"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Goodwill

sorting things out. . .


pink phlox from the garden. . .

pink phlox from the garden. . .

For awhile now, maybe a few years even, I’ve been having a tough time finding books that I enjoy and read all the way to the end (without skipping to the end.) I wondered why that was. As we all know, there are trends in writing, just as there are in films, movies and TV shows. There seems to be a kind of lemming-like aspect to lots of things that are trendy so if you don’t necessarily buy into nor enjoy what’s offered, you’re often out of luck. . . big time.

Enough complaining about that. What has happened to me today is that I started to sort out my books in earnest, pushing the flaps down on a dozen package store cardboard boxes and lining empty ones along the bookcase by the far wall in the room where the orchids thrive most of the time in the winter. The plants are flourishing now on the back wrought iron deck (that’s flooring, not railing) and watered well throughout the summer, much easier to do than dripping water all over the shelves inside.

The thing that has stymied me for awhile is getting enough shelf space opened up in order to start reorganizing the books I want to keep. Today, that process began as I was delighted to rediscover treasured books that I have owned and read in the past: books by writers like Alix Schulman, Iris Murdoch, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Paul Auster, Ursula Le Guin and Haruki Murakami. For an hour or two, I have been immersed in paging through some of these volumes, setting aside a stack that I’m going to read/re-read during breaks from cleaning out the house during the dog days of August. It has restored my faith in reading for pleasure while reinforcing the notion that “utopia is (already) in your own backyard.”

I managed to transport the heavy cartons of books by putting them on my handy, compact wheelchair that is still up here and stage them to an area waiting to be carried downstairs. Some fellows are coming by this week to help move our Steinway concert grand piano back from a rental to Nantucket. When the “guys” are in, I will ask them to carry the books downstairs and load them directly into the back of my Subaru Outback. Then, I’lll deliver them to the public library loading dock where someone with a dolly will help me unload them. Easy Piece-y.

I can already see the benefit of this book reorganization because now my favorite books are consolidated into a bookcase in the anteroom to my bedroom where I can see them shelved together, rather than being strewn here and there, all over the place. Having filled five boxes of discards already, I’ve made enough headway to keep going. It’s interesting also to note, not only the books that I want to keep and re-read, but the ones that I quickly decide to discard: novels that didn’t take, some self-help. energy and philosophy books that aren’t as good as the ones I’m keeping.

Meanwhile, I also have a couple of cartons, flatter and bigger than the book boxes to put kitchenware that’s obsolete or too worn to keep using (those skillets where food ALWAYS sticks, no matter what you do!) And, a new category of things too good to give away that someone might make a profit from (not me!) selling in their consignment shop. There’s a place down on Canal Street adjacent to a nascent farmers’ market (3 tables) that I walked through last weekend. There are vintage, everyday wares on display that young couples might want to furnish their first apartments with. Finding a new home for kitchenware would ease my conscience for having so much stuff!

So, stagnation seems to be moving along a little bit. (Hey, it’s the extra-big full moon today, isn’t it?) Sometimes a task seems so daunting that even after I’ve fetched all those empty boxes, it feels too burdensome to get started.

Now that it’s midday on Sunday, I feel like I can take a break and steam up some Asian roast pork buns for lunch. And have a tall glass of iced green tea with honey and ginseng. Then, I can settle down to reading books to my heart’s content.


gone, (update) . . .


Yesterday, after I wrote the post “gone, baby, gone” a number of unexpected things came up and the day floated by without any activity.

This morning, I got off the couch and started emptying the contents of the small closet in our spare bedroom. You might think it small, or at least I did, until I started emptying it out. From an endless bottom, it seemed, there were suitcases of all sizes, carry-ons, three suitbags including a tan Hartman that I used for business travel when I worked in biotech and travelled business class, believe it or not. 

G. helped me to stage the contents of the closet in the big plant room so that we could consolidate and go through what was there. The most surprising discovery is that most of the contents of the closet belonged to HIM!! Clothes and other things that went back FORTY YEARS, including a carryall with music in it from his student days at Berklee College of Music. 

Five bags of Goodwill stuff later, we still have things piled up all over the room to go through later today and tomorrow.

One of the things I discovered is that I’ve had similar and consistent taste in shoes for a long time. Delighted, I found an old pair of black suede Birkenstock sandals, a pair of barely worn black Nike sneakers with flashing lights in the sole no less, and a simple but sophisticated pair of black leather strappy slip-on sandals. They looked just like ones I was thinking of searching for on Zappos. It’s kind of embarrassing, but it’s also great to know that I already have what I’ve been looking for (again.) When will this cycle of wish/want/have already ever cease?

We thought we’d take a break since many of G.’s things to go through are still draped over the piano bench, the chair and a pair of new-found old shorts put in the laundry. Over the years, we’ve pared down our clothing so that it’s hung on a stainless rack on rubber wheels like the ones they use in the garment district in NYC. This shows how little we want to have, and that the huge amount of stuff in the closet was not only out of sight, but also way out of mind. And now, most of it is out of the house!

There’s a big stash of luggage that we could use to go around the world in eighty days. But since we don’t travel (at least, we don’t have plans to,) we’ll have to figure out where to store it all for that one day when we just might need it.

To be fair, this house is a Queen Anne Victorian with limited closet space (since the Victorians furnished their homes with huge armoires and other storage units.) We are looking to find places to store seasonal bedding and linens, sheets, coverlets, blankets and comforters which take up so much room.

My collection of handknit sweaters, made by me and a few others, is mothballed in plastic bags to take care of any potential moth larvae. In the Fall, I’ll take out what I will use and handwash a few in Ivory Snow, air-dry and then store in drawers with cedar blocks. It’s a constant battle against these destructive tiny critters and I’ve thrown away more than I’d care to admit. 

And so, the “gone, baby, gone” saga continues. Were it not for some intrinsic life lessons that this kind of activity brings up, it would be just one more boring polemic to “simplify,” “de-clutter,” and “clear.” 

For me, it feels like so much more than that! Now that we’re part of the way through the small closet, I’m not so anxious about starting the big one next week!