Credit where credit is due

This post is dedicated to my hard-working husband, my partner in decluttering, care taking and the maintenance of sane living spaces.

From May to October, our region is subject to wildfires.

So each spring, homeowners are required to clear from around our homes a thirty-foot radius of all yard debris: pine needles and cones, fallen branches, and of late all the flotsam and jetsam left by the felling and chain sawing of hundreds of drought-killed trees in our village alone.  At first the debris is damp, but by June any mess that remains is parched tinder itching to be ignited by the smallest spark.

They start inspections in May giving out informative warnings. In the first week of July they begin their second rounds to issue citations to homeowners who have not complied.

So, from the last week of May through the third week of June, five mornings a week, before the heat of the day set in my husband hauled three wheelbarrows of debris a day up a sixty degree incline to the roadside.  During the last week of June he trimmed back branches and took out two saplings.

My photo does not do justice to his trophies: the two impressive heaps he amassed on our parking pad.  Please!   Admire them anyway…

But the best part….

I arrived home the other day to find our parking pad swept clean as a whistle.  Our Man With a Truck had come and my husband watched as his piles required TWO trips to be hauled away.

Even better than knowing he is my hero, is being able to be his own hero.

Our Library

You know.
Poor county full of folks on fixed incomes.
Rising infrastructure expenses, loss of manufacturing gigs, drug problems, unfunded mandates…
Budget priorities.

So our county board of supervisors is threatening to close the nearest branch of the public library.
Our frequently used community gathering spot (but the rent is too high, no big bucks donors around, just the seniors and kids attached to nearly absentee hard-working far-commuting families.)

And…
…the American Declutterer would deeply miss the weekend long annual local branch library fund raising rummage sale — where an army of those seniors donate hours of time — which, for the past two years, has accepted car loads of my still-useful discardables.  I’ve got loads more…

I’m not sure how to pitch this particular plea to the board of supervisors.
How would, “Please don’t close down my favorite recycling station,” fly?

Anyway.
That box of books deemed unacceptable for resale by the used bookstore? Remember those?  Sitting alternately in one car or the other?
I finally took it down to the main branch of the library last week while I was down in the city.
I didn’t make it out of the parking lot before a summer volunteer rushed up to grab the box from my hands.
She loved having a purpose. (I volunteered, summers, at the Brooklyn Museum when I was her age.)
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Five Things

The (roughly) Memorial Day Volunteer Fire Department Benefit Rummage Sale approaches and the slowly growing stash of culled kitchen equipment and my superfluous desk chair were all ready to go.

A couple of weeks before, faced with the realization I’d developed active distaste for an old research  topic, I purged a section of my office bookshelf and found that four of the relevant background books were acceptable for Amazon’s trade-in program!  Off they went.

This success fired me up to amass a bagful of I’ll-never-read-these-agains with which I planned to tempt the interest of our local used book shop.  My husband found himself caught up in the wave and added an old c.d. of his own to the stash!  Our book shop accepted more than two thirds of the books and his c.d. for credit…

(So it was that he too experienced the sweetness of learning that his discard is a treasure to eyes in the wider world!)

It was in the aftermath of these literary successes that I commanded gaily, “Now you must find Five Things of your own to add to this Fire Department Sale pile!”

He promptly delved into a closet and produced two superfluous functioning desk lamps, three functioning fans, a small space heater and something we think might be an air purifier.  I asked to keep the I-hope-it’s-an-air-purifier.  He decided to keep the smallest fan.

But there they were: his Five Things we’ll never think about again.

We added to the pile the set of introductory math books the bookstore hadn’t wanted and carted it all to the Firefighters’ Auxiliary this morning.

A Time to Fast

I was taught that the Lenten season before Easter is fasting time: fasting from meat and dairy foods, quieting emotional responses, working at simple tasks; and a time to give more thanks to God and more gifts to charity.

These practices are to lead us to sanctification, the nurturing in ourselves, by God, of humility before God.

The thing is that humility is like a shadow or a dream.  Humility comes closest exactly when we don’t grasp after it.  These fasting rituals serve to distract us from focus on the wrong things, from looking too hard for what we cannot see, to keep us from be deluded about our own holiness.

At sixty-five years of age, I don’t tolerate fifty days of carbo-loaded vegan fasting so I search for other disciplines to adopt.  This systematic collecting of things to give away is right up my alley.  The trick of it will be to find good and useful things to send on as blessings rather than simply to purge my home of broken things and trash — although that too has its benefits!

I already have a collection of duplicate bakeware earmarked for the next rummage sale, cleared out of a too-full cupboard last week.  Today I sent a book off to a distant friend…  Although that book had been intended as a gift, I can see that it may be time to cull my books.  Perhaps I can find forty books, good books, books that blessed me and now may bless others, to take to Yesterday’s Books, or the public library.

That may be my Lenten discipline.

Decluttered Time

I’m a mathematician by trade and I love patterns.  As a kid I could spend an hour organizing a box of dominoes into satisfyingly ordered arrays.  I loved connect-the-dots puzzles, find the hidden objects puzzles, tracing out the maze puzzles…

I enjoyed crossword puzzles for years until my stalled cultural literacy stopped my understanding half the clues.  Then I discovered Sudoku.

I moved online and began to seek out the videos that explained Candy Crush Saga goals and strategies…

But when I discovered Bejewelled Blitz it was all over.

I loved playing the changing boards again and again as many times as I wanted.  I loved the explosions, the bonuses, the accumulation of coins to spend on options for bigger explosions.  The first time I achieved a “blazing” level I was thrilled.  I developed a feel for how to keep track of more of the board at once and to work out a bit of strategy.

Best of all, unlike with any of the other games, while playing, I could unwind parts of my mind and tap into creative mental space and work out strategies to apply to other goals.

But I had to face it.  The ideas weaving themselves in imagination weren’t coming to fruition.  Thinking about my plans and goals had become the background for the pursuit of more bonuses, more coins or higher levels.  The relaxation provided by the game was no longer in service to honing my plans.

So I woke up and just said no.  I stopped playing and deleted the apps from my devices.  And I found….

Decluttered time!   Time for Decluttering…

I cleaned up two of my email accounts.
I planned and started a new blog.
I thought through a work situation, wrote up my thoughts and sent them to the appropriate recipient.
I caught up on my grading.
I cleared a teetering mess of neglected papers and was rewarded by finding a  forgotten bill in time to pay it before the penalty date had passed.
I baked a cake and sailed through a mountain of laundry.
I overheated my shredder, filled the recycle box and…

I wrote a letter to my father.

Decluttering: The Penultimate Step

A couple of days ago my husband and I visited a friend’s used bookstore.  Our fellow-boomer will retire in a few months; he’s marked down his inventory; it was no surprise we brought home books.

Books.

My own book collection reflects where my soul, my mind — rational intellect and emotional feelings, is at and where I think it wants to go.

A long time ago I would expand my bookshelves whenever my collection outgrew available space.  A less long time ago, having decided to implement more realistic constraints, I schooled myself to give away parts of my collection whenever I ran out of shelving.

I offered books to kids, to friends, to friends’ kids, to students, to the public library — when they would take them, to Goodwill; offered them for trade-in options at used book stores, to Amazon for credit; and more than once I just left a box by my office door:  Free Kittens (may God help them find good homes.)

During my longest cross country move, I ruthlessly and needfully culled two thirds of my books.  Even so, I moved sixteen boxes full of them.

I came to understand Decluttering as the last stage of grieving: acceptance of the loss of friends and the passing of relatives, or acceptance that an old dream had lost its fire, that old passions had given way to new infatuation.  I’ve learned to let go peacefully and with gratitude tools that supported me in the pursuit of goals, some I’ve now attained, or some I’ve set aside.

And there is no decluttering that so clearly demonstrates my acceptance of loss and change as the releasing of parts of my library!

But sometimes, when you let something go, it comes back to you.

Yesterday I brought home new copies of two books I’d let go years and years before.