This crawlspace is clean

Big enough to swallow my car

When I first moved into this house in 1997, I wanted to mulch the plant beds and side of the house. I called around, giving the dimensions of my lot as recorded on the encylopedia of house closing forms. One company calculated I’d need “12 yards,” and mentioned they had a special, “buy 12 yards, get one free, and free delivery.” I had no concept of a “yard,” but the guy seemed earnest. I realized my mistake when the dumptruck left a mound: I hadn’t subtracted for the house, driveway and mulch covering most of my postage stamp-sized lot. Several hours of shoveling later, a layer of mulch three to six inches deep covered the perimeter.

A “small” dumpster was stealthily dropped off sometime Friday morning while no one was home. Deja vu struck as I got home that evening. This thing was huge. I’m not sure how they got it in my driveway (it’s a downward slope), but they were nice about putting it flush on one side of the driveway so my car could still fit.

Although I was up early Saturday morming, it was hard to get motivated. Who wouldn’t look forward to a day of scooping up rat poo? (Answer: everyone?) Seeing the large dumpster cast a shadow on my car didn’t help. I finally coaxed myself into the Junior Deputy Hazmat outfit:

  • Tyvek overalls – the same material they use to make envelopes, race bibs and house coverings. You can get them in any color, as long as it’s white.
  • Construction hat – clearance in the crawlspace is about a foot less than me. Then there are all those random pipes and boards. I’m so glad I had this because I’m sure I would have bonked myself unconscious.
  • Respirator – necessary to avoid exposure to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (mice had previously been present) and chain letters
  • Goggles – these were less useful because they kept fogging up and were uncomfortable with the respirator on.
  • Pair of shoes that should have been retired a long time ago
  • Gloves – for obvious reasons

If there’s one thing I’m better at than putting off doing an unpleasant, non-urgent task: doing it as fast as possible and competently enough to minimize the likelihood of having to do it again. The previous owner had left seven years’ worth of failed home improvement projects: a broken chair, disassembled dresser, cedar shingles, rotted fenceposts and flooring boards. Some of the other wood was in good condition. However, the mere fleeting concept of keeping it around in hopes that I’d pawn off the stuff in fewer than seven years and would have to do this again. wasn’t appealing. I was done hauling the wood out in just over an hour.

The next task would be to inspect all of the insulation and pull out the strips that were, um, decorated. Thankfully, these rats were consistent. There were only fifteen strips that needed to be discarded. After that was done, I needed to start pulling up the vapor barrier, which is a fancy-sounding name for a thick plastic sheet covering the moist ground. The stuff present was placed when the house was originally built as sections were under the pillars. It went pretty fast when I hacked off chunks with a razor blade. I tried to work one direction and was careful to roll the old barrier one direction so the rat dookie and expired grass seed would be encased in a plastic sarcophagus that could startle an unexpecting archaeologist. The new “vapor barrier” consists of 50′ sections of 6-mil plastic sheeting where I’ve placed strategic cuts for a more snug fit. (With their 1,001 uses, single-edge razor blades are the baking soda of the handyman’s world.)

I sprayed sealant foam in a couple of gaps where pipes poked through the floor. There was a 2″ gap where the vent from the cooktop goes. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen any critters working their way through there for a midnight snack. Once the foamy stuff set, I jammed strips of new insulation to fill in gaps. This went very quickly and I was done by 4pm.

Sunday I spent time excavating my study throwing nearly a thousand uncategorized software CDs. Can you believe that I’ve kept copies of tax, checkbook, operating system and office productivity software dating back to 1995? I also had several games that, as mind-boggling as this seems, fit on floppy disks, yet I have no disk reader to even check if they work. I also tossed several of my school yearbooks (I desperately need the bookshelf space), a baby seat (it’s un-donatable) and boxes of circa-1988 computer equipment including a 9-track reel tape and a SCSI (the kind with the big Centronics-sized cable) shoebox that formerly housed a 100Mb hard disk used on my Commodore Amiga. I’m not even sure where one could read the tape to see what’s on it. I haven’t seen one of those drives since 1992. (This makes me a little nervous about my CD-ROM discs…)

I feel bad about tossing all the stuff out, and even worse for having hung onto it for so long. On the other hand, I’ve been trying hard to reduce the amount I accumulate.


  1. While you’ve got the ol’ dumpster there, any chance you’ll clean out the second spot in your garage? Your car will thank you…

    Nice mask, by the way. Your neighbors probably thought the Avian Flu had arrived.

  2. Ya know… Any weekend that starts with a hazmat suit just has to get better. I think I read that on a bumper sticker. Poor mice. Now they have to start all over again.

  3. Nothing sexier than a hazmat suit and an EPA-approved breather mask, I’ll tell you what. 😉

    I probably should have warned you that roll-off dumpsters only come in one size: fracking huge. They make tiny-little ones for city use but they’re hard to come by. Good for you on the cleaning. You’ve inspired me. It’s too bad we only have one recycling container, though. It’s gonna take forever to dump five years worth of back-issues of PC World and Magazine.

    But think of it this way, you clean out the rest of the garage, it’s more room for bike gear, or possibly kyaks.

  4. where’d you get the respirator?

    btw, 1 yard = 1 cubic yard = 27 cubic feet = 201 gallons. So think of 4 50 gallon drums, or 40 5-gallon buckets, or nearly 52,000 tablespoons.

  5. John:any chance you’ll clean out the second spot in your garage?

    No chance. The second half of the garage has all of the kids’ bikes, recycle bins, garbage can, 32′ extension ladder and my bike. The car can wait.
    In the rain.

    John:Nice mask, by the way. Your neighbors probably thought the Avian Flu had arrived.

    The little girl who came to my door selling cookie dough was cautious when I signed up for a batch, but clearly wanted to make the sale. It’s probably a good thing her parents weren’t around.

    Susan: Any weekend that starts with a hazmat suit just has to get better.

    Oh, a new blog tagline 😉

    Woodstock:“I probably should have warned you that roll-off dumpsters only come in one size: fracking huge.”

    I was impressed at its hugeness. Even better was they came out at 9 a.m. on the dot to pick it up.

    Ted: “52,000 tablespoons”

    Times thirteen. It’s more mulch than I knew what to do with (other than piling it thick.)

  6. You still have that hazmat suit? I have a crawlspace as well and we shouldn’t put it to waste…when can you get here? :o)

    I love productive weekends….glad you got a lot done!

  7. Car seats, while undonate-able, are possibly freecycle-able. We have been using freecycle for outmoded computer parts, toddler gear (someone was thrilled to run off with our old potty seats), and other items that no one else will take.

  8. Wow. Looks like I need to do that with my parents house here in Georgia. But I need to get unpack and start getting rid of papers and junk slowly as my mom is a packrat of papers and stuff. Then I will have room for my toys! 🙂

  9. Did you find my copy of Ultima III when you were going through that old software? I still have the map!

Comments are closed.