By Lucy Ahl

As I drove up to the two story house, which seemed to loom over the single story homes on the same block, I noticed the windows were all covered with white sheets.  A red wagon was carelessly strewn across the green, tall grass on the front lawn.  It was an unusually hot day and I started to sweat as I walked up to the front door.  There was a swarm of flies buzzing in a circle around the entry way.  Ringing the bell, I noticed a gray haired man peering through the panes of glass.  He opened the door slowly. “Yes?” he asked in a whispered voice, holding the door only inches open where all I could see was his nose and one eye.

“Hi, I’m Lucy, the professional organizer.  Mr. Cano called and asked me to come by and give an estimate on decluttering his home”.  Reaching into my notebook, I flashed my card close to his nose.

“Oh, yes.  Thank you for coming.  We need to hurry though as my girlfriend will be home soon, and I don’t want her to know I have called someone”.

He opened the door slowly and a putrid odor that smelled like rotting chicken and dirty diapers hit my nose.  I had to force myself not to gag.  As I walked into the foyer, I could see the living room and dining room.  Every inch of space, from floor to ceiling, was filled with clothing, shoes, vacuums, irons, golf bags, and an assortment of dirty dishes.   There was a small area on the couch that was cleaned off and it looked as if this is where Mr. Cano sat as he watched TV.  The dining room table had clothing piled high on it and the kitchen counter was crawling with maggots and ants. Dirty dishes covered every inch of counter space.  Looking up, I saw another swarm of flies buzzing around in a circle.

“So, what is it you would like me to help you with today”, I said half joking, half serious.

He explained to me his girlfriend had a hoarding problem and he was tired of his house looking and smelling like a morgue.  “She goes out on trash day and dumpster dives other people’s trash.  Late at night, she drives around to the bins where people donate clothing and such and raids them.  I haven’t been able to use my garage for the past three years, yet alone, the rest of my home.  My kids won’t even come visit me because of this mess”.

As I looked around, I could image this place without all the clutter.  The honey colored hardwood floors underneath all the clothing, had started to turn black, probably from mold.  The fireplace in the living room had fancy drywall cuts in it to make a southwestern design.  The wall space that could be seen, was painted in a mauve shade and the trim, a light tan, the color of toast.  The high ceilings, without all the cobwebs, gave the place an open, airy feel.  But it was the kitchen, massive in size that held the most promise.  Surrounded by windows, if not covered up by white sheets, could emanated the natural light, giving it an outdoor feel.  The dark cherry wood cabinets complimented the golden mottled granite on the countertops.  The enormous island in the middle of the room housed the filthy stainless steel stove.  Looking closer, I saw a trail of black ants carrying away bits of rotten food.  I honestly did not know how much more I could take, I was getting nauseous from the putrid smell.  Mr. Cano opened up the freezer.  He proceeded to remove something that once resembled a gray squirrel, squashed from a car tire.

As I walked outside into the clean, fresh air, I took a deep breath.  I could feel my lungs expanding, thirsty for clean oxygen.  As I looked up, the swarm of flies, still there, flying around and around in a circle, just like Mr. Cano’s relationship.

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