Monday, February 7, 2011

Literally Cleaning Out The Closet (sorry, it's a long one)

Imagine, if you will, waking up one morning to the news that you have to wash EVERY article of clothing in your possession.  If your brain didn't just explode, feel free to stop reading and go shopping.  If you mentally pictured your closet and freaked out, welcome to my world.

As you know, we've been having issues with our upstairs neighbours being a little too generous in their desire to share everything with us, from their loud music and conversations echoing through both of our apartments, to their dishwater soaking their floor and our ceiling.  It seems our upstairs neighbours got us an early Valentine's day gift: that of bed bugs*.

While I couldn't have asked for better parents, a more prepared leasing agency, and an understanding thesis adviser (did I mention I had a big deadline last Friday? I didn't make it), it has probably been one of the most grueling ordeals I've ever encountered. And it's not over yet.

The most time consuming task was laundering EVERY article of linen, clothing and extraneous fabric. To add insult to injury, everything had to be washed and dried at the hottest setting. Everything. While sheets, towels, and socks seem to do well at this temperature, I'd hazard to guess the majority of clothes hanging in any given closet are going to probably advise against this. My closet was no exception.

There are alternatives: dry cleaning is permitted (though disclosure of bedbugs to the dry cleaner is advised), and while not the preferred method, freezing for extended periods of time is as well.  However, the minute you read anything about bedbugs and their eggs, your thought is not "let's check the labels," it's "Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew" as you run to the washing machine.  When it comes to bedbug washing, practicality really kicks in: the clothes must remain in plastic bags until 3 weeks after the first treatment.  In order to facilitate quick selection of clothes on a daily basis without risking contamination, sorting by article type is key. All the usual rules of reading the label and sorting by colour flew out the window. After all, what is a few ruined articles of clothing compared to the alternative?

That's not to say I threw my wool skirt suit, along with a bright red sock and a pure white shirt into a tub of boiling water and agitated for 30 minutes.  About 36 items of clothing are currently bagged and "chilling" in the trunk of Scott's car until we can decide whether we're dry cleaning or freezing (and since contamination of these articles - many of which were in suit bags anyway - is low, we're also considering purchasing a steamer).  Of course, there were mistakes.  I caught the white sweater which had gotten a little friendly with the red sweater right as I pulled it out of the washer, so that quickly met some bleach and is resting nicely in a sealed bag.  However, three sweaters did not fair so well.  Well, at least I know for future knitting projects, our washing machine does a great job of felting. They are bagged and in the trunk of my car, ready to head to Winnipeg either for my neice or my sister's nieces (all of whom are under the age of 5 - I definitely didn't realize how much wool was in each of these!)

But we're getting through.  Day to day life has returned to a somewhat normal reality. Blogging, however, won't return to normal for some time.  I do really feel like I'm letting you readers down, and I just ask that you be patient!  Your comments and tweets of support have been great so far, so keep those up if you can!  In the meantime, here is what I've got planned to keep Cara's Closet from absolute silence:

Mondays: Fabulous in February: A Month of Positivity should be easy enough to do in theory, without any outfits to go along with it. (And I'll do today's at the end of this post)

Tuesdays: I'm really interested to see how I'm going to dress for work, dealing with wrinkles (there was no time or space to fold before bagging everything right as it came out of the dryer), so check in to see my outfit posts and maybe learn some tips on a low-maintenance wardrobe!

Thursdays: I have a few posts I've been meaning to write that are fashion related, but haven't gotten around to doing that I think I can manage given the pics I have stored on my computer. I think these also might deal with wedding related fashion issues.

Friday: Friend Friday will continue as per usual.

I will be wearing clothes for the next 2 1/2 weeks (until we can unbag everything and return to normal), but I can guarantee it will be of the t-shirt and jeans variety. If I do something unique (most likely by accident: our clothing is on our kitchen table, and we had to take down our blinds, so I'll be trying to dress in the dark so our neighbours don't get a show), I'll post it.  As for upcoming challenges, some I may be able to do (Jane's Capsule wardrobe will be a nightmare to plan, but will make life easier to execute), and others I won't (Everybody Everywear's Blazer day doesn't look likely at this point). 

But I want to thank you all for sticking by me through this - your comments and tweets of support have been greatly appreciated.  So far, I haven't seen a substantial drop in visits, nor have I seen a big loss in subscribers, so hopefully I don't drive you all away (by the way, bed bugs can't be spread through the internet!).

Now onto Fabulous In February: A Month of Positivity

I have to say, the first one that comes to mind, after writing the above, is that I really rock a crisis.  From the moment I saw the first bed bugs (ew ew ew ew ew! I'll never sleep through the night again!!), I jumped into high gear and got done what needed to get done at a remarkable pace.  I'm not saying I didn't call my parents bawling my eyes out, or collapse in the middle of the kitchen floor at midnight, when I'd been cleaning for 18 hours straight, and still couldn't clear a path down the hallway, but I just kept going.

Secondly, I'm able to keep a certain sense of humour through difficult times. I'd be standing in a sea of black plastic bags and still be able to think: "I should take a picture, because while I may not laugh now, the day will come when I'll be able to".  Some of my favourite lines in this post were even crafted while switching loads of laundry.

Thirdly, I'm able to recognize when I need a break.  After trying to stay in the apartment the first night after the discovery, and getting only about 90 minutes of sleep, I made hotel reservations.  While bedbugs can't really do any harm physically, (bites and hives are one and the same to me, I can live through both), I knew if I wanted to get through this with any dignity, I needed to take some "Cara" time.  Two days later when we checked out (after realizing my car battery was dead, and Scott's car had a flat tire - please tell me that covers our "bad things come in three"), I was definitely more ready to face whatever awaited us back at the apartment.

*Bed bugs can happen to anyone!  Sure, they like cluttered places since there are more hiding spots.  However, we are rather clean people, so don't think we're slovenly pigs. 



  1. Oh my holy heavens. I had a feeling with all the washing that it might be bed bugs...but I was hoping I was wrong.

    I am SO sorry! Your neighbors should pay for your expenses! They sound rotten.

    I'm so glad that there are still things you can post about while waiting for this ordeal to be over. I love your three fabulous things! I wish I knew you in real life! Well...okay this is real life, but you know what I mean. I hope.

  2. I am not sure I've ever heard of a case of bedbugs down here, but I'm sure they are coming for us, too. I'm so sorry you are going through this. <3

  3. I'm sorry to hear about the 'bugs. It can happen to anyone, especially spreading from one place to another. I hope this is cleared up as quickly as possible for you.

  4. I'm so sorry to hear about the bed bugs. They absolutely terrify me to the extreme. Good luck cleaning, and with everything else.

  5. I don't love that you have to deal with bed bugs, but I LOVE your positives about yourself. They are really thoughtful AND thought-provoking for me (I started thinking "am I ok in a crisis?") and we even have one in common. :)

  6. Oh my gosh, Cara, you poor guys! That is just awful to go through. So good to hear you sounding so positive (even if you're working "fake it till you feel it", which I would be!).

    I'll still be reading. :)

  7. Argh, I'm soooooooo sorry to hear about the bed bugs!!! You poor, poor thing. I got bed bugs when I went backpacking across Europe, but thankfully a flight over the Atlantic killed everything in my backpack. I know how you feel - the ick factor. Get your gross neighbours evicted and then hire a good exterminator. It's the only way to know they're really gone, unfortunately. Good luck!!

  8. I found your blog from Fabulous in February. I must say bed bugs are my worst fear when it comes to bugs. It sounds like you actually handled it as well as one could.

  9. Brutal brutal... That's what I thought. They really can happen to anyone and it sucks! One night I had itchy legs (as I always do in the winter) but someone got it in my head that I had bed bugs. I tore apart my bed and checked every nook and cranny, not sleeping a wink. I never found anything so I think that it was just a semi-conscious state and dry skin!
    Take care of you!

  10. Oh My, Oh My! This is worst than I thought this is you deciding that you needed to declutter and organize everything! I am so sorry to hear that. I am so proud of you though as if it was me, I'd just be that one option - bawling my eyes out over and over!

    Hope this all get sorted out! Btw, I got some good news! Stay tuned!



  11. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this - it sounds like you are handling it infinitely better than I would have - I think I would have had a tearful meltdown, followed by my hiring someone to take care of the whole thing while my cat and I head to my parents' place in the suburbs.

  12. Wow... I'm so sorry!! Ugh... yuck... I'm truly sorry!!! :( Good luck with the recovery process... um... and I love your positives in the face of this adversity! :)


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