1 Cleaning Dad’s House

Susan Parke

A pile of paper for recycling in the backseat of a car.


My cats love me so much, that when I die, they have promised to wait three days until they eat me. They do not, however, love me enough to deal with all of the crap I have managed to accumulate in my house.

Where did I get this compulsion to collect crap? My mom? My dad? This is what I was hoping to learn when I cleared out their house to sell.

It was an adventure, of sorts, not unlike Let’s Make a Deal, except that I got ALL the prizes, the grand and the zoink. The boxes of Lladro porcelain, presumed empty, but still containing the perfect figurines? The box of childhood drawings done by my father and his brother in the 20’s? The five large coffee cans squirreled away in the back of a garage cupboard, filled completely with really old coins? All good. The bag with someone’s (not mine!) plaster teeth molds, still sticky with some unknown substance? Not so much.

The house project did give me the chance to meet people I otherwise would not have met. Like the women who run the UPS store. A lot of boxes shipped to distant friends and too many to my house (adding to the aforementioned piles of crap), and 117 pounds of receipts/bills/old tax forms for their shredder.

I connected with my parents’ friends when I sent them each a few of the 573 mouse ornaments from my mother’s Christmas tree.

I supported several thrift stores with my dad’s uncounted shirts (seriously, couldn’t keep count of them) and his 51 pairs of shorts, 17 pairs of pants, and 21 combs. 21. Dad was an engineer. If his hair got to be more than two inches long, he was off to the barber. So, sure, he needed 21 combs.

The recycling center got literally mountains of cardboard (dad believed in saving a good box), and paper. Weekly time sheets and expenditure reports accounting for every week of 16 years of consultant work. Team rosters from my dad’s 1947 bowling league.

I met the trash collectors when I rented a dumpster. I don’t think anything was as fun to toss in as the bathroom scale.

The house was deceptive. Neat, tidy…. But then I started opening closets and drawers. They were full. All of them. Halloween costumes, my sister’s wedding dress, remnants of wallpaper, more decks of cards than a casino. It was all hidden. That row of VHS tapes concealed two more rows. And the photos. Slides, prints, 16mm movies. Everywhere I looked, more stuff.

It seems clear that the house was a joint effort. My dad collected the stuff, and my mom organized it. Sadly, I seem to have only inherited the collecting part, and not the organizational gene.

And now, it’s all mine. Not neatly tucked away in closets, shelves and drawers in my house, but everywhere. And the cats are not going to deal with any of it.

Maybe I should get a dog.

Media Attributions


CE Student Voices--the Best of Short Memoir Spring 2023 Copyright © 2023 by Susan Parke. All Rights Reserved.

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