After the Bulldozing — A Heart for Decluttering

Once we have bull dozed through the mountain of clutter left by departed loved ones; dispersed it by the truckload to family, to yard sales, to charity, to the dump…  Sooner or later we are left looking at our own stuff.  Even though mountains remain, the game changes.  Unless an interstate move looms in our future, no longer are we likely to measure decluttering successes by the truckload.

The phrase “developing a heart for decluttering” occurred to me as we dropped off a box of twenty-eight books in hopes the resale bookstore would accept them into inventory. They took fourteen of them for store credit which we promptly applied toward three new books.  Net success: eleven fewer books on our shelves.  But I believe the far better measure is that we have ample room on our shelves for three books we’re already in the midst of enjoying.

On a visit to dear friends awhile ago, we brought a couple of small family relics, usable pieces we’d pulled out of storage to set aside with them in mind.  Net success: half a storage shelf cleared.  The better measure?  Beautiful things put back into use and bonds of friendship strengthened through shared history.

Developing a heart for decluttering…  For me it’s loving to know things are out of the cupboards, being used and appreciated.

The half emptied book donation box sits in the living room inviting more books to jump in.  It’ll go to the library soon.  There’s a bag of good quality clothing discards slowly slowly filling up in my closet soon to make it’s way to the thrift store.  And I gave a pair of extra needles and a ball of leftover yarn to a new knitter last week.

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.

To everything there is a purpose…

Wintertime decluttering slows down.
In spring and summer, when the light is longer and my work load abates, there is time and inclination to chip away at emptying the inherited clutter in my storage areas .
During the shorter days, and when the teaching year is in session, I stop the heavy work.
But decluttering as a way of life has a way of taking hold.
There’s a habit of being aware of all our things: the clothes in our drawers and closets, the implements in our cabinets, the very food in our freezer and books on our shelves, all the stuff stashed in corners…  There’s a habit of thinking of each and every thing as wanting a purpose.  There’s a leaning toward the learned joy of matching the right purpose with the right tool.
I tore a tendon in my ankle.
I was sent to physical therapy to stimulate its healing and to strengthen the muscles that need to support it.
After awhile the therapist dumped a collection of marbles and dice and little rubber jacks onto the floor and I was given the job of picking them up with my toes and putting them back into their box.
The therapist’s collection was housed in a battered old recycled tissue box that during my month of therapy received at least one layer of revivifying tape.
As my course of therapy drew to a close I wanted a way to show my gratitude.
And then I remembered.
Back in my closet in a sack full of Stuff That Should Be Useful Someday, was a lovely, sturdy, cardboard box, (perfectly sized to hold that collection), covered in damask.  I’d received a gift from China in that box years earlier.  And that oh-it’ll-be-so-good-for-something-someday emptied box had accompanied me through four house moves.
And now it houses my therapist’s toe-strengthening marbles.

(The picture is of my mother’s old marble collection housed in a completely different box.)

Soap and service in the undertow

If there’s one thing that’s come out of the current American — yea global — political maelstrom it is that every woman jill of us had better get very clear about what she believes and what she holds dear and exactly what she’s prepared to do to hang onto  those beliefs because the times they certainly are fast a-changin’ and whatever we love may be gone, or become unrecognizable, in the twinkling of an eye.

So, it was high time for me to apply some more elbow grease to the building up of some face-to-face relationships in my not-so-new-anymore home community.  No effort, l believe, and no wealth is worth much unless it’s done to build and serve community.  That is the heart of my faith.  I had already found a knitting group and a parttime job; I settled on a church to try out.

Lo and behold, the council announced a February drive to collect all the soap and shampoo samples folks had likely gathered during hotel visits over the years for distribution to folks who could put them to good use Right Now.

And so another shopping bag filled from the pack rat’s hoard walked out of our house yesterday morning.  As always, may it prove to be a blessing.


…A Paper of Pins….

When Mother died in 2003 I inherited a closet full of fabric, her sewing machine, and a cabinet full of clothing construction supplies.  My father saved out a little packet of mending supplies then I loaded the rest into my car.

The fabric stash was scarfed up by a sewing circle.
I donated her sewing machine.

There was a mending kit from Glacier National Park with Mother’s name laundry marked across the back.

There were her English knitting needles.  She knit a whole suit once, skirt and jacket, but she was so tired of it by the time she finished she never wore it much, and didn’t knit much after that.

There were her mother’s knitting needles and the caddy grandmother made out of an old blanket to organize them.

I stuffed the rest of it into the closet.

Meanwhile in the mountain of flotsam and jetsam on the under-house storage platform we had found the notions boxes left by my husband’s first wife and by his grandmother.

Today I sat down and sorted through the boxes filled with spare buttons, loose needles and pins (and nails, screws, night light bulbs and paperclips), a cascade of safety pins, five travel mending kits, bits of elastic, pattern tracing paper, interfacing, iron-on patches, hooks’n’eyes and snaps, fifty spools of thread in ten colors, two thimbles, two green zippers, embroidery floss and a pincushion.

Peter’s grandmother’s mementoes included a box of old old old bits of lace and a packet of gold-plated hair pins.

Some of my own spools of thread were from the sewing box Mother packed for me to take to school forty-eight years ago.

I saved out precious memories of our grandmothers and decided to keep the buttons, my favorite hand sewing gear and some of the thread.

The rest is packed up for the annual Tuolumne County Library benefit Rummage Sale.  Item drop off is in two days.

From the Stash

This evening I finished the last of three small afghans for my husband’s sister’s son’s kids, the youngest of whom are twins, almost ten months old.

(I started the first little afghan when they were three months old.)

For each , I used yarn from the stash of skeins I’ve scooped up from sale tables.  (I adjusted the patterns to conform to the amount of yarn on hand.)

I didn’t purchase a single ounce of additional yarn.

Decluttering uncovers the treasures that are on hand and makes me more willing to use them.

The last Dump Voucher of 2016

On the last business day of 2016 at nearly the last hour we carried up in triumph from our newly well-ordered storage platform:
Five filled trash bags;
Two mildewed sleeping bags,
One cracked turntable cover,
And a broken down old plastic basin.

We loaded it into the Jeep and joined the line of vehicles inching toward access to the county dump.
The monitor checked our load.  (Yes, we have no electronics, nor have we any forbidden hazardous waste.)
And down to the loading dock we drove.

What a field trip!  What a holiday!

On this Last Day to Use 2016 Dump Vouchers a mountain of discarded junk was being tipped or hurled onto the floor. Giant shovels labored to load the heaps of tattered old stuff into the parade of garbage trucks  standing ready to carry our discards to the landfill…..

We can lament waste, conspicuous consumption, proliferating plastics, throw-away culture, and the great shift from repairability.  We can.  But it was the sixth day of Christmas…

…And for a few minutes I was one with the little boy who stood gazing in wonder  at the twenty foot tall mound and in delight at those giant machines rumbling away at their work.

(The flip side of Santa’s sleigh?)