Flat Mom

Scrolling through the channels recently, I noticed that the latest thing in the reality show craze is filth: people can’t seem to get enough of shows about other peoples’ filthy houses. There’s How Clean Is Your House (with the two annoying British women), Clean House (with the annoying American woman), Clean Sweep (having never watched it, I’m not sure exactly how they maintain their annoyance dynamic), and then, of course, there’s the newest entry, Hoarders. Hoarders caught my eye a few weeks back because it featured a woman in Georgia whose house, when it was finally excavated of all its trash, revealed an ancient dead cat mashed flat by the sheer weight of all the junk on top of it. (It was never established whether or not the cat died first, and was then squished, or whether it was the squishing that killed it. I’m guessing that the show’s budget doesn’t extend into pet post mortems.)

Anyway, the flat cat episode started me thinking about my own mortality. Specifically, it started me thinking about how much I do not want to be featured mummified and flattened on the preview of some new reality show. And, also, about how it sometimes seems as if there is no way I will be able to prevent it. That’s because I live with a group of people whose condition, while perhaps not as dangerous as that of the hoarders, is nevertheless just as certifiable.

I live with pilers.

Pilers are people whose answer to everything is to pile it. Not sure what to do with the mail? Just put it in a pile, and then place it on top of that pile of dirty dishes from breakfast, which, in turn, are resting on that pile of the morning papers, which is on top of the pile of the schoolwork that came out of the kids’ backpacks last night. Which is on top of the dead cat.

Okay—there’s no dead cat. Yet. But there could be, if they could just find a way to fold one neatly. That’s the thing about pilers—they think they’re being tidy. They mistakingly think that just because they line up the corners on their piles they are any less filthy than that woman in Georgia.

They say that people hoard for all sorts of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because they are afraid that if they throw anything out the day will come when they will one day want it again. Pilers, on the other hand (at least the ones in my house) say that they pile because they are afraid that if they throw anything out the day will come when I will one day want it again. “Every time I throw something away you yell at me about it the next week,” is the complaint I hear. And it’s true—I do get frustrated when things like permission slips and tax bills wind up in the trash. How that relates to the need to keep expired coupons for tanning salons and notifications about cheerleading tryouts, I have yet to figure out.

Sometimes I think that it’s all just a ruse, and that the final, sinister purpose of it all is to create a setting wherein they can hide my body. Of course, that might be ascribing more organization to them than they deserve. As well as being incredibly paranoid. But what other logical explanation could there be? Why else would two ostensibly sane people (and Clementine) stack clean laundry on top of freshly buttered toast?

As far as I’m concerned, it has to be a trap, and all I know is that if one day I walk into the kitchen and see a humongous pile of paper leaning precariously over the top of a Belgian candy bar and a nude picture of Alan Rickman, I’m not going in after it.

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