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The task at hand is a work in progress


There’s a cardboard box — 8 x 6 x 4, for those of you scoring at home — that is tucked away in the left-hand corner of the floor in our kitchen pantry.

It has been there, of this I am certain, for a little over three years … in other words, as long as we have lived in this house.

Less certain is exactly what might be in the box. She has no idea, and I am clueless. “You can say that again,” stares the cat, who could not care less what treasures await within the cardboard.

I thought of the mystery box the other day, when those eight magic words floated through thin air in the direction of my good ear.

“I thought of something else you could do,” she said.

There I was, slouching toward semi-retirement in my recliner and eating vanilla bean ice cream, when I was attacked without warning by the notion that there were tasks that somehow needed my attention.

I did what any other self-respecting spouse would do when faced with such an onslaught: I turned my other ear and her direction and didn’t quite hear the “something else” that I could be doing.

Besides, there was the problem of the box.

“Cleaning out the pantry” — which had been near the top of my list of semi-retirement objectives — would require dragging the box out of its corner discovering what is inside.

Now, I understand that decluttering experts suggest boxes that have been unopened for three-plus years following a move might not hold anything worth keeping … which only makes me wonder what color the sky is on their home planet.

For one thing, there might be a manila envelope in the box that contains the instructions to our cordless vacuum.

The vacuum’s power pack usually has a green light displayed to signal that it’s fully charged. Lately, however, the light has been blinking and the vacuum dead as a doornail — a circumstance that has left us stumped (and dusty) and has zoomed to the top of the “Something Else” list.

This has required and a hither and yon, to and fro, search of the hose for all the manila folders which are keeping safe instructions to our various appliances — whether or not we still own them.

That the light is still blinking should tell you that the search has been unsuccessful, and leads us back to the pantry.

Before we get there, I wonder if there’s a robotic lawnmowing device that works along the same principles are those robotic vacuum cleaners … for as much as I detest the noise associated with scooping up cookie crumbs from a rug, my semi-retirement would be much improved if it did not include cutting grass.

As it is, I’m having qualms about the pantry — the filling of which we did not learn from a decluttering expert, but from Fibber McGee & Molly.

Proceeding in this quest brings us to another new addition to the “Something Else” list … a balky cam light above the pantry doors. It’s not blinking with the regularity of the vacuum’s power-pack indicator; rather, it displays the scattershot pattern of a Buddy Rich solo.

Maybe it’s winking in Morse Code, telling us that the vacuum instructions are not in a manila envelope inside the 8 x 6 x 4 box nestled in the corner of the pantry … so, perhaps, well enough should just be left alone.

I tend to agree with that sentiment — as opposed, say, to a co-habitant who has written down “replace the winking cam light” on her ever-growing list of things to do.

I, however, have bigger fish to fry … such as synchronizing the clocks throughout the house.

Using the time shown on my laptop, it should just be a matter of going from clock to clock and getting them to agree with each other.

The microwave clock, now that it no longer blinks 12:00, is one minute behind the stove clock, but six minutes ahead of the laptop and 10 minutes behind the alarm on the nightstand.

There’s also a battery-operated clock in the living room that is running five minutes behind the stove, and a wall clock in the den that is 12 hours behind the laptop.

Finally, on the living room wall — above the recliner where I am now spooning what has become lukewarm vanilla bean soup is a decorative clock that shows that, if I am reading my Roman numerals correctly, that it is 10 minutes to 1.

The battery inside that clock is either dead as a doorknob or not there entirely. It’s hard to tell … since we haven’t taken the thing down after hanging it in the first place three-plus years ago.

It is, however, the only clock in the house besides the laptop of which it can absolutely be said displays the proper time at least twice a day.

I intend to engage Operation Timepiece Synchronization in due time, after which I’m certain an elongated “Something Else” list will be waiting for me.

Meanwhile, she appears to have begun her own list … and I appear to be the only thing on it.

“Get Off My Lawn” columnist Robert Galvin is away next week as declutters rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com