Decluttering Your Life, Letting Go

The Ever Present Conundrum of the Thing That Still Works

Hearken, if you will, back to the vacuum story. One day in my parents’ house, the vacuum zombie invasion finally came to a head. Looking around the house, I counted a wet vac, a canister vac, three used uprights, a handheld steam vac, two handheld regular vacs, two upright steam vacs, and a brand new upright, still in the box. There were eleven in all. Like the mustards, I decided that with all of these new vacuums, I could at least safely throw one into the dumpster my dad had rented (I’ll save that story for another day). I even had the perfect spot picked out for it. I started testing them. The used Oreck had given us about four good years before it started spewing out more dirt than it sucked in. But I knew that Dad really liked that one, so I put it to the side. Despite my obvious consideration for his vacuum sentimentality, I guess Dad didn’t see the logic in my thought process. As soon as I mentioned getting rid of some of the old vacuums, the battle began.

Dad caught me off guard the next day.

“Is this yours?” he asked. I looked up at the twisted, dusty sock dangling from his hand. I recognized it immediately as the  black nylon knee-high I had been missing for a few weeks. Its match was upstairs in my missing sock bag.

“Uh,” I began to answer.

“I found it in the vacuum,” he continued. “This is why the vacuum wouldn’t work,” he said, his voice so much more overtaken by triumph and excitement than anger or accusation. “Is it yours?” My thoughts began to spin wildly. This was the same vacuum I had deemed broken and had argued for its inclusion in the dumpster load as my dad emphatically argued that it was still good. The same vacuum that had sparked my rant about how he couldn’t hold on to everything and that he needed to let things go. The same vacuum we spent a combined two hours trying to re-catch the belt onto the hook, only to give up in bitter resignation- I, bitter because I was convinced it was useless and broken and he, bitter because he was convinced it was only in need of some tweaking. Dad held the sock in front of my face like a piece of evidence that had convinced the jury without a word spoken.

“Is it Roman’s?” he asked. I shook my head no. I wanted to say it was, but my son got blamed for enough around there. “Is it Rick’s?” he pressed. Dad has this interrogator style to his questions, more from his ADD tendencies than from anger, but he fired the questions one after another as my mind continued to stream. The good thing about ADD was that he didn’t stop long enough to wait for an answer. “Alea’s?” I shook my head no again. I was running out of options, and he was clearly running out of suspects. Artie and Mom were the only ones remaining. My mind went back to the Rick. Hmmm…is it Rick’s…? Lightbulb on that one. I mean, he was 11 hours away in North Carolina at the time and unlikely to ever find out if I blamed him. Plus, despite the fact that the “sock” in question was clearly a woman’s stocking, which would have been creepy on all kinds of levels had it been anyone’s but mine, Dad clearly didn’t see the sock for what it truly was, blinded as he was by it’s twisted extraction from his prized vacuum cleaner.

Can a grown woman lie to her father about the sock that broke the vacuum? Could I, in good conscience, say that my sock was, in fact, not mine? Could I omit the confession that it must have been I who vacuumed up that same sock in a cleaning frenzy several weeks ago? Could I add it to the list of denials of broken things from my childhood?

  No, dad, I didn’t break that mirror.”

“I don’t know where that lamp went.”

“I’m not sure who stepped on your camera.”

I think less of myself for even considering it. But as it turns out, Dad didn’t wait around for an answer. I took the sock from his hand and shamefully tried to distract his attention from it by throwing it into the laundry basket in the hallway off the kitchen. I gave him a look of cluelessness, the same one that he had unwittingly perfected many years before I was born. He was so happy about the  newly resuscitated vacuum that he just turned triumphantly around and walked back towards the living room to watch TV. But here, in the privacy of my own musings, the tell-tale sock beats at my conscience, and I admit it. The stocking was mine!

When something still works, it can be hard to let go, even if we have long since replaced it with a newer, more efficient model. No one would readily admit being emotionally attached to a vacuum cleaner for God’s sake, but even I remember being a kid and pressing the magic button that made Kirby roar to life. I have to admit, I even kind of miss the old girl sometimes, but I certainly wouldn’t want it sitting in my utility closet. Besides, if I really think about it, it’s not the vacuum that I miss. It’s the memory of being a kid that I miss. It’s the comfort of being safe in my parents’ house back when life was simple, someone else took care of the hard stuff, and all I had to do was vacuum.

In the end, I snuck the Oreck into the dumpster. I hid it as best as I could and then piled some old rugs on top of it so that he would not discover what I had done. I feel a little guilty, but I’m pretty sure Dad won’t be short on options the next time he decides to vacuum the house. As it stands now, vacuums: 10, me: 1. The rest are safe for now, but I’m pretty sure that by the time I’m 140 years old, I will have gotten every last one. 

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