Last weekend we discovered a serious moth infestation in our home that resulted in us disposing of 22 trash bags of our belongings. It was a nightmare that turned into one of the best things that ever happened to us.
Over the past month I kept having this feeling that something was “off” with our home. That we needed to deep clean our apartment or that something was in the house that shouldn’t be. With that urge I called for a spring cleaning time. Top to bottom cleaning, dusting, reorganizing. But even after that nice, hard cleaning, something still felt off. The next week I kept waking up in the middle of the night feeling panicked, but I didn't know why. A few days later someone reminded me of their moth problem in their home they once had. And something about this "clicked." I had no idea why. I didn’t see any moths in our home and I’ve never experienced a moth problem, so why would that resonate with me? But it did. And of course, I pushed it aside and didn’t check.
Oh but how it didn’t let me go. I kept feeling we needed to check. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to face that reality, whether or not it was or was not real. So I didn’t. Easy. If you don’t look for something, you won’t find it, right? A few days went by and in my best efforts, I ignored the situation completely. Last Thursday morning my friend Jan Schlegel gave me a print (above) of one of his new salt prints, and of course, it was of a moth. But of course, that "sign" did nothing for me. I wouldn’t check. Well, Thursday night, right before I went to bed, I saw a small little moth fly by my head :: gasp:: Suddenly my fears were coming true. But, of course, guess what, I ignored it, convinced myself it was a pretty butterfly, then went to bed. The next morning I was abruptly waken up at the crack of dawn with the words running through my head “It’s time to check.” "gooooodness. OK!" I thought.
For whatever reason, this day I felt brave enough to look. I opened up my chest and began to look through my clothes. But I was not even sure what I was looking for. The clothes on top looked fine, so I just about convinced myself I didn’t need to look any further when in the corner of my eye, I saw something move. :eeeekkkk:: I went to the bottom of my chest and there, one by one, my sweaters were covered in… brace your self people… LARVAE.
Feel free to throw up a little bit now… I sure did.
Quick understanding of how moths work for all those nerds out there like me.
They come in your home: either by flying in from outside, or through you bringing something foreign into your home that already had their eggs in it. We’re pretty good at checking things, so our assumption is one flew in (common in this area.) They then lay eggs. Adult female moths can lay 100-400 eggs and these eggs are tiny, typically 0.5mm in length. The eggs hatch from between 4 and 10 days depending on temperature and humidity. The eggs hatch as clothes moth larvae – this is the destructive stage. Clothes moth larvae can stay at this stage for up to 30 months (2 ½ years!) happily eating your clothing whilst waiting for the right conditions to turn into adult moths. Luckily, we caught our eggs right as they hatched.
Opening up my chest and finding these larva felt like opening pandora’s box. Once you start looking, you can’t stop. People don’t let anyone every tell you that moths are only attracted to wool. They aren’t. Wool is like ice-cream for them: it’s their favorite dessert, but these suckers are beasts. When hungry, they will eat ANY textile. And by any textile, I mean anything. In the next 3 days, our home was flipped upside down. The larva was on every single piece of cloth: stored, or daily used. It was on our pillows, sheets, curtains, mattresses, furniture, guitar cases, bags, camera equipment, laundry baskets: they invaded like the damn Romans.
More nerd stuff:
The process of solving this problem is this. If something can be washed in the washing machine it must be washed at nothing less then 60 °C, then thrown in the dryer. Thankful this is how we managed to save some things made of cotton. If something can’t be washed (because of material or size) it must be baked or frozen. If it’s baked, it must be baked over 100 °C for at least one hour. This was effective for things like socks and some sweaters… but that process lasted only until I put my favorite Anthropologie sweater in the oven, without realizing there was some polyester in it, and it freaking caught on fire and burnt up…. wow talk about fireworks people (super happy Uli was NOT in the house at this point). The last process is to freeze the larva out. You must put the items in your freezer for at least 72 hours. Which is easy if you have a big freezer, but if you’re like us with a tiny European size one that barely fits a Turkey, good-luck-chuck. You’ll be freezing for months.
BTW: anyone got a freezer we can borrow?
While taking care of your items being infested you also need to deep clean your home to kill all eggs and nests. Our house from ceiling to floor, crack, corner and crevice was then cleaned. First vacuumed. Then washed with apple cider vinegar. Then soap. Then lavender oils. And then we hung up moth traps and lavender bags everywhere: smells like a spring Febreze commercial in here now.
Ok, I know, no one cares about how we dealt with this, so let me get to the point….why this terrible, horrible, traumatic experience was actually one of the best things that could have happened to me in my life right now is because It taught me how to decide what to and to not keep in my life. With every article you pick up you have to decide: Is this too far gone that I have to toss it? Is it still worth salvaging, and if so, can I salvage it and is it worth it?
At the beginning, I couldn’t let go of a lot of things. We live off of support. Which means that the majority of the things in our house have either been given to us, or something that took us quit some time to be able to buy ourselves. So when someone gifts you a $200 sweater from J. Crew or a $400 Anthroplogie dress, you don’t give those things up easily. Even something as small as dishtowels and sheets isn’t easy because you know you can’t just go out and replace everything in your house all at once. You know this will take a very, very long time to replace. Also, things have a lot of memorial value. My pillows I’ve gotten from all around the world, dresses I played special shows in, textiles from India or trinkets from Ethiopia. They are memories. They are part of my story. And trying to decided to let them go was just painful. Needless to say, at the beginning, the process was so hard.
But as we continued, it got easier because I had to take emotions out of it. This was necessary because I am super sentimental. If my sister is reading this now she’s probably saying “ that’s an understatement.” I still have my teddy bear from my childhood in my room and I rarely ever give away anything someone has gifted me. Making decisions to toss things, absolutely had to be unemotional or I’d end up living in a moth infested home the rest of my life never letting anything go. Truth. But that’s me with everything, not just physical things: I want to fight and keep everything. I’m an emotional hoarder. Every thing, dream, vision, calling, person and relationship I want to fight for. Being an idealist I’m convinced with the right amount of time and effort, anything can be fixed. And that was exactly my problem right there in my life: thinking I could fix and keep anything.
During this time I started reflecting on my life and the areas in which, like checking for moths, I’ve neglected to look and see if there was something there that was “infested.” It’s been quite a journey these past years and through a lot of changes and challenges it’s clear that a lot of thing, relationships, visions and dreams needed to be more finely assessed. But for so long, I was too scared. I didn’t want to “open the chest” in fear of what I’d find. When you know there is something wrong and off in your life, you need to look deeper into the things that might be tearing away at it. The things that are infesting your life and causing their to be so much damage that it creates holes. But for so long, I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to confront things, people, ideas or myself. I didn’t want to open that chest because I didn’t want to find the thing I feared the most: a problem too big I couldn’t fix.
I am a firm believer in fighting. We were not created to let things idly slip by us. But there comes a time in your life where you have to know when to stop fight. When to know something is so far gone that it no longer is able to be fixed. And when have reached your capacity.
Sunday night we finished. 22 bags of our favorite clothes, household items and art equipment were tossed in the trash and out forever. We went to bed that night and as I laid my head down I felt assured that everything was cleaned, out and over. But of course, at 3am I woke back up anxious. Something still was not checked. Something still was wrong. But where? I checked every single corner. Then I remembered that even though I checked the living room rug- I never checked underneath the rug. I got up and ran into the living room, turned over the rug, and there, underneath, it was covered (always check underneath!) Let me give a quick side story to this rug.
When Uli and I were first married decorating our home we found a beautiful rug that I fell in love with. But it was 500€. So that was never going to happen. But still, I loved it so much. So we prayed for it. It was a simple pray “Lord, please provide us with this rug.” Two weeks later I was at a second hand store with a friend and in the corner of my eye I saw THE rug. I ran over and jumped on it like a cheetah on a gazelle. There it was, the rug I prayed for in mint condition. We rolled it up, went to the front to ask how much it would be. I was nervous it would still be so much. The man barely looked at the item we had rolled up in our arms and without thinking said “just give me 5€”. We literally threw 5€ at him and ran out the door before he could change his mind. (Most likely this man knew exactly what we had, but we like to think we just got away with murder.) That rug is my favorite. It was a constant reminder all these years that the Lord not only hears our prayers but He provides. And He provides for things as simple and sweet as rugs.
So here I was looking at my beautiful rug, 7 years later, covered in larva. And at this point, after 3 days of holding it together, I began to cry. No. Sob. I knew I had to give it away. I’d been eying a new rug, also very expensive for months, but (still) we couldn't afford it and still I was so attached to my current rug. I couldn’t dare let it go. But I was forced to let go because there was nothing I could do to salvage this rug.I cried and thought "how could something I love so much to be infested like this? Something that was so good for me be taken away from me?” And then I heard something I’ll never forget. "Give this away while you still love it. While it is still something that when you think about it, it brings you joy and love. Give it away while it’s still good. Before it becomes something when you look at it, you hate. Before it’s something that will be destroyed and will end up destroying all things around it and inevitably become something you no longer want. Give it to away while it’s memory is still sweet like honey and not sour.”
At this moment I realized that all things in life are seasonal. All relationships, jobs, visions, everything, has a beginning and an end. And not everything needs to end when they are so far gone and destroyed that you have to let it go because you hate it. Some times we need to be willing to let things go, before this happens. While they are still sweet as honey and not sour in our mouths. So that when you think about them in the future, you will remember the good they brought you not the bad. Imagine you could start doing this with things in your life all around. It’s difficult to foresee damage and destruction all the time but it’s not impossible. That job, friendship, dream you’re pursuing that you once loved so much and now you see is being infested… Do you know when to keep fighting and when to let go before it destroys everything? Before it destroys you?
I didn’t. I thought everything was worth and capable of fighting for. Someone once told me that “Liz, you never stop fighting. And that’s the thing I worry most about you.” But the past years have taught me over and over again that I have to know when to stop. I have to know what is in my control and what is not. This rug was a metaphor for me for a few things and people in my life currently I needed to decide what to do with. Things and people I love. That are my treasures and huge blessings given to me in my life. But like this rug, there was an infestation. Holes beginning to open and tear and no curable way to salvage it.
There, at 3 am, I started to roll up my beautiful rug. Relationships. Dreams. And in this time I prayed a simple prayer “do not restore these things, give me back new things.” See the hardest thing to understand is that there can not be resurrection with out death. If you want a new job, a new friendship, a new marriage, a new rug, you will have to let the old, infested, broken one die. This doesn’t mean that your new things in the future will necessarily be with someone/something new. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe in some time you’ll have the same job, friend and spouse, but because you let them die now (clearly not physically), they were able to be resurrected and made new. Better. And good. I’m standing in faith for those things too. I’m trusting that in letting go of my “rugs” some will be brought back to life and made new. But I’m now mourning the ones I had. Big time.
As painful as this process was, I am thankful. I learned through this a few things:
-Trust your gut. If you feel something is “off", respond to it. And quickly.
-Even though you don’t want to look closely at things, and face the issues, it doesn’t mean they aren’t real and that they will not have real consequences. Truth does not pause for ignorance.
-Leaving things untouched and unseen for too long will not only be neglected but harmed. Things hidden away, thing back in the darkest corners of our home/ life were infested the worst.
-You really have to know when to salvage and when to toss. And if you’re even capable of salvaging. Your heart, like a freezer is fragile, know it’s capacity. If its too small for that big rug, then let it go before you break your freezer/ heart. So don’t shove things in there that it can’t handle.
-You can’t fix everything/one. So let it die and trust for resurrection in your life and things to be made new.
-Letting go of things is (like our home) a cleansing. But ones you let go, you feel amazing. Our house and lives feel so cleaned out. Disorganized, but cleansed!
Yes. We lost a lot of things. No. We won’t be able to just buy everything back at once. Like in life, when things are taken, destroyed, broken or harmed, they are not easily and quickly replaced. It takes time. And we know that. However, we’ve had a few donations come in already and we've been able to buy back a few things which we’re so thankful for! I’m just going to throw this out there. If anyone would like to contribute to the Mannchen-Moth-Mayhem Fund you can do so here
Be careful guys.... moths in our lives are real. And whether we want to deal with them or not, they will eat their way through everything. SO DEAL WITH IT.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal"