Once I got past the sadness of becoming an empty nester, I realized there was a gift in having both of my kids off at college.

I get a clean house.

Not just a clean house, but a neat one.  Super neat and organized without a spec of dirt or a crumb to be found. No heaps of dirty clothes on the floors. No half empty cans of soda on the nightstands.  No piles of crumpled school papers in the corners of the bedrooms.

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It was the perfect scenario…  The only thing that was missing were the clean rooms.

When they packed up they both left a bedroom tornado in their wakes. Each room looked like a cross between a demolition at a composition notebook company mixed with an explosion at a Frito-Lay factory.  This was not a job for the faint of heart.  My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to go through 18 years of kid junk that had been left behind and decide what should get tossed, what should get put away, and what should be put in a hermetically sealed container and sent to the CDC in Atlanta for further testing.

I decided to accept the mission, if only to make sure that there was nothing formerly alive in there, nothing still alive, and nothing alien.

My first order of business was to pick up some gloves, goggles, and a hazmat suit.  I would also need some heavy duty trash bags and maybe some help… quite possibly the kind of professional team that comes in and cleans up after a murder.

Next I called the kids and got their permission.  I didn’t want to be THAT mom that ends up throwing away a broken fast food toy that had not seen the light of day for thirteen years but for some reason was kept as a treasured memento. Then I called my husband and told him that if I went missing for more than 24 hours he should call NASA and have them search the kids’ rooms in case I inadvertently entered a black hole that was hidden under the piles in the corner of the rooms.  Finally I called my attorney and made sure my Will was in order.

At last it was time to do the actual cleaning. 

“Okay, Monty," I said to the dog, “It’s just you and me.  We’re going in!”

He turned and walked away.  Coward.

I donned my goggles and hazmat suit and entered the first room. In a flurry I stripped the bed, turned over the mattress and yanked the bed away from the wall, then held my breath in case anything scurried out.  I panicked as I caught a flash of movement in the corner but realized it was just a dust bunny. I was safe for the moment.

Then I pulled out the trash bag and started dumping – empty snack bags, half consumed soda cans, and scary former food items. I filled one whole bag and started another.  Broken flip flops, torn t-shirts, holey short shorts.  By the time I got to the desk drawers I was on my third bag.  I gasped.  Here, at last, was what Indiana Jones had been looking for in the Temple of Doom.  Artifacts from the past millennium, or at least the past ten years – old busted carnival toys, congealed goop, and the greatest of all garbage, petrified Cheetos.  I had hit the mother load.

Three hours later I hauled five bags of garbage out to the cans and then went back in for one last inspection.  In the corner of one of the rooms I noticed one errant piece of paper.  But it wasn’t just any piece of paper. It was a crumpled up five dollar bill.  Without a second thought I pocketed the cash.

Heck, even the murder cleanup crew gets paid.