I cleared that giant shelf. It’s mine.

Would you just LOOK at this room! I’m standing in the rear corner looking diagonally toward the door and would you just LOOK at that acreage of clear, freshly vacuumed carpet!  After eight days of shoving stuff into boxes, shoving boxes out of sight into storage, and running the trash to the dump, this room finally spells (to misquote an old ad) POSSIBILITIES.

On the left side of the photo is the giant media shelf I cleared down to the bare shelves for the first time in….  Ever.  It was so stuffed and covered with jumbles buried behind other jumbles when my then-new husband moved me into our California home that I couldn’t actually see it.

Here it was a week ago, after I’d finally gotten almost everything out from in front of it and about half the stuff off it.  A lot of what you can see are piles of old calendars, ancient old school books, old worksheet duplicates and an entire shelf of crumbling piano music.  My husband’s deceased first wife was a school teacher and an accomplished pianist.

At this stage the shelf is a temporary staging area for, on the bottom right, the unsorted piano music; on the lowest two left, the useless school texts; on the wide shelf, the books my husband wanted to keep; and on the top, about seven bottles of fuel for a propane camp stove, two bottles of candle lamp oil and a box of household wax all of which had been buried for decades…

 Then we took all the textbooks to the dump.  I moved my husband’s keepsake books to other shelving.  The fuels got properly stores and I boxed up and hid the music in storage.

At this point I declared, “I cleared it!  I claim it.”

Do you think I’ve got enough onto the shelves to stake my initial claim?


Dispersal Dramas

We drove friends and a few dozen books for a birthday celebration trip to Modesto, CA.

As we have done before, we offered the books for credit at Yesterday’s Books and were rewarded by several of them being taken in exchange for a $48 store voucher.

So each of us got to pick out a new book we wanted.

For our household the net gains were: twenty books gone from the house, welcomed birthday presents for our friends, fun for all and $15 remaining on our credit account.

And something new happened this time. Five of the books returned to us bore a note, “Try again.”

What’s this?


Yesterday’s Books knows it can sell them but has too many copies on hand just now.  Ahhhhh yes.  We’ll shoulder the warehousing.   We’ll bring them back the next time we’re out Modesto way.

The featured picture is of the left over books I donated to the public library this afternoon.


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.)

…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?

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.)

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.

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.


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.


Broaching Deep Storage …..

It’s not so easy to write about decluttering when I’m in the middle of doing it.

Earlier this month I spent a couple of weeks away from home helping a friend prepare to put her farm on the market by sorting through a garage full of stored stuff left behind by her grown children and departed husband and in-laws.  It was hard, concentrated work, a different sort of decluttering because none of the stuff was in any way mine.  My sorting decisions had to be definitive but very conservative.  My accomplishment was to have sorted the contents of that garage into piles: Donate, Recycle, Offer to friends, Requires Family Decision.  She rented a dumpster for outright trash…

I arrived home exhausted just three days before our village fire department’s rummage sale fund-raiser.  The American Declutterer’s decree, Opportunities to Declutter Must Never be Passed Over, held.  My husband found three boxes of stuff and two old chairs to donate to this community effort.

And with that, the third round of my decluttering of our home began.

This third round is no longer about working to free up the living spaces or to make room for scheduled furniture deliveries.  By now our living spaces are filled only with things we actually love and use.  This time my objective is to tackle the three deep storage areas which are all stuffed full of untended history.

Today I ventured down to the most accessible of these areas and unearthed five substantial cartons of books of all sorts — some from college course taken fifty years ago; another box of old clothes; a box containing eight large spindles of an unfamiliar kind of yarn in various shades of yellow; a jumble of bent, broken, tarnished, dirty and cracked kitchen implements and Tupperware which spilled all over the place when its box disintegrated; and a box neatly labelled “bubble paper.”  It did indeed contain nothing but used bubble wrap.

Today’s rhetorical question is WHY on God’s green earth do people fill Deep Storage with stuff that time will ruin, or that was ruined in the first place, or that can serve no earthly purpose while sitting in a dark place for decades?  I know.  I know.  It was once precious.  Someday it might be needed.  And face it.  Very few people have compassion on the somebody who is going to have to deal with that mountain after they are gone.