The exterminator provided by our landlord is coming in two days.  This means that we’ve spent the last week in a flurry of activity getting ready for this, and every day it hits us again just how impossible this task is.  Empty all closets / dressers / bookshelves / etc.  Vacuum everything.  Inspect everything.  Heat everything.  Then put everything in plastic bags after you’ve finished sorting / cleaning / heating.  The only way I can think of to describe it is if you had to pack up to move into a highly sensitive area where any microbe you brought along could possibly contaminate things … but then you didn’t actually move anywhere.

I will say that the PackTite machine has become my dearest friend.  I know that whatever I put in there, if I follow the instructions and maintain a temperature of 120 degrees for one hour, is absolutely guaranteed to be free of bedbugs and their eggs.  And that’s not something I could guarantee with a visual inspection or even with vacuuming.  The problem is, there isn’t enough TIME to heat everything we own, because frankly we own a lot of stuff.   And of course, there are things that you aren’t supposed to put into the PackTite because the heat can damage them … like electronic devices, medications, liquids, and food.  I’m guessing this means I should have taken my lipsticks and my eyedrops out of my purse BEFORE I treated it this afternoon.  Oops.  I’m also a little hazy about DVDs and VHS tapes, but that’s a moot point right now because I have so much other stuff to treat.  The clothes, shoes, books, and papers are being heated.  The videos, electronic devices, etc., plus anything we don’t have time to treat with the PackTite heater will have to go through the visual inspection and vacuuming before being packed away.

Anyway, if you do have bedbugs, I cannot recommend a PackTite heater highly enough.  If we’d bought one last year instead of waiting until last month, I think that more of our sanity would still be intact.  The machine is big enough to accomodate lots of large and oddly-shaped items that would be incredibly difficult to inspect and clean otherwise (we’ve used it to treat everything from boxes of file folders to the cat bed containing his blanket and all of his toys).  Some items go through the cycle very quickly, like the last two batches of shoes and purses that got up to 120 degrees in under 30 minutes, so the whole process took about as long as a typical washer/dryer cycle if I was doing laundry (and I could do this from the privacy of my apartment, without the additional agita of competing for washers and dryers with my neighbors in the laundry room).  Some items that are more dense, like pillows, blankets, and books, take several hours to reach 120 degrees, so the whole process takes more time.  Anyway, the PackTite is an expensive purchase (about $300), but using this device will do WONDERS for your peace of mind.  Just don’t leave your eyedrops and lipstick in your purse like I did.

Anyway, sorting through all of my closets and other storage areas is certainly an interesting trip down memory lane.  It’s a nostalgic trip that quickly turns into triage:

  • The diary I got as a present when I was in high school, with the unicorn on the cover and the lock on the side?  Into the PackTite and into one of the plastic bags.
  • My giant bag of wrapping paper and gift bags?  It has to go, and I’ll have to start all over again when this is done.
  • My penny loafers, which I used to wear all the time but stopped wearing when I started wearing softer Aerosoles shoes?  Down the garbage chute.
  • The beautiful dresses that I outgrew several years ago, but which I kept in the back of my closet JUST IN CASE I ever lost enough weight to fit into them again?  Um … oh, dear.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to get rid of all of my dreams just yet.

Now keep in mind that this is going to be the first treatment we’ve had from the building’s exterminators.  It is very unusual for just one treatment to get rid of the problem.  My neighbor, who has only lived in my building for a few months but has already been treated at least FIVE times, is about ready to have a nervous breakdown.

I ran into her on the elevator the other day, and she told me that the day before she had spent eight hours in the hallway with her cat.  When I asked what had happened, she said that her apartment was being treated again, and that her vet’s office wouldn’t board her cat any more.  I was very stunned and, frankly, depressed.  That set my wheels in motion, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend eight hours in a hallway with my cat if they have to treat my apartment again (and my vet did make a point of saying that they “don’t normally board cats,” so I don’t think I’ll be able to impose on them a second time).  Since my cat is FIV-positive, I can’t leave him with any of my friends or neighbors who already have cats.  So you see, my options are limited.  Anyway, I called my boyfriend and worked out some logistics with him (he was a little surprised by my question of, “Honey?  Does your office have a door?”)  So, we worked out that, worst comes to worst, if we have to get the cat out of the apartment for eight hours at a time, my boyfriend is going to have a Take Your Cat to Work Day.

Every time I start to get depressed about how things are going, I have to remember that other people are going through things that are a LOT worse than the stuff I’m dealing with.  I have to factor that into my perspective.  It could be a lot worse.

ETA (4/4/11): Slight change of plans.  Despite all of our best efforts, despite lots of laundry and lots of PackTite treatments, despite us working on this project during all of our free time since we scheduled the appointment last week … we cannot get this apartment exterminator-ready by tomorrow.  It is logistically, physically, IMPOSSIBLE.  For one thing, we need at least another week to get through all of our stuff.  For another thing, we’re going to have to rent a storage unit.  It’s not just like getting ready for the painters to come, where you move everything to the middle of the room.  This is that PLUS get all of your clothes, books, DVDs, etc. out of the places you stored them and then figure out where the hell you’re going to put everything.  My boyfriend is already on the verge of physical and mental collapse.  He took today off from work just to try to tackle this, spent all day cleaning, heating, sorting, and throwing stuff out that we didn’t have room to store (including thousands of dollars worth of clothing), and STILL the amount of progress on the apartment as a whole is minimal.  I think we’re both going to end up using tomorrow as a mental health day.  I mean, after we check out some storage unit prices …

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