Cleaning a patio sounds rather easy but let me describe my mom’s patio for you:
- Studs every 18 inches;
- West wall comprised of the house’s fireplace brick exterior and sliding glass door;
- Wood siding encloses the bottom half on the remaining 3 sides;
- Screen encloses the top half;
- Clear plastic covers the screen sections topped with white lattice to hold it in place and keep the wind from ripping it down;
- Doors in the north and south walls;
- Two levels of shelves run the length of the north and east walls to hold plants and bins full ‘o stuff;
- A makeshift kitty apartment complex takes up the fireplace exterior portion of the west wall, consisting of a bi-level kitty condo atop an old door held up by two bi-level kitty condos atop another old door held up by cement blocks. Myrtle the Turtle for kitties.
- The roof leaks;
- Various garden tools and free-standing plant stands full of plants occupy the remaining floor space in addition to cat food and water bowls and the occasional stray cat toy.
- Oh, and a giant bin holding cat food bags balances on the step that leads into the house, propped up by a block of wood at the overhang.
(I suddenly feel very ghetto.)
We decided to treat it like an archaeological dig:
- Excavate. Removed a bazillion bins full of stuff like plant pots, peat moss, garden insecticides, etc., but first we had to remove:
- All the loose stuff mom had stacked on top of the bins. We tell her and tell her she already has plenty of those styrofoam meat trays to use as plant pot water catchers inside the bin marked “drip trays” but if she can’t see it (and bin labels don’t count, apparently,) in her mind she doesn’t have any.
- The bi-level cat apartment complex made out of garden bricks, old doors, and various carpeted cat condos with kitty beds and old throw rugs tossed about for comfort.
- The plants – OH THE PLANTS! My uncle installed a couple levels of built-in shelving on two walls so she would have a place to put all her plant starts and boy howdy does she have plants. Mostly spider plants. Did you know each one of those shoots a spider plant sends out with a miniature spider plant on the end of it is a new plant looking for a place to establish itself? Mom cannot bear to clip it off. She must start a new plant. Spider plants are the bunnies of the plant world: before you know it, you are overrun with offspring.
- Expose the bones. Removed the dirty and cat-peed-on plastic laid over the shelving (under the plants) to keep the wood from getting wet and rotting.
- Wash the bones. Hosed out the patio, from roof to floor.
- Remove the mummy’s outer layer. The patio used to be screen from top to bottom but several years ago my uncle installed wood siding on the bottom half. Every couple of years I put up clear plastic on the top screened half and top it with white lattice for stabilization. It makes the patio sort of a greenhouse in the winter for the plants and a comfy shelter for the stray cats. (Don’t get me started on mom’s backyard feeding of the feral cats.) So we took down the lattice to store for the summer and ripped down the decrepit, disintegrating plastic that come apart in bits. It was a plastic snow storm for awhile there.
- Clean the bones again. Hosed out the patio again, from roof to floor. More dirt came down! Guess it needed a soaking period.
- Dissect the remains. Hosed down all the bins and things we previously removed from the patio, tossing a buttload of stuff that was either broken or otherwise damaged or of which she already had plenty. (Like all those excess styrofoam meat trays.)
- Assemble the skeleton. Put the newly cleaned stuff back in the patio in a nice organized fashion.
- Display the exhibit. Brought mom out and opened every bin so she could see what she has, in a futile attempt to prevent her from continuing to accumulate things she doesn’t really need. I believe she said, “Yes, mother” a few times the same way I say, “Yes, okay” to my boss Ed when he wants me to do something his way and I know full well I am going to continue to do it my way. He usually ends up agreeing later my way is better but not always, at which point we both raise our voices and much gesticulating occurs. Then we calm down and it’s like nothing ever happened. Just like when I go back to mom’s later and she has completely ignored my organization system and continued to collect things of which she already has plenty.
Sadly, the patio looked depressingly the same when we were done. But at least we know it’s clean and the past year’s accumulation of unneeded leftover food containers have been swept away so she can start on this year’s batch with lots of open space in which to stack it.
Love you mom, even when our polar opposite organizational styles meet head on in a spectacular collision of “BUT WHY?” and “BECAUSE!” and we make each other crazy.