It's strange how life can take an unexpected turn when you least expect it.
Take last week, for example. I had barricaded myself in our old homestead and was sorting through the mountains of stuff we'd left there when we moved to our new house. Simultaneously, I was trying to paint the kitchen cabinets. In an effort to do both, I had dumped everything out of the closets and onto the floor so I could sift through them, and I'd moved furniture to the center of the room so I could paint behind it.
As a result, the place looked as if a tornado had picked it up, spun it around a half-dozen times and then dropped it.
I stared at the stack of sneakers on the living room rug, the rolls of wrapping paper on the coffee table, the casserole dishes on the recliner and the battery booster cables draped over the back of a kitchen chair and groaned. It was going to take me 20 years to get everything in order so I could finally list the place and sell it.
I was in the middle of trying to round up the world's biggest herd of dust bunnies when a knock at the door interrupted me. I stood there a moment and debated whether or not to open the door. Not only was the entire house a mess, I looked as if I'd been living underneath a bridge for the past month.
Still, I opened the door. There stood one of my neighbors, his wife and another man.
"Can he come in and take a look around?" my neighbor asked, pointing to the man behind him. "His name is Ray and he's looking for a place to buy for his daughter."
My first thought was that if his daughter could see the place the way it currently looked, she would threaten to disown her father if he even so much as thought about buying it for her.
"It's too messy," I said, trying to block their view with my body. "And it's not even on the market yet. I'm going to be cleaning it out and doing some remodeling. I'd rather you wait till then to see it."
"But I already called my daughter," Ray said. "She's on her way over."
I prayed he was joking. Visions of the poor girl rushing over, eager to see what Daddy wanted to buy for her, and then running off like an Olympic sprinter, screaming in terror the minute she set foot through the peeling doorway, flashed through my mind.
Despite my reservations, I finally decided I had nothing to lose...other than my pride. I opened the door wider and invited them in.
It was amazing to watch Ray as he roamed through the rubble. "Oh, this is great!" he fairly gushed. "I can put a bay window here, sliding doors here, Pergo floors throughout. And I really love the ceilings!"
I wondered if he might be wearing rose-colored contact lenses. He saw a potential mansion, while I saw something that looked as if it should be featured on the TV show "Hoarders."
"I want it," Ray said. "And I'll pay cash for it."
I just stared at him. Then I blurted out, like a dummy, "But I bought paint and curtains and new blinds… I still have a lot to do to fix it up!"
A man was offering me cash for my place and I was protesting? Was I crazy?
"Don't do another thing," he said. "I'm a contractor. I can finish everything, no problem. All you have to do is move all of your stuff out. And I'll be more than happy to help you with that, if you'd like."
I couldn't believe my ears. No more painting, scrubbing, refinishing, or window washing? No more paying two heating bills or two property taxes? No more paying two electric bills or home-owners' insurances? I felt like doing cartwheels.
I stopped myself from getting too excited, however. There still was Ray's daughter to impress. Common sense told me she just might not want to live in a place that looked as if it had been used for a nuclear test site.
Ray's daughter arrived a few minutes later, her young eyes wide with anticipation. I held my breath, waiting for that anticipation to turn into an "are you nuts?" look, aimed directly at her father.
"Ooooh! I love it!" she gasped, making her way through the maze of books, boxes, newspapers, buckets, disembodied doll parts and curtain rods all over the floor. I silently prayed she wouldn't trip and accidentally impale herself on one of my unicorn figurines.
"So, how soon do you think you can be moved out?" Ray asked me. "I'm really anxious to start working on this place!"
I wanted to tell him 2012. Instead, we decided upon April 19.
So here I am, trying to get rid of 38 years of clutter in a matter of days.
I wonder how much it would cost to rent a steam shovel and a backhoe?