I’ll start this lovely meander with a proviso: Yes I am fully insured. You have to be to be an organizer in this perilous world of Home Organizing; I have a dodgy elbow I call Manny, echoing sciatica I call the Doctor, a wobbly bursitis knee I call Jazz Man and a tender thumb that goes by the name of Jennifer. I name my injuries. Injuries are a part of life; with 20/20 hindsight, laughably predictable. One has time to reflect upon them as you hop around gripping a pummeled thumb and whooping, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” Fortunately those wee setbacks are a mere bagatelle of fun that fades like the din of a bell after a few moments of song and dance.

When working in a client’s home, now and then, the universe peppers our path with these little insults so we become more attuned to potentially larger landmines generously strewn about as a courtesy detail. When the old war wounds bid hello to me I nod back and remember a lesson learned; my own traveling circus of characters and aversions reminding me that the average home is fraught with danger and that I should always expect the unexpected. When you drop your guard it’s usually on your foot. When you’re not paying attention they become life lessons served cold.

Here are a few lessons culled from years of experience recalled with warm regret:

  • Shins transform to several tones of mauve from sudden scrapes along hidden wider than expected bed frames cleverly draped beneath a comforter or decorous skirt. Toes also frequently splay around those unexpected center support leg posts beneath, usually when moving fast. Wear your indoor shoes when decluttering a bedroom.
  • When sweeping an arm under a bed to grab a shadowy form you may discover it has claws and teeth and is brimming with unpleasantness. Surprise!!
  • One should never stretch up on tippy-toes to pull books from high places on long neglected shelves. You never forget the first time mouse poop rolls off into your gaping mouth.
  • When removing screws from the underside of a dining room table…close same mouth.
  • Never offer to relocate a dead anything for a client and transport it in your car (birds, mice, raccoons). We bury things for a reason. You’ll never forget the sudden quiet look on your spouse’s face, the corners of their mouth pinioning downwards, as they ask, “What’s that smell?”

(I once remarked to my wife that I hate the smell of rotting apples. Her always quick witted retort was, “I hate the smell of rotting anything.”)

  • Speaking of smells – freezers long unplugged but not emptied of turkey meat and dairy products should not be opened on an inhalation of breath, especially as you bend down forward to look inside.
  • Another olfactory assault comes from all those client boxes glued by dark stains to basement floors, usually under the stairs. If you gleefully pop open mildewed flaps without a mask a nice puff of mold is yours for the asking.
  • Never move ancient daybed couches older than your client, especially the kind made of solid cast iron and switchblade out like spasmodic guillotines halfway down a staircase.
  • Never move a daybed down a staircase that has paintings on either side… framed in glass… painted by the owner…who is in a hurry to get past you to answer the front door to catch the Fed-Ex man.
  • Never attempt to untangle a long forgotten closet full of intertwined metal hangers alone. You may never be seen or heard from again.
  • Cantilevered garage doors can be swung down by distracted clients and knock you right out. You can’t hear the word sorry when you’re unconscious.
  • Garage lofts are a guy’s locale of choice to store useless wood with un-yanked nails that offer free belly button piercings. Guys also keep a life time supply of old sheets of glass that slide freely to take off your head at source if you don’t duck in time. (Think The Omen’, part one).
  • Never move lawn darts, ladders or garden gnomes from a loft in a garage over where the client’s expensive BMW is parked. Nervous moments may ensue. (Pick any scene from the ‘Final Destination’ movies) You never regret asking them politely to move it out.
  • Never yank an innocent looking bag from a loft while balanced on a ladder. It invariably turns out to be a gravity sucking, un-holdable, solidified sack of cement.
  • Never catch anything while standing on a ladder – like an un-holdable, solidified sack of cement.
  • Never shove anything next to an old fire extinguisher; they don’t like it. The resulting pyroclastic surge cloud of fine powder takes ever so long to tidy up.
  • Never touch a leaky pipe you’re not prepared to mop up after.
  • Speaking of pipes – crawl spaces have even lower pipes, many with butterfly screws that neatly cleave scalps. Some pesky pipes fail to budge at all upon full impact with a skull.
  • Always turn off the circuit before you use pliers to unscrew and extricate the base of a broken light bulb unless you like to stutter and tap dance.
  • Upon fixing a chair for a client never demonstrate the job is done by sitting on it.
  • Don’t carry twirling garbage bags of broken glass any distance. Arms get tired and lower inexorably towards your shins. Remember the killer chariot spokes in Ben-Hur?
  • Don’t carry objects tucked under an armpit. They will fall out. They always do and always will, especially if breakable. Carry less, make more trips. Full stop.
  • Never move a piano with a client. Period. Never, unless you like sciatica.

All of those moments and more from my tossed salad of a life deserve, if not a name, then a nod of remembrance. Many will be addressed in a bit more detail in my book ‘The Domestic Archaeologist’ available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indigo.  And you’ll hear all about Manny and Jennifer, The Jazz man and of course – The Doctor. Book #2 in the series is hotly in the works. And yes I love to hear from my readers and their tales. I am collecting other stories now for another tome later on. Stay Tuned!! – Steve Ilott – Oakville, Ontario – Professional Organizer, Speaker, Writer.