, October 12
No callback and it’s been four days and still no word from The Drifter who is about to learn what it really means to work or to spend time in jail. It’s his choice. With all the rain we’re having, he might be better off in jail. -0-
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coming up next: tHE DRIFTER, #13
Perhaps the last of the series, #13 is what I learned about
- applying insights for Clearing Clutter with Feng Shui in a garage,
- hiring and working with a homeless-by-choice man, and
- myself from not only the process of tossing my identity,
- but also what I learned about myself from the mirroring I experienced in those interactions.
Ordinarily a 2-finger typist, I’ve been a 1-finger typist since 10/27 when I tripped on the renter’s deflated kayak in my garage without electricity and fractured both bones below my right elbow, not to mention smashing my Canon camera on that new concrete slab! Surgery happened on 11/7, and that protective splint was replaced a mere 13 days later by an open, metal brace that allows movement but which offers no protection. I’m saying that I spend all my time just taking care of myself and my furry friends. And so, it might take longer than a week to do # 13. All others in this series were written and posted, edited and scheduled as they happened. Because I still have the use of only one hand — less than a month after elbow surgery–if I write at all, the posts will be much shorter. Perhaps I could break #13 into separate topics?
Till next time,
“Please be kind to everyone you meet because we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Tzaddi, a.k.a. Pam Young