Tag Archives: clutter

Stuff and non-stuff

A gifted bowl. Milkweed pods sprayed gold by my sister.

Even as the tableaux produces a pang about Noreen (she was rapidly declining this time last year), the simplicity pleases.

A worn wooden floor. An exalted weed. A textured bowl crafted by a friend, lively in its imperfection.

Our relationship to things changes over time, doesn’t it?

I’m always ready to take the decorations down before husband and somehow feel a little bad about that. What does my eagerness signal?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the sweet nutcrackers, the festive wreaths, and the sentimental decorations given to the boys year in and year out. They represent a life lived and lived with some modicum of joy.

They signal the advent of time-outside-of-time.

In other years, the enjoyment of displaying decorations and the pleasure at putting them away ran about 50/50. This year, there was no contest. I felt a visceral relief clearing the spaces. I can almost imagine not bothering with any of it at some point.

I’ll leave you with this shot from Finn’s and my morning walk and a stanza from a poem by Wallace Stevens:

I do not know which to prefer, / The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / The blackbird whistling / Or just after.

From Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

The power of stuff to undo us

The Weight of Things, Part I

Look at the lovely Rosenthal platter — that flourish along the scalloped edge; delicate blue flowers draping off the rim. I have service for eight plus another smaller platter, a casserole, a tea pot (squat and round) and coffee pot (tall and slender), plus matching sugar and creamer, candlesticks.

They were a wedding gift from my mother.

Recall this: Mother is back from a trip to Germany with her second husband. They are seeing the world! While on the continent she buys an entire set of china for her daughter who, at the age of 33, is at last engaged to be married.

When Mother hands Daughter the crumpled brochure, Daughter doesn’t bother to hide her dismay. Are the dishes too feminine? Is she inclined toward blue these days? Such a fraught exchange!

They’ve been here before. A history of thwarted choices gives Daughter an unhealthy sense that she’s entitled to sour incivility. So many items ticked off! How much did Mother spend, exactly?

There will be a cost to Daughter’s wounding response and she knows it. It’s no longer a gift-giving occasion. It’s all about Mother’s hurt feelings. Daughter’s cooing and back peddling will be accomplished with a combination of guilt, annoyance, and compulsive, middle-child diplomacy. Of course the dishes will be beautiful! It took a second, is all! Of course, it was a generous gesture!

They’ve been here before, too.

Does it matter that I love the dishes now? That as I wash off the residue from last night’s dinner, I do so with care, knowing how inconsolable I’d be if the platter broke — my mother dead and gone these 22 years past. Stuff has the power to undo us sometimes.

The Weight of Things, Part II

We’ve purchased a shed in the sorry acknowledgement that our belongings have outpaced our capacity for sorting, disposal, or storage. The garage is packed: sports equipment, gardening tools, lumber, Christmas decorations, craft booth panels, two table saws, bikes and chairs. There’s beer brewing equipment, scuba gear, coolers, kayak paddles and beach chairs. At least three complete socket wrench sets, possibly more.

img_3262Now picture Son moving to Parts West with two suitcases. His entire apartment is boxed up in the garage, too. Now what? Most is too heavy to ship.

Too heavy indeed! Here are the pots and knives Mother purchased in such industrious cheer — the dish towels and extension cords, an array of spices! He’ll make curry and roast chickens! He’ll eat on Mexican dishes while looking at the spectacular skyline. Oh that view, Mother exclaimed, that view!

And then there was the dreadful pick up eight months later. Utter disarray.

Seeing these things makes for uneasy recollection. For some reason it is the contrast between the early optimism and the later despair that gets to me the most. I don’t know why. The hard questions arise, prime among them — how could I have missed so much?

I know how — because I wasn’t even looking.

It’s a little better now — maybe you can build up an immunity to memory by repeated exposure to triggering belongings. Things have resumed their status as objects. They are once again problems to be solved — sell? donate? keep?

The iron skillet is coming in the house, but — anybody want a waffle iron?

 


My Own Magnificent Clutter

IMG_1124Thank you for all the bed bug wisdom and sympathy! I deleted a few things here and have moved on to my own mess. The bed bug professionals are up in Salem today, taking care of business and my sister is here visiting. It’s a beautiful fall day.

You might be shocked to know that this disarray of fabric is AFTER giving away about 25 LARGE bags of fabric over the course of the last two years. Furthermore, the picture above shows only three of six shelves. Further, there are seven dressers with their drawers full and bins on the floor!!

IMG_1125This is to the right of the picture above. That glorious paper shelving was a garbage pick. Over the years I have found so many wonderful things on the curb, but this bed bug event of my sister’s may have forever changed my view on that, sad to say.
IMG_1126These shelves were thrown up the week we moved in as temporary storage. They’ve been useful for twenty plus years. But I had K remove these two so that I could move in a dresser from the garage. This killed two birds with one tiger saw — making more space in the basement AND the garage.

  All empty!!! When did less start to feel so good?
  There is the ‘after’ shot. Not a huge “TA DA!”, but something.Enjoy the day! I plan to.This book will occupy some of my morning. Pad and paper the rest. We are going back to 1744 – the year of Eliza’s marriage to Charles Pinckney. Hmmmm, I wonder what she wore…

looking back to look forward – September cloths

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Sometimes it seems to me that my catalog of cloth pictures reads like a stream of unfinished projects. Actually, it turns the stomach, sometimes. Proof of need for an intervention!
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I’m going to look back ONE YEAR and find a couple of featured projects and finish them roughly within that month (I mean, September is 2/3’s gone already). This is going to be ‘my thing’. I want to try this as a tool, though, and not as a ‘thing’ (i.e. “My Year of Finishing Work”, blah blah blah).

A little structure. A little time pressure. In conjunction, the two COULD work.

I hope that this process will be a lot like deciding not to grocery shop in my husband’s absence this week. Instead, I made do with what little was in the fridge. How gratifying it was (absurdly gratifying?)!

Sometimes, I will first have to FIND the thing. But’s that okay, and probably good and necessary.

IMG_0462The one above just needs a binding and dowel sleeve (well, and the intention to finish — that’s the point here).

IMG_5272Furthermore (and this is critical!), I here before you pledge not to get bogged down in the “PROBLEM” of what to do with the finished pieces.  My Etsy store is deadsville and I can’t quite bring myself to sign up for any sales this fall. In fact, my domain name is up for renewal in a few weeks and I’m considering letting the website go. I mean, I never go there. Does anyone else?!!

Streamlining, focusing, empowering.
IMG_0433Huh. And not to get too, too ambitious here, I have the same need with books. So, I will embark upon a parallel process with those.

There! A pledge. Two pledges.

And, of course, the Hearts for Charleston Quilt takes priority.

Evidence of days gone by

A weekend of clutter clearing turned this up — one stuck to the other, found in the way-back shelving of our bathroom. I can make up a whole story about the boys from it — probably none of it true — but it does speak to a certain kind of effort that happened over a period of many years.  (I don’t think I ever used lollipops as bribes, but who knows?!)
Bathroom shelving is one thing. The garage is another. It’ll take more than a couple of afternoons to clear this up enough just to be a workable storage space again. It’s always been a mess, but after in-law downsizing, it’s REALLY a mess.

Fortunately that work can be alternated with effort out of doors.  I pulled out a lot of English ivy over the weekend… while tossing a dirty, drooly ball for Finn, who seems to possess a bottomless love for playing fetch. The vine below is hydrangea and a real keeper.
IMG_8816Everywhere around the neighborhood, people are making repairs to damage done by this past (unbelievable) winter. If my neighbor’s basement cleaning crew shows up again today, I will need more than the ‘jackpot boy’ I made for Finn to keep him distracted (speaking of days gone by — that fleece was one year’s Christmas pajama bottoms).  Finn has no trouble with humans, but I guess men in hazmat suits don’t look like people to him!

whale bone and other treasures

A IMG_2704Spine. Having a spine. Standing up for oneself.

Having just bailed on a volunteer commitment that was way bigger than expected, I am having to rest in the awareness that I am better off suffering temporary negative judgment than jostling a set of tasks that I really really don’t want to perform. Oh well.

C. came and went last week. We hardly saw him. As it should be. As it should be. Meanwhile, my younger son is making prom arrangements. As the light lingers well past dinner time, the season reminds us all of the inescapable passage of time. Sometimes we meet the changes with a glad heart. Spring is comin’!IMG_7526 Scrubbed a wall and floor in the studio on Monday. Dead mouse stink is a great motivator. (Product note:  I have fallen in love with orange-scented oils to clean wood). Little fella below was discovered around this time last year.
TRAYThe space is beginning to feel welcoming. Open. I burned sandalwood. I moved stuff around. At this point I am not getting rid of clutter so much as consolidating it.
IMG_7518Lastly, I bought one of Saskia’s beautiful pieces (more pix soon). Just look at it! It couldn’t please me more. It feels important to recognize the economies of happiness. It’s different for everyone. My recent rather pedestrian conclusion is that such domestic equations rely on more than dollars and cents to come out properly.

Is it an indulgence for someone confronting TWO college tuitions this year to buy a piece of hand-worked art? Perhaps. Perhaps. But when I consider how much pleasure it gives me, the calculation comes out with a different answer — absolutely worth it; a bargain.

Reminds me of a Nicole Hollander cartoon from ages ago, where her character, Sylvia, asks, “What is a good hair cut worth?”  The answers were:
a) three months of therapy; or
b) six months of therapy.

And check out the package Saskia used to ship my quilt from Holland.  And, I’m not even showing you the handmade paper it was wrapped in, or the lovely laminated tag enclosed. Delight! And more delight!
IMG_7519If you are not familiar with Saskia’s work, you are in for a treat. Her blog, Tales from the Birdhut, is listed on my sidebar under her name.

(And by the way? That cool skull block print in one of the studio shots was a freebie (!!yes!!) by Brenda Beerhurst, inserted in a package when I bought a print of a banana bike from Rick Beerhurst a few years back).