Around the Bend: Messy house mystery — Solved

Here’s something scary: My family and I are the victims of some sort of odd home invaders. These weirdos haven’t taken anything, although they have hidden my keys and cell phone once or twice. But they’ve been here. Repeatedly.
It had been happening for quite some time but we’d been so busy all summer we just hadn’t noticed. Then, what with the dismal weather last weekend, I found myself inside all day for the first time in ages. I took a good look around the house, and what I saw horrified me.
Apparently, while we’d been at work and in the barn and in the garden, a band of jokers had been sneaking into the house to string cobwebs from the light fixtures, leave junk mail on the microwave and line up near-empty shampoo bottles on the edge of the tub. They had hung a pair of ice skates on the bathroom doorknob, leaned a ratty partial set of golf clubs against the dryer, and left a sewing machine right next to the sofa.
I know it was the work of these hooligans, because I hadn’t used the sewing machine since June. Unless I had somehow forgotten to put it away for four straight months — not likely — there was no other explanation.
The disarray stunned me. Early in the summer the average person might have described the house as moderately cleanish; lived in, but not condemnably filthy. Now the place looked like a finalist for the next season of “Hoarders.”
I’ve never claimed to be much good at keeping house, but I don’t like clutter. I insist that the kitchen table be clear. I keep the top of the fridge bare, save for a socially acceptable amount of dust. And, thanks to advice I once gleaned from a book onfeng shui, the Chinese art of not filling up your house with ill-placed crap, I encourage good energy flow through our bedroom by keeping the space under the bed empty (except for the occasional clump of cat hair).
But the place looked far worse than even I could tolerate. These animals hadn’t left a spot untouched. In the office, they had overstuffed my filing cabinet with papers, left a number of dried-up pens on the desk, and pinned expired coupons to the bulletin board.
In the bathroom, they had randomly jammed sheets into the linen closet — and not even tried to fold the fitted ones properly. In the kitchen they had crammed the fridge with unidentifiable leftovers and tucked into the freezer a half-dozen plastic bags, each containing just a single heel of sourdough rye.
They had even sprinkled numerous dead flies on the windowsills.
But there was more. They had loaded our underwear drawers with holey socks and filled our closets with strange, outdated clothing that didn’t even fit us. (I can’t imagine where they dug up pleated-front men’s khakis and high-waisted mom jeans.)
They were thorough, all right.
If you didn’t know any better, to see our house you’d think it had been months since I’d given it a good cleaning and years since I’d decluttered. While I concede that I haven’t stayed on top of things this summer as well as I could have, this had to be the work of outside forces; we just haven’t been home enough to create chaos on such a scale.
With no one to pin the crime on, I had no choice but to take on the recovery efforts myself. So I’ve spent most of the past five days cleaning, sorting, organizing and purging every inch of the house. The impending winter — during which we will be trapped in here for months like rats in a cage — has inspired me to get things clean and uncluttered as fast as possible.
Of course, the cleanup is only part of the solution. We also have to prevent these derelicts from ever coming back. We’ve been keeping the doors and windows locked all week, but I’m still noticing little things here and there — an empty milk carton returned to the fridge, a half dozen unused canning jars stacked by the coffee maker, a pile of mismatched gloves on the floor next to the mitten basket.
I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here: The lowlifes are getting in some other way.

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