Setting limits…

Dear Wife of my husband’s first wife’s brother,

Your erstwhile brother-in-law brought his new bride, me, to his home two years ago.

Since then, slowly but surely I have been respectfully emptying it of your deceased sister-in-law’s personal and professional effects, releasing them to friends and in venues where she is remembered and loved as the beautiful woman and skilled teacher she was.  I finally finished this dispersal a few months ago.

Finished, that is, except for a substantial stash of items and furniture.  These are mementoes from my husband’s deceased wife and her sister who predeceased her, as well as gleanings from their deceased antique dealer mother.

My husband feels these all rightfully belong to you and your husband.  At this point in time these items fill our storage areas; space we want to put to other uses than warehousing.

Several times these past couple of years my husband has asked when you folks plan to come to collect these items.  Your few answers signal to me that perhaps you folks aren’t particularly interested in reclaiming any of it.  I understand.  Lives move on and priorities change.  But, if you do want any of it we need to make a firm plan for you to come get it, otherwise…

We plan to disperse these things at two community rummage sale fundraisers before the end of the coming year.  The first benefits our public library while the second benefits our volunteer fire department.  Whatever remains that we cannot disperse through those events will be donated to area charities.

Please be sure to let your husband know of our plans to disperse the remainder of this legacy….

It’s a spiritual journey…

I had planned this day at the heart of the luxurious midsummer 4th of July long weekend to be my one completely unscheduled day.  A day to do nothing at all “by the clock” while my mind ran free to walk, to write, to read.

Lo and behold, at eight thirty this morning, my husband precipitously invited a couple I don’t know well (the wife is accustomed to having a housekeeper) to come over for a noon visit.  The house hasn’t been vacuumed since May, the bathroom …, yesterday my cat deposited hairballs on the comforter, and there are absolutely no snacks or drinks in the cupboard.

The key to serenity, I am convinced, is to eschew tantrums through a process of mental decluttering.  After a short rant among trusted friends…

… I threw out any notion that preparatory house cleaning or worries about entertaining preparations are in any way, shape, or form my responsibility.

… and I determined to salvage as much good stuff as possible.

So, while this post isn’t the post that’s been deliciously marinating in the back of my mind in anticipation of today’s unfettered writing time, it is a post that has something to say and I’ve enjoyed the work of letting it say what it wants to.

And my husband has vacuumed the living room, mopped the kitchen floor and cleaned the bathroom while I have been writing it.  (I’d already thrown the comforter in the laundry.)

The excuse for this incursion is that the new bride is bringing us some soup she wants us to believe that she promised us.  I’ll respond by serving that up for a light lunch they dare not refuse…

If I decide to go that route.

 

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.

Detachment with Love

This post is not about clearing out a basement or sifting through a closet.  Rather it is about clearing rubbish out of my thinking — about beginning to exercise the Lost Art of Making Sense.

Since November 9, 2016 dawned cementing the news that a racist, a mocker of the disabled, a robber of workmen, an adulterer, a mocker of science, a homophobe, an ignorant bloviator, in short Donald Trump, had been elevated to the presidency by an electorate who was willing to ignore all those qualities and run the country off a cliff…

Many commentators have made it quite clear that I am supposed to immerse myself in guilt for having failed to quell the fears, to heal the pain, to solve the problems of my fellow men (intentionally: “men”) who chose to release their festering pus on election day and loose infectious hatred upon themselves and everyone else.

This doesn’t jive.

I am responsible for feeding, clothing, and sheltering myself and those weaker than I am.  I am responsible for turning my other cheek and for not burning down the homes and villages of people who steal from me and lie about me.  I am responsible for loving the Lord my God and my neighbor as myself — and for not killing them, for not sleeping with their husbands (or wives), for not stealing from them or lying about them, and finally, even for not wishing I had what they have….

But I am not responsible for understanding, or accepting their choice anymore than I have ever expected them to understand how much I detest their choice, or arrive at mine.  Those who expect and demand my magnanimity don’t ever mention that they might try to understand my point of view either.

The decluttering here is to shed the life-long, knee-jerk inclination to bang my head against a brick wall trying to make myself understood and to replace it with a fierce determination — perhaps even stronger than theirs — to walk toward my own dignity — a dignity which in no way lessens their safety or security either.  Come with me if you will.

From those who won’t, I detach.  With love.

Don’t Waste the Dump Vouchers!

We get two free trips to the dump each year.  Our 2016 vouchers have been sitting in the glove compartment while un-reusable un-recyclables wait patiently for their turn to leave the house.  Although we’ve hauled out bags of tradable books and some clothing to donate fairly recently, we haven’t dealt with the trash.  Releasing and recycling things feels light and happy but a shadow of failure clouds the decision to consign anything to the dump

A couple of posts ago I wondered, “Whither next?” as I marked the end of having dispersed the greatest part of  the sea of materials left behind by my husband’s first wife.  It turns out that both my husband and I have ideas about what to do with the storage space we’ve begun to clear out.  The satisfaction in having a plan for the space eases any sadness about heading to the dump.

And it’s already November!  We must not waste this year’s dump vouchers!

But I don’t have the final say over what can be dumped or recycled, or what must be saved. My husband, the direct inheritor of this house full of stuff, must make all the final decisions.  Until today it’s usually been I who have done the sifting and sorting and suggesting while he comes in at the end to edit or ratify my decisions.

Today was different!  Today we sat together while he sifted and sorted then I stowed and stashed.  Together, we amassed a dump load;  together we selected out a boxful of rummage sale candidates; together we began to assemble a wall full of boxes intended for delivery to his deceased wife’s relatives.

The picture is of a quilt we found at the bottom of a box of forty years stored curtains. It might have belonged to my husband’s mother.  Of COURSE we are keeping it!

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.

Daily Prompt: Value

via Daily Prompt: Value

I thought I would try the “Daily Prompt” today.  Mostly because “Value” fit the snippets about which I had been planning to blog anyway….

Although we’re not emptying the house of clutter at anywhere near the rate we had been, every now and then we can log a few more instances of trash-to-treasure (or maybe hidden horde-to-shared treasure.)

We took a boxful of old bubble wrap and a bagful of styrofoam peanuts, that were stuffed into our deep storage who-knows-how-long-ago, back before I married my husband, back when the household practiced a Save Everything It Will Eventually Be Useful philosophy, down to Pac’n’Copy.  Open space and freedom of movement are the valuable commodity for us these days.  But for Pac’n’Copy free packing material is of value.

The sweetest tale of late was my discovery of a small box of keepsakes from my husband’s grandmother, also stuffed into deep storage after she died about thirty years ago.  How tender to hold an ancient baby shoe, a commemorative pin, a gilt heart-shaped necklace…

We have no children ourselves so we dispatched them to my husband’s niece who was delighted to receive mementoes of the family’s legacy.

When we took the box for Pac’n’Copy to mail for us they asked about insurance.  “How can you place a value on a package of irreplaceable keepsakes?” we asked ourselves.  And decided to forego the insurance.