|Big enough to swallow my car|
When I first moved into this house in 1997, I wanted to mulch the plant beds and side of the house. I called around, giving the dimensions of my lot as recorded on the encylopedia of house closing forms. One company calculated I’d need “12 yards,” and mentioned they had a special, “buy 12 yards, get one free, and free delivery.” I had no concept of a “yard,” but the guy seemed earnest. I realized my mistake when the dumptruck left a mound: I hadn’t subtracted for the house, driveway and mulch covering most of my postage stamp-sized lot. Several hours of shoveling later, a layer of mulch three to six inches deep covered the perimeter.
A “small” dumpster was stealthily dropped off sometime Friday morning while no one was home. Deja vu struck as I got home that evening. This thing was huge. I’m not sure how they got it in my driveway (it’s a downward slope), but they were nice about putting it flush on one side of the driveway so my car could still fit.
Although I was up early Saturday morming, it was hard to get motivated. Who wouldn’t look forward to a day of scooping up rat poo? (Answer: everyone?) Seeing the large dumpster cast a shadow on my car didn’t help. I finally coaxed myself into the Junior Deputy Hazmat outfit:
- Tyvek overalls – the same material they use to make envelopes, race bibs and house coverings. You can get them in any color, as long as it’s white.
- Construction hat – clearance in the crawlspace is about a foot less than me. Then there are all those random pipes and boards. I’m so glad I had this because I’m sure I would have bonked myself unconscious.
- Respirator – necessary to avoid exposure to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (mice had previously been present) and chain letters
- Goggles – these were less useful because they kept fogging up and were uncomfortable with the respirator on.
- Pair of shoes that should have been retired a long time ago
- Gloves – for obvious reasons
If there’s one thing I’m better at than putting off doing an unpleasant, non-urgent task: doing it as fast as possible and competently enough to minimize the likelihood of having to do it again. The previous owner had left seven years’ worth of failed home improvement projects: a broken chair, disassembled dresser, cedar shingles, rotted fenceposts and flooring boards. Some of the other wood was in good condition. However, the mere fleeting concept of keeping it around in hopes that I’d pawn off the stuff in fewer than seven years and would have to do this again. wasn’t appealing. I was done hauling the wood out in just over an hour.
The next task would be to inspect all of the insulation and pull out the strips that were, um, decorated. Thankfully, these rats were consistent. There were only fifteen strips that needed to be discarded. After that was done, I needed to start pulling up the vapor barrier, which is a fancy-sounding name for a thick plastic sheet covering the moist ground. The stuff present was placed when the house was originally built as sections were under the pillars. It went pretty fast when I hacked off chunks with a razor blade. I tried to work one direction and was careful to roll the old barrier one direction so the rat dookie and expired grass seed would be encased in a plastic sarcophagus that could startle an unexpecting archaeologist. The new “vapor barrier” consists of 50′ sections of 6-mil plastic sheeting where I’ve placed strategic cuts for a more snug fit. (With their 1,001 uses, single-edge razor blades are the baking soda of the handyman’s world.)
I sprayed sealant foam in a couple of gaps where pipes poked through the floor. There was a 2″ gap where the vent from the cooktop goes. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen any critters working their way through there for a midnight snack. Once the foamy stuff set, I jammed strips of new insulation to fill in gaps. This went very quickly and I was done by 4pm.
Sunday I spent time excavating my study throwing nearly a thousand uncategorized software CDs. Can you believe that I’ve kept copies of tax, checkbook, operating system and office productivity software dating back to 1995? I also had several games that, as mind-boggling as this seems, fit on floppy disks, yet I have no disk reader to even check if they work. I also tossed several of my school yearbooks (I desperately need the bookshelf space), a baby seat (it’s un-donatable) and boxes of circa-1988 computer equipment including a 9-track reel tape and a SCSI (the kind with the big Centronics-sized cable) shoebox that formerly housed a 100Mb hard disk used on my Commodore Amiga. I’m not even sure where one could read the tape to see what’s on it. I haven’t seen one of those drives since 1992. (This makes me a little nervous about my CD-ROM discs…)
I feel bad about tossing all the stuff out, and even worse for having hung onto it for so long. On the other hand, I’ve been trying hard to reduce the amount I accumulate.