attic’s end


the rule?  it always takes twice the time you planned for it.  if you plan for twice the time, it’ll take four times as long, so don’t get cute.

oh, i’m going to finish redoing the northwest corner in one day, right; an afternoon.  and by late sunday i’ll be down in the studio, cleaning merrily away.  i wrote this on friday.

but no.

it was 11 before i got upstairs on saturday.  this and that.  and all i did all afternoon was to move stuff out of the northwest corner.  and didn’t even get everything out, at that.

this, as you may recall, was the corner with all the tools and house supplies on a table in the middle, with kitchen things and curios already stacked in the corners, and then all the stuff that came out of the rest of the attic got piled there until i could get to it.  until finally you couldn’t throw anything into that corner without dislodging a pile, and you couldn’t go in after it.

the plan was to clear the walkway and have done with it.  that would have taken half a day, and i was anticipating doing a lot of work in the studio.  at least take all the paint cans down and put them under the house.

but when i was in the west gable, stacking all the tools i could find (kitchen supplies went to the south gable, art supplies went in the southwest corner, household items went in the southeast corner, electronic things went in the east gable, and papers and files went in a niche on the south wall.   that’s 6 stacks, when i got thru.

six stacks now completely filling the nice empty floor in the middle.  again.

in fact, when i brought my ex upstairs to have a look on friday, he was impressed (you never cleaned like this when we were married).  and when he saw it today he was bowled over.  it’s in a completely different configuration today than two days ago.  as it has been every couple of days for going on three weeks now.

who does it take three weeks to clean a house?  only obsessive me, when i’m being obsessive.  my actual motto is closer to ‘a clean house is a wasted life.’

anyway, i noticed when i was piling the tools in the west gable, that the northwest corner was empty near the roofline all the way around the room.  there were no boxes stacked there, because there was no flooring from the eaves to four feet in,  enough to fit all the stuff that was crammed into the center.  but i’d have to remove everything before i could put a floor over the open rafters.

so everything had to come out.  and so i created 6 piles.  stacks, actually.  like objects with like objects.  i love this method of organizing, as i might have mentioned.  big piles into small piles and sort those into smaller piles and then put them where they go.

when i was done with this phase, all of the sculptures were stacked on two upturned bookshelves (bonus!) and an elaborate light-box piece with attached sculptures was precariously near getting busted by anything i carried by.  there was a narrow walkway and a small space capable of seating one or two in a pinch, with a tiny cubby for my coffee.

which i did all afternoon.  at around 3 the attic fan came on.  that means the sun came around the side of the tree and heated up the south and west sides.  it got hot in the south gable, where there’s a window.  but in the west and east gables, where there are louvers instead of windows, there was a fresh breeze.  when i first started in the attic, the fan would come on at 11.  but it’s been being fall here lately, and it’s blessedly cool for much of the day now.  unfortunately the studio visit is at 3 on friday, and it’s supposed to be warm enough to bring the fan on, which i would rather not.  but who’s going to complain about the weather?  (only my sister who lives in the damp northwest fringe.)

it took forever to empty the northwest corner.  partly because space is at a premium now that the paintings are all where they go.  partly because i’m getting increasingly bruised and sore from all these days of hauling heavy shit up and down stairs and out of and into tight corners.  80 pound bags of quikcrete.  falling-apart cardboard boxes full of big iron gears and pieces for the etching press.  stacks of roofing tiles.  metal file drawers stuffed full of papers.  cases of gallons of housepaint.  many bruises.  and now both of us really have to use our knees to lift, because both of our backs are shot.

and i really can’t have any help up there.  if jim tries to help me, he makes assumptions, which are dangerous in a place where the wrong foot will send you crashing thru irreplaceable artwork and then thru the ceiling and into the downstairs.  in order to help me, he has to do exactly what i say, and who wants to do that?  plus i find that, like packing the moving truck, if anybody lays a hand to help me, there ends up being space in the packing, and it doesn’t all fit.  it’s an awful obsession, really.

is there an organizer’s anonymous?

i can’t be certain only the next day, but i believe i left the northwest corner only incompletely emptied last night when i went downstairs for my ritual sponge-bath and drink in peace and quiet on the porch.  oh yes, i remember, the floor was mostly pulled up and leaning on the chimney stack, me thinking i could get away with that.

as i recall from this morning (again, after 10 before getting to it), i came upstairs with a bucket of hot borax and ammonia water and the mop, intending to start mopping the floor before the ammonia affected my breathing.  and it was 3 before i actually got the floor wet.

i remember that i was disappointed to realize that i had to wash a complete floor, not just the three sheets of 4×8 in the middle.  and that i had to build a complete floor to do this.

actually i realized this last night, and went out scouring the neighborhood for more boards.  and found them in the person of a couple of ex large unfinished paintings that jim wasn’t going to rework.  because they were in the front closet and got moldy and the paint did strange things all over the surface.  huge big plywood boards that he was using in the early ’80s.  and a couple of boards from the dressers we hammered apart the week before.

as the process of laying a new floor went on, i discovered that i had exactly the wood i needed, even tho that ran to 1/2″x2″ 18″ planks in the end.  laying a floor out of bits and pieces is like a jigsaw puzzle, and like loading a truck in two dimensions.  i guess it’s why i like sudoku (which i never thought i would, having grown out of crosswords).

the tricky part of the northwest corner is the back wall.  the north wall is where the stairs come up, and it splits only 5 feet in from the eaves.  that’s not enough space to walk upright, so you have to crouch along the big 4′ gap in the floor to get past the top of the stairwell.  i stuck a 2×12 over the gap when i first started this venture, and loaded a bunch of camping equipment into the eaves.  and when i cleared the rest of the attic, i filled that whole area with xmas stuff and then the dog cage, and a lot of other stuff.

when i pulled the existing patchwork of floor off the area near the stairwell, i realized that i had to pull it all off, because it was fucking dangerous to walk over the boards i’d laid previously.  they were all 1/4″ plywood, in a place where if the boards shifted you could lose your balance and fall into the stairwell.  no handrails don’t you know.

so it all came up, the flooring all got stacked against the chimney stack (last night), and then had to be moved once i figured out i was going to have to wash a whole floor this morning.

i put 3/4″ plywood 4′ widths along the stairwell in the northwest corner by god.  they spanned the space between the edge and the floor beam, 4′.  it’s amazing how easy building industry sizing is.  it’s all multiples.  so if you have three sheets of 4×8 plywood, they go on the floor in a T, one across and two side by side, and cover a square 12 feet on a side.  and the joists they lay on are exactly underneath when you lay them down, and each joist is 18(?)” wide, and it’s a beautiful thing the way it all fits together.

sort of.  and the differences in measurement and wood treatment over the past 110 years has made it kind of funky.  because back in the day, 2″ rafters and beams were 2″ thick, not 1 1/2″ like today’s lumber.  but the flooring lays approximately in the middle of each beam so the boards are supported at the edges, and everything’s fun and easy.  sort of.

anyway, i got a good floor down, all the way to the eaves.  and it only took until 5 in the evening.  and in the end i was dragging my ass over to the west gable for a stick of wood to fit an odd sized gap, and finding it every time.

my ex wondered if he would be able to start on such a mess if someone held a gun to his head.  he’s fond of violent metaphors.  i told him the way to tackle an attic this full of crap was to do it like an unwilling servant.  move as slow as possible, shuffling and ducking your head, dragging one item at a time all the way across the attic to where it goes, and slump back for another piece.  the pace is agonizing, dawdling.  but you keep moving, and by the end of the day, it’s all done.  the trick is not to stop.  if you stop, you stay down, and it never gets done.  that’s why i don’t eat until jim forces me to.

finally the floor was down.  i swept.  the dust was thick.  i sneezed.  i wiped the edge of my nostrils with the inside of my tshirt and got a ring of black on the fabric.  the wash water got used, stone cold.  the water turned black with the first half 4×8 i scraped the mop across.  i figure the mop picked up as much dust as it smeared around.  and that’s something.  it’s the only floor i can’t put a rug down on (aside from the west gable).

and then, with a nice clear floor drying, i went around and looked at what i had – 6 piles.  and the space i had to put it in – starting where the camping equipment left off and running into the northwest corner, then to the west gable, and then the chimney stack and out into the rest of the room, interrupted by the stairwell.

tools.  kitchen equipment.  art supplies.  files.  household objects.  knicknacks and valuable collectibles i couldn’t care less about.  and electric/electronic stuff.

traditionally, we’ve put the tools against the north wall, because there’s a beam running across it that sticks out enough for the handles of the long objects to go into, so the beam is full of rakes and extension handles and post hold diggers and old mops and brooms.

therefore, the first thing to be relocated were the tools, which had been resting in the west gable.  but i wasn’t sure about how much camping equipment i still had to load in, so i piled the tools in the middle of the floor of the northwest corner.  and then decided to put the files on the west wall near the west gable and the chimney stack.

and was interrupted in all this by the arrival of my ex for dinner.  which i’d forgotten about.  and after amazed comments on the changed state of the attic, we went down and i made dinner from leftovers and we had a good time slandering our daughter.

which leaves stuff still to be organized into the northwest corner of the attic.  a lot of stuff.  and the rugs need vacuuming, and the space needs to be arranged, and paintings have to be set out, and i noticed that the whole area behind the plinths that line the path from the stairs, and that are really there to keep people from tripping on the uneven floor, this whole area that has a table holding a great many works on paper, this area is on a 4×8 that has slipped off its 2″ rafter.  so everything has to come off and i’ve got to fix the flooring, and while i’ve got everything off i’m going to rearrange and change the traffic flow and thus alter the entire attic one more time.

but not tomorrow.  i’m into the last few days of cleaning and organizing before the studio visit on friday, and it’s time i turned my attention to the studio proper.  so i’m coming down here tomorrow and getting in jim’s way until it’s all done here, which i imagine will only take a day, so i’m budgeting for two.  jim’s done a lot of the work in the front studio already, mopping the floor and moving things into their permanent location – i just have to clear the floor near the window in there, and then i can start on the middle studio.

i’ve assured jim that i’ll leave him working like an island in the sea of chaos, but he’s still going to be shocked when everything but his table and his taboret are going to go missing from his main work studio.  this is so i can clean the floors and check for mold, because this is a basement.  everything is going to be moved.


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