Coffee heat rising

Running on High-Test Gas…

Flying around like a Corvette all day… This, after hanging on the phone until after 11 p.m. last night coping with the aftermath of a weird little Apple crash. At first even the very smart lady tech in Australia couldn’t figure it out, but then she noticed a tiny detail and presto-changeo! Problem instantly solved,.

Those people are Apple are freaking amazing.

Off to Costco with my favorite agèd friends this morning. They were circumspect in their buying approach today, but I’m afraid I went off the deep end. I haven’t made a major Costco run in two or three months and so was out of almost everything. So that devolved into a frenzy. At any rate, the freezer is now full again, the dog is supplied with a new potful of chicken, and I found a kewl pair of sky-blue Glorias. Hallelujah.

Cleaned out the storage room closet, a mess exceeded only by the office closet. That was one helluva project. But my, it’s nice and tidy now…unlike the back of my car, which overflows with junk to be donated or thrown out!

Some stuff leaves you wondering…what on earth was i thinking when i put this away? The towels with the frayed edges, for example: why are we keeping these, again? Other stuff: sentimentalia. How could you toss it? I found a box my mother left me, filled with old, evidently hand-embroidered handkerchiefs, all starched and pressed. I think either her grandmother or her aunt must have made them.

Hm. Probably my great-aunt. My great-grandmother knitted; my great-aunt sewed. But…well, who knows? Anyway, they’re museum pieces now.

As, I suspect, is the vintage 1970 Heathware in the hideous muddy olive green, all the rage when we were young things. Truly: every bit as ugly as the battleship gray and eye-searing white in High Style today. My mother must have thought something along those lines: she admired the Heath stoneware, but bought herself a set in white — now in my son’s possession.

Heath recently quit making its coupe style. So those pieces — in both sets — will soon be spectacularly expensive collector’s items. They’re already pricey. I got one of the last of the white ones available after a kid busted one of my son’s plates. He’ll have to ride herd more carefully after this, I reckon, because replacing them now will be outstandingly expensive.

Ugh. Cop helicopter buzzing around. What now?

The other night’s gunshot, noted in passing in one of these posts, was some chucklehead getting himself shot at a house brawl party over on ’tother side of Conduit of Blight Blvd. Well. Better him than me. I guess. Moral of the story? Don’t go to parties in Meth Central.

Also managed to index another 15 pages of the first of two academic anthologies I’m supposed to be working on. No doubt more would have gotten done had I refrained from sleeping half the afternoon. But alas, I did swill down a couple glasses of wine with the beloved Costco roast chicken this afternoon, which caused me to fall face-forward into the sack.

Tomorrow will be occupied, too, with a lot of distractions from paying work: Pick up the cleaned and restored old Shark vac, meet a client on the west side of town, pay a visit to the credit union. Three errands I’d like to get done in one trip, though that will not be very practical…because on top of all that, the cleaning lady will be underfoot all day. So I’m thinking…maybe…make two trips westerly: pick up the vacuum early in the day, run by the CU on the way home, then make a separate junket to meet the proposed new client.

Yeah. That will waste gas. But it’s probably more sane.

To the extent that there is any sanity around this place… 😮



So, in the chore-a-day continuum, today is the first day of the Great Closet Clean-up. Every closet and cabinet in the house is jammed with 15 years’ worth of collected junk, about 14 years’ worth of which could go. So I decided to add shoveling out one closet, cabinet, or piece of furniture with drawers to the job of the day. A four-bedroom shack has rather more closets and cabinets than one would like, especially after the proprietor has hired some dude to line the garage walls with storage. Videlicet:

  • Hall linen closet
  • Vacuum (coat) closet
  • Master bedroom closet
  • Guest bedroom closet
  • Storage room closet
  • Office closet
  • Desk drawers
  • Armoire
  • Bathroom 1 cabinets
  • Bathroom 2 cabinets
  • Garage cabinets east
  • Garage cabinets west
  • Garage open shelves

This sounds fairly dreadful, because it is fairly dreadful. Some of the junk residing in those sites has been there since I moved into this shack, yea verily back in 2004. But…it appears that the challenge is not as Brobdingnagian as it appears.

Today I got through the hall linen closet, the vacuum closet, and the storage room closet, killing off three proposed days’ worth of projects in a single day. At this rate, I should be able to get through the entire consolidated frolic in about four or five days.

The problem with projects like this: one thing leads to another. You find some object…and wonder what is it? And why do you have it? In the back of the hall closet I found a gadget that contained butane or propane or God only knows what. A gift, no doubt. Not having used it and not knowing what it could possibly be for, I tossed it in the trash bag.

This caused the thing to spring a leak.

In the house. In the confined hall, Yes: s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s

Grab whatever-it-is and hurry out to the alley garbage with it (hoping no one is around to see). Toss it. Run away. Back inside the shack, continue the task at hand, and find some other component of…whatever-it-is. March that out to the garbage, too. So far no explosion has taken place. Thank Heaven for small favors.

There’s the stuff that you haven’t seen in years and don’t know why you kept it; the debris from past cleaning-lady attacks; the junk stash attack…

Here’s a hippy-dippy ash tray from the 1970s, a globe of polished granite annoyingly dyed teal (it was one of my generation’s colors: we called it “turquoise,” but it was the same color that appears in the presently stylish annoying palette of battleship gray + eye-searing white + teal). It has two stupid little half-tube-shaped slots drilled out of its lip, presumably to accommodate cigarettes: i.e., it was designed by some clown who didn’t smoke.

Off-hand I cannot recall whether this thing was my mother’s (the mother who smoked herself into the grave, the mother who on her deathbed was consuming six packs a day, yes, that mother), or whether my mother made me buy it to accommodate her chain-smoking habit while she was at my house. Why did I keep the damn thing, if it wasn’t actually hers? Possibly to accommodate some other nicotine addict who insisted on smoking (outside, damnit!) at my house?

No one that I know smokes anymore.

Throw it away? What? It was my mother’s. Maybe.

A brass lamp finial. What? Examine all the antique lamps in the house (that would be all the lamps, just about). Not a single one of them is missing a finial. WTF? Stash for some future closet clean-out.

Up on the top shelf, where it can’t be broken, resides the sentimental stuff. Like Dot-Dot’s exquisitely beautiful hand-painted porcelain plate, a gift to me and my son. She lived around the corner from us in the historic Encanto district, and she was one of two women of her generation who babysat children in the neighborhood. She watched M’hijito two or three days a week — the other woman filled in the remaining days — while I drove out to a part-time job at the Great Desert University and filled my remaining hours trying to finish my dissertation. Dot-Dot was a gifted porcelain painter: she taught classes filled with women craving to emulate her. For her to give us one of her (amazingly expensive) pieces was a great generosity.

An empty plastic squeeze bottle: move it to empty jar collection in the garage, thereby deferring  disposal to some other day.

An unknown blue fluid stashed in an old glass Straus Family Creamery heavy cream bottle. Dump. Bottle to dishwasher, thence to empty jar collection (see above)

A plethora of prescription meds, including three bottles of a dangerous addictive drug dispensed during the Year of the Surgeries, nary a single pill of which I ever swallowed. Here’s something from a vet called “banamine“: it’s an injectable drug used for muscle spasm. Label says to “apply on affected area.” Probably for Cassie’s hot spots. Dare we ask, WTF????

Something there is that’s kind of scary about the sheer quantity of the prescription drugs that have been dispensed for me and for the dogs. Some of these bottles, I’ve never even opened.

No freaking wonder we have a plague of drug addicts in this country.

Here’s a jacket in the hall closet that must have belonged to someone else: it doesn’t even fit me!

In the guest bedroom closet: a little suit made by a local tailor, supposedly to fit me. When D-XH and I were in England, where I spent three months in archival research for the dissertation, we visited Scotland and bought my mother the richest, most wonderful, beautiful wool tweed fabric. She sewed handsomely, and I thought she would make herself something with it.

But no. Being a mother, she regarded it as a keepsake and squirreled it away for safekeeping. After she died, my father gave it to me.

I took it to a woman who billed herself as a tailor and asked her to make me a suit — a skirt and jacket. She did…but “tailor” was not exactly le mot juste. She apparently made it from some Simplicity pattern — she couldn’t even be bothered to spring for a Vogue pattern, I guess. The result was amateurish and ill-fitting and it has just hung in the closet. Forever.

It did not fit then. And now that I am old and have spawned a child, it does not fit hilariously. What a shame. I’ve hung onto it all these years imagining (occasionally) that maybe someday I could find a real tailor (right! In lovely uptown Phoenix, Arizona!) who could somehow rebuild it or just take it apart and make something with whatever fabric could be salvaged.

Not so much.

But the moths haven’t eaten it. That’s something. I guess. So…this afternoon I tossed the jacket in the car with the rest of the unwearable stuff to be donated. Decided to deconstruct the skirt, salvage what I can of the fabric, and make a pillow of it.

Yes. That’s something. Eh?

Two indexing assignments came in yesterday and now today in comes an inquiry from a self-publishing author: will I copyedit his 85.000-word sci-fi thriller?

Why shore, for a fee. But it’ll have to wait till I can get out from under the academic opuses. While the author’s on the phone and the hamburger’s on the grill, my son, fresh off the road from Colorado, shows up at the door to collect his dog.

Is there some reason why every damnfool thing happens at once?

So now I am fed. Four of the proposed 13 shoveling-out chores are done (hall linen closet, vacuum bedroom closet, guest bedroom closet, armoire) are done. Email is unanswered. I am tired. And the dog remains to be taken for a decent walk.

And so…away.


Use It Up or (Dammit) THROW IT OUT

So I’ve spent the past few days helping some dear friends move out of their home of 40 years. They sold it, successfully, and now they’re moving into a very attractive and comfortable life-care community. I’d call it the Queen Mary on a Concrete Foundation…it’s quite the luxury liner.

These are folks who live a normal life in a normal home: they’re not what you’d call, by any stretch of the imagination, “hoarders.” They buy what they need. Over time they use it up and go back to Costco to buy some more of what they need. They have a lifetime of tschotskes of the sort that come to rest in the homes of ordinary people: pieces of cherished artwork (some of it valuable); several exceptionally handsome (and exceptionally expensive) lamps, the usual collections of dishes and pots and pans and glasses and whatnot; a computer and a desk and a filing cabinet and a TV and a couple of easy chairs and all those good things. If you were invited into their home, you would find it pleasantly middle class and comfortable.

But…my friend Ms. J has lived there 40 years. She and her late husband built the house all that many years ago. Mr. L, her present husband, married her and moved in heaven only knows how long ago — I do not, but can say they’ve been married as long as I’ve known them, which is some 18 years.

It’s a two-bedroom house, explicitly and attractively designed for an aging couple to spend the rest of their lives in. The late husband passed; she remarried, and now the two incumbents are in their 90s. They decided the wisest thing to do, at this point, would be to follow their friends into the environs of the upscale old-folkerie, where they will be cared for like passengers on some grand luxury liner until they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Sensibly enough, they signed up for a two-bedroom apartment, which they got. It’s a very, very nice place. And it appears, at a glance, to be about the same size as their long-time manse. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms. A separate dining room, a nice living room.  A full-size kitchen. A washer and dryer. A truly spectacular view off the sixth floor. Three restaurants for you to dine in with your monthly chow allowance. Cleaning help included. A library on-campus. Clubs, activities, transportation…the certifiable Life of Riley.


A two-bedroom house with 40 years of seniority does not easily fit into a brand-new two-bedroom apartment.

The apartment doesn’t have a garage: the garage that has sheltered a lifelong accrual of collected valuables. And most to the point, the garage that housed a large upright freezer, the home of innumerable Costco Lifetime Supplies of various food items. Nor does an apartment have the kind of closet space and kitchen space offered up by a house, even a modestly sized house.

Much of the stuff that couldn’t be moved or that is now simply redundant will be offered up in an estate sale, getting it out of their hair, out of their adult children’s hair, and out of the movers’ hair.

What a job! Moving is always a challenge…but when you’ve been in a place for 40 years, it’s more than a mere challenge. “Ordeal” might be le mot juste.

I was reminded by this adventure of the many (many!) times I’ve held forth on the subject of decluttering, dating way back to 2007. And…then was reminded that I need to put my money where my mouth (or keyboard) is. It has been quite a while since I’ve shoveled out the Funny Farm. So this week, I think, I’ll go through the closets and toss out anything I haven’t worn (or wish I hadn’t worn…) in the past year. Also need to go through the garage cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and office closet to get rid of things I’m just not using.

This is a good thing to do whether you live in your shack until the end of your life or are forced to move to some place that’s easier or cheaper to care for.

Moving is difficult under the best of circumstances. But when you’re in your 90s and you’ve been accumulating stuff in the same place for the past 40 years, it’s quite the nightmare. Whether you move or whether you shuffle off  this mortal coil in place, leaving your worldly goods to your unlucky offspring, you need NOT to accumulate junk.

That was something my father the sea captain knew by habit, since most of the time he lived in a first mate’s or captain’s cabin on a tanker: i.e., one room. My mother also knew not to stash too much junk — and he wouldn’t allow her to — because they moved so often. But y’know…I’ve been in this house for almost 15 years and hope to live here until I die. Whether I get shanghaied into an old-folkerie or just leave this place to my son, it would be a good idea to clean out the unused junk now, while I still have the strength to do so, and then to make it a habit to throw out anything I haven’t used in the prior year. I sure don’t want my son to have to deal with shoveling out all the junk you can collect over a lifetime.

This month being January, a thought occurs: Why not designate January as THE annual decluttering month? Then you would be reminded to shovel out the redundant junk on a regular basis, instead of getting around to the job only when forced to it. January is a perfect time: right after Christmas, when you’ve presumably acquired some new junk to find a home for.

De-accessioning As Frugalist Strategy

Getting rid of stuff feels so good! Out with it! Seriously: one tried and true frugalist strategy is simply not to buy things you don’t really need. Another, though, is getting rid of stuff that you no longer need. (Or…ahem…maybe never needed in the first place.)

Case in point: the beloved Pawley Island hammock that has resided in the backyard since I moved into this place. Actually, I bought it in the old house, quite some years before I moved out. Since I was there about 12 or 14 years, I’d probably had it there about 8 or 10 years. That house had park-like landscaping full of mature trees, and so I could hang it between a big old olive tree and a silk oak, one of the messiest trees known to personkind.

Loved loafing in that hammock. Once it came over here, though, I had no place to hang it. Satan and Proserpine (the previous owners) were great at DIY interior redecorating, but they simply did not know what to do with any space not under roof. The backyard had almost no trees. So I bought one of those arc-shaped hammock stands. Like this…

Expensive as all get-out. Took three men and a horse to put it together. Too heavy to move without said three men and the horse. But once in place, it worked fine.

I’ve been in this house for 14 years now. So…that hammock lasted about twenty years before it finally rotted in the sun and rain and fell apart under my weight. No kidding. This: a couple weeks ago. No problem hauling off the hammock. But the wooden stand itself was a challenge.

Thought about replacing the hammock, to the tune of $150. Then thought…why?

Gerardo came by Saturday with his crew. They were happy to take it away. They did deconstruct it (the only way they could get it into their truck). Whether they’ll reconstruct it, I don’t know. But with four guys there, I expect one of them will cheerfully accept the donation.

SDXB used to say that throwing out stuff he was no longer using made him feel lighter. And there’s something to that. In the old house, the thing hung over a patio, so I could walk up to it bare-footed. Here, it stood in the middle of a field of quarter-minus. That’s very fine gravel. It pokes your feet, and if that doesn’t poke your feet, the sharp debris the devil-pod tree drops surely will. So to lay on the hammock, first I had to put my shoes on! Since I’m usually barefoot in the house, shoes are usually lost somewhere. Having to track them down made hammock-swinging more trouble than it was worth.

Hence, the contraption’s near-abandonment.

I’m so glad to get that thing out of there. Even though it served its purpose, it took up a phenomenal amount of room. The dogs would go in behind it to do their business, meaning I would have to climb in behind it to clean up after them. One fewer thing to have to take care of! The yard looks better without the clutter, and now there’s nothing over there for the hose to get caught up on.

Deciding to get rid of the arc stand, which was approaching decrepitude, too, meant I saved a hundred and fifty bucks.

No. Make that more like three hundred bucks. The stand itself was getting pretty weather-beaten and would soon need replacing…and those things cost $150, sans hammock.

There’s no way I’d get another $300 worth of use out of a new hammock and new fancy stand. At the old house, I certainly got my money’s worth out of the hammock. But here, for the reasons above, I’ve rarely used it.

How does that translate into a general Frugality Rule of Thumb?

Well, when something gives up the ghost, delay replacing it. Don’t hurry right out and buy a new one right this minute. Put off a new purchase long enough to see whether you can comfortably do without the thing. Maybe you really don’t need it. Maybe you really don’t want it.

And maybe your spirit will be lighter without it.

Declutter! Clear your life of wasteful trash

Why do we tend to fill our lives with dust-catchers and useless junk? Every week when the notices for the current round of estate sales arrive, my mind is filled with wonder.

What does a person do with all that stuff? Where on earth do you store it? Many houses where these estate sales take place are not huge…how do the occupants find room for the piles and piles of stuff? And why would they keep it at all? For that matter, why did they acquire it in the first place?

There’s this, for example:

Everyone needs a glass chicken, right? To go with the fake flowers. These photos aren’t the greatest, being thumbnails. But you get the (heh) picture.

Collecting is one thing I’ve never been able to understand. Why accrete a large number of useless items just because they have one trait in common—images of pigs, say? The pleasurability of this, for example, escapes me:

Scores and scores of Matchbox Cars, all in their original, unopened packaging. Someone evidently viewed this as akin to an investment, since enough people have a fixation on accruing Matchbox Cars to make them “collector’s items” and therefore, one speculates (and we do mean speculates) that someday they’ll have some outrageous value. So, we might speculate, will our house. Our stock market holdings. Our plastic hydrangeas…

They’re toys. Kids are supposed to play with them! Grabbed off the market and left to collect dust in some closet, their purpose is perverted.

Over the past couple of decades, developers have been designing houses with “plant shelves” (read “dust-collection platforms”). It also has become the vogue to install cabinetry that doesn’t go to the ceiling, possibly because high ceilings are popular and cabinets are built so cheaply these days they won’t span that much space. The result is that every newer kitchen (and many older, renovated kitchens) comes with ready-made dust-collection platforms, all of which call out to the homeowner: ohhh please: fill me with STUFF!

This kitchen scene appears in a house occupied by an interior designer, who’s in the process of unloading the high-end furnishings of her present home so she can start over in new digs:

The chintzy cabinets are in a large, expensive house:

But the developer still couldn’t see fit to provide the well-heeled (or generously financed) homeowner with cabinetry to fill the available space. So what has she done? She’s stuffed it chuckablock full with plastic plants, plastic fruit, plastic vegetables, fake duck decoys, decorative pottery, collector plates, carved wooden boxes, and basketry, all of it collecting dust and (if she cooks) kitchen grime. Makes sense, eh?

Just look at this clutter!









She couldn’t use any of it if she wanted to: how likely is it that in the middle of cooking dinner she’s going to traipse out to the garage, drag in a ladder, climb up to somewhere near the elevated ceilings, haul down that gravy boat, drag the ladder back to the garage, and wash the dust and grease off the thing before she does anything with it?

But so pretty, you say, and you ask, “What’s wrong with this harmless expression of one’s taste and love of…junk?” Let us count the ways!

It’s not frugal. Au contraire. It’s wasteful. Buying and stashing junk we will never use is incredibly wasteful! Think of the trips to Paris this woman could have taken with the cash she put out for all that debris. Or…think of all the food she could have contributed to charity, if she just wanted to get rid of her money.

It’s selfish. It keeps products out of the hands of those who might use them. Case in point: the Matchbox Car fetish. When collectors grab these things off the market, it drives up the cost of nifty toys. Little boys (and yup, little girls!) who should be able to buy them with their allowances now can’t touch them. In this case, it’s akin to stealing candy from children.

It’s not green. Consider the resources that went in to making and transporting all that pottery, basketware, and plastic foliage, just so it could sit on top of some woman’s kitchen cabinetry and collect dust!

It creates a stupefying amount of extra work. We (or someone) will have to dust and clean all the tschochkies we’ve littered the “plant shelves,” cabinet roofs, and countertops with.

It’s inconsiderate to the point of rudeness. After we croak over, someone is going to have to dispose of all the debris we gathered and stuffed into every closet, cabinet, nook, and cranny of the dwelling, garage, and storage shed. Why should our heirs or landlord have to spend hours (some have the privilege of spending days) gathering all the junk and finding some place to get rid of it? Why should they have to hire a company to sell Mom’s or Dad’s junk and then pack up the stuff that some other sucker wouldn’t buy and cart it to the dump?

What to do, what to do?

Well, first, let’s all refrain from collecting stuff that serves no practical purpose. If it doesn’t do something (collecting dust does not qualify as “something”), don’t get it.

Second, let’s invest our money in something better than speculative “collector’s items,” and leave the toys for the kiddies to play with. We could stash our money in a high-yield online savings account until such time as it’s accrued enough to buy into a low-load mutual fund. As investments go, savings accounts and securities are lot more likely to show some profit, a lot sooner, than will a collector’s item whose main function is to gather dust.

Third, resist! Resist buying houses that are designed with dust-collection shelves and corner-cutting cabinetry that shorts you on storage space. If you already live in one of those houses, get yourself some drywall, tape, and plaster and fill in the stupid shelves. If you know the brand and make of your cabinets, find the cabinetry maker and try to buy some matching cabinets that will fill in the space between the existing boxes and the ceiling. Don’t buy houses that give you useless space, but if you’re stuck with one, eliminate the useless space.

Fourth, at the very least, if we must have houses adorned with dust shelves, let’s refrain from filling them with dust-collectors. You could, for example, install up-lighting in them (puck lights are easy to install and very cheap at your nearby box home improvement store). Or…there’s no law against leaving them empty.

And finally, when something we don’t want anymore still has some use left on it, let’s pass it to someone else, whether by selling it or donating it, instead of saving it for a posterity that doesn’t want it.

Frugality is minimalist. Clutter is wasteful.

Declutter while you can

Yesterday evening Cassie and I walked past a down-at-the-heels house in the neighborhood, its paint peeling, its roof tired, and its lawn going to weeds. At one time, the owners had a lovely, bountiful vegetable garden-someone who lived there loved to putter in the yard. Traces of their handiwork persist: the now feral vegetable patch overgrowing with weeds and bermudagrass, a trellis with a grapevine still producing lush bunches of deep purple grapes, big grapefruit trees strong and green from years of fertilizing and canny tending.

Rare among Southwesterners, these people never fenced their backyard, so you can see everything. The gardener’s old wheelbarrow lies on its side next to the house, its bottom rusted through. Mildewing frost cloths and decrepit shade curtains clutter the back porch.

At first I thought the house had been abandoned, its owners carted off to the nursing home or at least departed to cooler climes for the summer. But last night someone was home, the lights on so you could see inside the family room.

A Case Study in Clutter

What a mess in there! The place is stacked with junk: something that looked like an old exercise machine or an upended table and piles of clutter and trash that should have been thrown out years ago. Until the elderly occupant, unaware of our presence, closed the blinds on the kitchen door, you could see that room was chuckablock full of junk, too.

When we rounded the corner where the house stands, we found a car in the driveway and the garage door open. There was, after all, room for a single vehicle to fit in among the junk in the two-car garage, and so, since the driver hadn’t put the car inside, it’s possible the woman in the kitchen was a caretaker and not the homeowner. What a tangle in the garage! The place was stacked several feet out from the walls with tools, containers of household chemicals, and general junk. Someone had conceived the brilliant idea of using the pull rope for the retractable attic ladder as a device to hang bags full of old plastic grocery bags-and they must have stored a 30-year supply there! Great balloons of plastic bags stuffed with more plastic bags hung from the attic ladder rope, blocking the way to the kitchen door.


Don’t do this to your relatives.When you croak over — which could be any day now, no matter what your age — someone else will have to come into your house and clean out the mess. Have a little mercy. There’s no need to keep your megacollection of toy cars, hub caps, old clocks, plastic flowers, and multifarious sets of dishes with you at all times. Or every plastic bag you ever dragged home from the supermarket.

It is not frugal, not thrifty, to keep and stash every piece of junk you’ve ever managed to acquire, no matter how great a bargain it was when you got your hands on it. To the contrary: the constant acquisition of stuff drains your wealth. While you’re still healthy enough to take care of it, it burdens you with a clutter of junk to have to clean and store. When you’re too old to keep on dusting and scrubbing, it leaves you living in squalor amid stacks of mouldering debris.

The garage you paid for is meant to store your car, not trash. The space inside your house, for which you also paid dearly, is for you to live in, not to collect dust on trinkets and trash

If my neighbor had called an estate sale company and unloaded every piece of clutter that she wasn’t using, she could have had a nice chunk of cash to brighten her old age. At the very least, it would have paid for a weekend in Laughlin, Nevada

A true frugalist lives simply. And that simple lifestyle does the frugalist and her heirs a great favor: less junk to take care of means more time to enjoy healthier pursuits.

Principles of Decluttering

Here are the rules I try to live by:

  1. If I haven’t used it in a year, it goes to charity or gets sold.
  2. Nothing sits on a tabletop or counter unless it has a use.
  3. One use may be decorative, but this should be kept to a minimum: just enough to soften a stark look.
  4. I try to put things away when I’m done using them.
  5. Everything should have a place, and the “place” should be inside a drawer or a cabinet.
  6. The walls are festooned with as little stuff as possible, and what’s on the walls is the best quality artwork or crafts I can afford. Except in my office, I don’t clutter the walls with family photos.
  7. I discard empty containers, with few exceptions.
  8. It took some doing, but I finally trained myself to quit collecting old jars, boxes, cans, and fancy clothing-store bags simply because maybe someday they might come in handy. Nine and a half times out of ten, they don’t.
  9. If I find I’m not using a handy-dandy old bottle, out it goes.
  10. I do keep plastic bags, because I have two uses for them: wrapping garbage and picking up after the dog.
  11. But if I didn’t have these uses, I’d use canvas shopping bags or ask for paper bags at the store, to keep that filmy, infinitely lasting plastic out of the landfills.
  12. Instead of stuffing bags to be reused inside a plastic grocery bag hung on a nail, I use a couple of Kleenex-box-like bag holders, scored at Costco. Much neater.
  13. I have one set of dishware, not sets for everyday use and sets for entertaining and my grandmother’s Lenox from Tiffany’s. It’s a decent set of stoneware in a timeless style, which I eat from every day and which I feel comfortable using to serve guests. Ditto the glasses. Ditto the silverware.
  14. I own one set of sheets, one set of towels per bathroom, one set of kitchen towels. When they’re dirty, I wash them and put them back on the bed or into the bathroom.

Simplicity Makes Your Life Better — Long-term

It’s so much easier to clean house when you don’t have to pick up a lot of tchochkies, dust each of them, and dust around them! The less junk you acquire, the less work it is to care for your living environment.

From the vantage point of some maturity, it’s easy to see that developing habits of simplicity — decluttering your life early on and keeping it decluttered — will serve you well as you age. Not only will you save a great deal of cash over the years by not collecting junk that you rarely or never use, the easier it is to take care of your home, the longer you’re likely to be able to stay in your home. If cleaning around your stacks of junk is a major project, at some point along the line you will decide the heck with it. And it won’t be long afterwards that your kids will decide you can’t take care of yourself and move you to the old-folkerie…or worse, in with them!

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Hi, Vicky

At age 50, my spouse and I moved into a new home.I gave away 35 boxes of stuff to Goodwill.It felt so good that I’ve continued to go through the spaces of my new home with a critical eye.I frequently ask myself, have I used this in the last year?No.It’s gone.From experience, I know my daughter and son-in-law will appreciate this.

When my mother-in-law died three years ago, my husband and I cleared out her home in three days.We were able to do this because she had already disposed of all the unessential stuff from her life.

In fact, a couple years prior, my husband spent a few days with her (in another state) and helped her go through her house with the goal of eliminating stuff.They trashed stuff, they kept what Mom still needed, they gave stuff away, they boxed a few things for my husband to bring home, and they had a yard sale.

I believe they made a meaningful experience out of the process.Stuff helped them remember and relive the past.It also helped them consider the present and the future and what Mom was going to need in her last years.Certainly not the collection of mouse Christmas tree ornaments or the collection of 50’s era Hummel, which she worried would disappear with the inevitable strangers she would employ in her home.She wanted to be sure that we would keep the Hummel (with their historiical, sentimental, and real value) in the family.

And yes, Mom pocketed some cash.Further, she felt good about giving away things to people who would enjoy them.But most of all, she maintained control.She made the decisions about her own stuff and about how she would live out her future.

Mom left Hungary during WWII with one small suitcase.Perhaps it is with this perspective that at 80 she was able to make decisions about discarding stuff.I believe, though, that she relieved herself of the burdens associated with keeping stuff.

You offer helpful suggestions for people considering the usefulness of their stuff.Today we have various avenues for unloading stuff.We can give it to fmaily, friends, and/or charities.My friend puts it on the curb with a FREE sign on it.We can use Ebay to send stuff all over the world.My husband has amazingly good luck selling online.We have craigslist.

I personally don’t want to be burdened with all this stuff.I’m all for spreading mine around

Saturday, July 26, 200809:50 AM