Hats and Thrift Stores

For the Fourth of July, we drove to the bay and took in the annual picnic fundraiser at the Governor (1903-1907) Pardee Home Museum where they garnish the event with live music and open the house for guided tours.  Folks dress in suggestions of period costume, overt combinations of RedWhite’n’Blue, or not. Straw hats abound…

We traveled with a couple new to the proceedings; indeed the wife is new to the United States so I stowed two summer hats for ladies in our weather gear bag, just in case.  It turned out that the extra (a hastily acquired replacement for one previously mislaid) matched the lady’s outfit perfectly.  Her husband crowed in delight as she tried it on; my closet was immediately decluttered of one hat, she looked lovely and would be well-protected from the afternoon sun.

During the drive we learned that the couple had spent the previous day shopping local thrift stores for home decor and essentials to adjust her new home to her own housekeeping style.  Lots of dust and dross and a few treasures.

For me, the high point of our annual excursion is the Home Tour.  The George Pardee family was full of collectors who “kept everything.” For now, the curators have it all gathered on side tables, in closets, on shelves, in glass-fronted cabinets.

My inner kid loves to stare at a cluster of carved miniatures, say, from all corners of the world: to admire the colors, imagine the craft of the toymakers, then fantasize a story for each item in turn.

Of course I want to examine every title in the library and every scrap of needlework in the place.  At the tour’s end, I determined to gobble my lunch and rejoin a later party.

I turned to my new friend to ask how she’d enjoyed the house tour.

“Just like the thrift stores,” she sniffed, and trotted off to ask permission to pluck lemons from a tree in the garden.



A few days ago a group of ladies were gathered.  One of us spoke of having reached the stage where she really really needs to weed out her home.  But the hardest part, of course, is deciding about all those gifts dear people have given her over the years….

I came home to find that a box had arrived in the mail.

My aunt (my father’s younger sister) and uncle are moving to a smaller home.  My aunt kindly tells me how much she appreciates this blog and how it has helped her while she sorts and sifts and disperses all that she is ready to let go as they make this transition.

So.  The box.

In it was a beautiful cream-tinged-with-gold shawl my maternal grandmother crocheted for my mother, who passed it on to my paternal grandmother, from whom it traveled to my aunt.  Who figures she knew exactly to whom it had to be handed.

She’s right.  I’ve missed my Grandmother’s hugs lo these forty years and now I can have one again.

And we’re going to a wedding this weekend.  It will suit perfectly.

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.

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!

Weaving Straw into Gold

At first, of course, it is a matter of pulling out the obvious trash — from an irreparable broken lounger to the ossified candies stuck inside old pocketbooks — and expending the necessary energy to get it all to the dump.  When that is done, it is a huge relief.

After that, antennae tun to finding way stations — from resale shops to libraries, rummage sales, a theater prop department, craft guilds — for all the usable clutter.  There is pure joy in the detective work to find folks willing to re-sort and recycle my clutter.

Up another level, it is supremely sweet when a friend or a neighbor needs something and we have it to give: furniture for an empty room, extra craft supplies for children’s therapy program, a cake pan for a friend who doesn’t have one…

But the very best joy is when I can pull from my wealth of saved yarn the perfect one to knit an answer to a friend’s request.  It is especially sweet when that yarn proved inadequate for three previous projects….

I’m making a scarf for a sale to help a family dealing with a terminal illness.

I’m weaving my yarn into the hope of some gold.

Treasures in the Trash

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt…” (Matthew 6:19)

That, my friends, (Matthew 6:19a) is my current motto.  I’ve been working in a damp garage.  In the garage, alongside the riding mower, are three sturdy wooden boxes, each of which once shipped an adult-sized coffin, so, three coffin coffins, if you will….

l was set to learn what had been stored in them and deal with it.  First lesson, damp and mold.  Second lesson, dead mice and their nests; third, insect larvae.  These creatures had lodged themselves in and among numerous cartons of books tucked into the coffin coffins; mostly paperback remnants of three children’s growing reading habits from Little Red Riding Hood through Hardy Boys mysteries, science fiction and required literature for high school.

I moved those filthy musty books out to the rented dumpster, one wheelbarrow load at a time.

Hard thoughts:

I knew many of those books, so the stories echoed in my head.  I remembered packing up my own worn but clean books to hand down to younger children, and I was sad and angry that these had been left to decay.  It is hard work to remove piles upon piles of things that have been stuffed into boxes and cabinets; left behind half forgotten and untended.

It is even harder to realize that my friends had stored them there believing that the coffin coffins would keep them safe, sound, and secure to be enjoyed in future by well-loved grandchildren.

Friends with treasures: please be very careful of how you store your legacy.

But can you believe it?

I think you can.

An Amish family came to ask whether they might take some of those books for their school.  They understood about the smells and the mice and the beetles.  They think they can clean them.

Well yes!  If you really want those smelly books….

And in a twinkling of an eye a small army of Amish boys and their mother were sorting through that dumpster.

“…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….”

One person’s trash is another’s treasure…..




Creative Decluttering: One person’s trash is another one’s gold

… there were old car parts, failed do-it-yourself furniture projects, ragged clothing, broken lawn furniture…..

I ended my last post by asking what can motivate a would-be declutterer to commit to decluttering.

Experience suggests that the strongest commitment arises from moving house. No buyer will pay a decent price for a house full of clutter. No landlord returns a deposit if the rental isn’t cleared out. Money talks.

My cat and I lived in a rental townhouse with two basement rooms: one for laundry, and a windowless “playroom” which turned out to suffer from a damp external wall during spring and summer.

I installed a washer and dryer in the laundry room but the other room was useless.  So there I stashed stuff. With that damp wall, I wasn’t going to put anything actually useful down there besides, maybe, my out-of-season car tires.

I was in that townhouse only three years.  But if you are reading a blog about decluttering, you can imagine what piles of useless, difficult to deal with stuff can build up even in that short a time.

I had old car parts, components of failed do-it-yourself furniture projects, ragged clothing, rusting lawn furniture, an old futon, exercise equipment, a broken down old bicycle and still-wrapped packages of bankers’ boxes and bubble wrap from an earlier move.  It was an active three years, don’t you think?

As my move approached and I began to feel the pressure to declutter, a friend told a tale of how her kitchen range had caught fire. It was a tale for the ages which ended with everyone safe and the blackened range smack in the middle of her front lawn. She admitted to being torn between gratitude and profound aesthetic annoyance.

Within an hour, an old pick up truck pulled up to her house and the driver asked whether he might have that burned out hulk.

Yes, he understood that it was no longer a working range.  Yes, he wanted to remove it right then and there.

“Ma’am,” he said, “I can get enough money for that scrap to fuel my truck for a week.”

I got to thinking.

Before the next trash collection I hauled up that box of old car parts and neatly laid it beside my garbage can.  Before the truck came scavengers had taken them and put their box with my recyclables.  Decluttering had begun!

Successful repeats dispersed all the scrap metal and some of the plywood.  May it all be a blessing to someone.