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.


Although the once-through has been finished in all the accessible parts of the house, besides the garage there are two deep storage areas full of unsorted stuff.  These are accessible only from outside the house and anything we would want to remove would have to be hauled up the mountain slope of our lot.

So we’ve taken a break from going through stuff to have new gutters and downspouts installed and the exterior of the house painted, all to be completed before the winter rains arrive.  Maybe next month.

But as I was enjoying this break from decluttering….

(Although the hauling off of those broken rusted out gutters and downspouts was a great decluttering; and those piles peeled paint and decades of dirt power washed from the house were another…)

…I was also facing the specter of a dwindling cushion of savings.

It didn’t help that adumbrations of unpredictable yet plausible future demands on our savings flickered on the horizon, an example of decluttering and simplification one does not view with equanimity.

If I were a more cheerful ascetic, perhaps I could have transformed my fears into commitment to follow a (presumed) call to live a more deeply spiritually and less materially focused life.

But I knew I must set about decluttering my fears exactly as I have decluttered cupboards, closets, and crawl spaces: by opening them up to examination, discarding useless broken thinking, then making plans to implement any useful ideas.

In particular, I asked for help from a professional who understands these not-totally-unpredictable future demands, I settled down to “do the math” and estimated worst (and best) case scenario liability, I filed appropriate paperwork, and generally resolved to face it all “one box at a time” one day at a time.  And I learned that we’ll be alright.

Yes!  we’ll be alright.

And in the end, the house is worth more with a good coat of paint and a serviceable gutter system.  And realistically, we shouldn’t have to redo either the painting or gutters ever again for as long as we own the house.

Next summer we’ll declutter our elderly roofing.

Paperclips to Rabbits – part two

Decluttering is usually regarded as an exercise in throwing stuff away …

But my session with the Christmas decor had very much not been simply about tossing stuff out of my house.

What I’ve come to call “Second Round Decluttering,” the decluttering that comes after the obvious trash has been  removed, is All About relocating herds of velveteen rabbits into their next briar patch; of finding good homes for the mementoes of once-living hopes, dreams, and plans.  Sometimes those mementoes were our own.  Sometimes we’re decluttering the memories of a life which has ended.

The day after we released six boxes of no-longer-wanted Christmas decor I was still reeling from my eye-opening encounter with those metaphorically – or maybe magically – alive rabbits; still grateful that we’d found the right and respectful way to honor the woman for whom they’d meant something.

While we were out and about on a round of errands, I excused myself from a session involving a hardware store and stepped into a resale shop next door, a benefit project for a local private school.  The store was well-organized but so stuffed with stuff that it took me ten minutes to discover the piano for sale up against the back wall

I walked the aisles of this store with my new eyes, aware that every piece of merchandise held stories, memories of someone’s love and hopes.

There was a shelf full of clean, well-appointed white teddybears in all sorts of sizes, many accessorized with red and green Christmas wear.  I stopped to marvel at their softly gleaming pelts that begged to be stroked and hugged… when a strange face emerged from among them.

It was a fluffy white bunny, harbinger of Easter and rebirth, its soft curly whiteness oddly juxtaposed against those furry guardians of Christmas!

My heart leapt as I lifted it down and felt its lucky rabbit feet.  “Seventy-five cents,” read the bit of masking tape stuck in its ear.

“You have a new home,” I whispered to Snowball my very much alive rabbit.  As soon as we were safely outside, I pulled the tape from his ear….