A Christmas Present

For Christmas, I liquidated part of our emergency cushion to pay off my husband’s credit card debt.  (He’d run it up because the computer that lies at the heart of his enterprises died and there hadn’t been enough loose cash to pay for a new one.)

Clearing a couple thousand dollars out of savings feels like a tooth has been pulled.

But as the shock began to abate, it became clear that the pay off was a decluttering.

Darkly (and not what I mean) the cash itself is gone…

And so are the bindings of the debt freeing emotional space for new dreams to reach for the sun.

And what cash remains has no strings attached.  The cash I spent freed the rest of it.


Half of the Stainless Steel Ware Drawer

Yesterday I volunteered to be a project director for a council so buried under proposed projects they are frantic.

I’ve set myself the project of finding a project director for each proposed project…

…recognizing that the Council has been too swamped to sort out where one project ends and the next begins.

I woke up with my head in a tangle.

So I sorted our silted up stainless steel ware drawer…

This collection of miscellanea will go to the next community rummage sale while..

This collection of matched pieces — which do NOT match our own set — will first be offered to friends.  Then, if any of it comes home, set aside for rummage.

(My husband edited all my choices, agreed on what could go but kept all sorts of pieces he likes to use.)



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.


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.

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.


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….