In this garage whodunit, was clutter to blame for squirrel tragedy?

No matter what anybody says, I’m not admitting any responsibility for what happened to that squirrel. This is just an example of how baseless rumors get started.

This particular squirrel is the bronze nutcracker that belonged to my grandmother. It lasted more than 100 hundred years without mishap until destruction overtook it in my garage this holiday season.

There are some who seem to think I had a hand in the tragedy, but I was heartbroken when I pulled the squirrel from the plastic bag where it was hibernating and saw that it had somehow been broken into three large pieces.

Naturally, like any good mother, I set out to assess blame. I posted a notice on Facebook immediately. “OK guys,” I wrote, in a friendly and nonjudgmental way, “Who did it? Who broke Great Grandmother’s squirrel? I know it was one of you!”

No one answered. No one even said, “Not me.” I found that highly suspicious.

Then, at Christmas dinner, I was conducting a sort of a pleasant, in-depth interrogation, when Number One Son said, “Mom, don’t you remember? You were looking for Christmas decorations and you fell over that whole pile of junk — um — ‘valuable belongings’ in the garage, and that white bag was on the bottom. You were having trouble finding things because there was so much junk — um — ‘valuable belongings’ — all over the floor in the garage.”

He couldn’t be saying that I was the one who murdered the beloved Christmas character, could he? Could be.

He might have just a teeny tiny point, though.

It is true that I’ve added a lot of boxes and bundles to that limited space in the last year, and they do sometimes complicate maneuvering. Only last night, I was carrying out the recycling, and noted that a large portfolio — which I set down for a moment, a scant six months ago — was lying across my path.

“Someone could trip and fall on that.” I said to myself and promptly illustrated the point by tripping and falling on that. Luckily I landed on the most substantially padded part of my body, but you see the challenge.

It is true that it’s become much harder to get the car all the way into the garage. Once it is in, I can simply get out by curling snake-like around the door and then extracting myself, inch by inch by sliding on my bottom from the interior of the car. It’s no trouble, really. I look upon it as a form of aerobic exercise.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, internationally recognized lifestyle management expert Dr. Pamela Peeke described garages like mine as a “solid cube of clutter.” Peeke also suggested that not only is a cluttered living area hazardous, but it could even cause weight gain, maybe as much as 50 pounds a year!

“When you can’t find things, you’re more sedentary. How are you going to shoot a couple of hoops with your son if you can’t even find the basketball?” she asked.

I don’t know. I haven’t seen my basketball or my son in ages.

Peeke also reminded that if you can’t find your running shoes you won’t go running, so everything should be in place where you can easily and safely locate it.

It’s hard to know where to start. In that big box by the far wall is my Aunt Vi’s professional wrestling championship belt with the engraved brass buckle 10 inches high. It’s accompanied by a poster showing Vi when she was wrestling on TV in the ’50s. “Girls! Girls! Girls!” says the three-inch letters across the top. The text describes my aunt as weighing 122 pounds, the “fastest and strongest little lady in wrestling.”

In my book, Aunt Vi was a courageous groundbreaker and a source of inspiration. I couldn’t possibly throw away those souvenirs.

I taped Grandma’s squirrel together with brown duct tape. It’s certainly not as good as new, but neither am I. The squirrel has a new cozy storage nest in the guest bedroom.

And my New Year’s resolution is to take on the garage. I bought a brand-new box cutter, and those boxes are going in the recycling bin tonight. Or tomorrow. I’m sure it’s not too late. I haven’t gained any weight yet.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com.