The Weight of The World in our Arms

Clump #234:  Clear out bedrooms in advance of carpet cleaner; day 29 of 30-day challenge … one more day!


The clump for today was a tremendous achievement, but not in terms of getting stuff out of the house.  Our son and I had to clear the bedrooms and basement floors of every bit of clutter before a carpet cleaner arrived. Our older daughter’s room had been serving as a holding zone for clumps that our younger daughter had mined from the basement … it was especially grueling. Too late to do the necessary sorting and decision making.

In summary, scheduling a carpet cleaner felt like the best and worst thing I could have done.  Wow.  Up close and personal with our excess belongings.  The previously cleared-out basement storage area is now re-clogged.  Nooo!


I had taken the photo below of an old Parade magazine during the big paper purge.  This is exactly the way I felt today. We were working against the clock, and at one point, I said to our son, “What would I do without you?”  With a strained expression and pleading tone of voice he answered, “Start earlier?”  From the mouth of babes (or dudes, or gents …).  The truth hurts, as do my sore muscles and back.


I guess people pay good money to do step aerobics with weights. That’s essentially what the job felt like.  The complete works of Charles Dickens, below, weigh about a gazillion pounds.  I have hauled them from my parent’s bookshelves to our home, to at least two used book sellers (who were not interested in buying them); our younger daughter hauled them upstairs, and I lugged them back down to the basement. Somehow this description doesn’t seem to include enough hauling steps, but you’ll just have to trust me.  Talk about an albatross.  Enough is enough!  I’ll donate them to whoever will have them.  This will be the first clump out of the basement.  I promise.


I’ve got the motivation, I’m in the Tow Away Zone,


soon the wheels will be on and the junk will be moving.

Baby Steps

Clump #231:  Start clearing out younger daughter’s room; day 27 of the 30-day challenge.


I’m coming down to the finish of the get-ready-for-compay challenge.  Yikes.  It’s time to start cleaning out the rooms where my sisters-in-law will be staying.  This will have to suffice as a “before” photo for our younger daughter’s room.  I don’t want to embarrass her.  She spent a lot of time doing a miraculous job of clearing out the basement.  She also put a bunch of old photos in albums, and this is the corner where she kept the supplies.  I can’t fault her too much for leaving her room in less than optimal condition, given how much she helped out.


A dear reader of this blog sent me the following quote, which really sums up the essence of Clump A Day:

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.     –Anthony Trollope


Right now, even a spasmodic Hercules sounds good to me … but I continue to clump step by step by step …


Not Going To Pot

Clump #229:  Clean out terra cotta pots and donate to Fall Festival sale; day 25 of the 30-day challenge.


Today’s clump was cumbersome, but easily dispatched.  Old, dirty plant pots saved for possible reuse that, let’s be real, just ain’t gonna happen. How many years have they been sitting in the basement?  Who can remember?

I stuck them in the sink with a few glug-glugs of white vinegar, and … presto … the next morning they looked good enough to donate to the flea market at our Quaker Meeting’s Fall Festival.


I took the photo below during yesterday’s mega-mailing and couldn’t let it go today.  I had used up the last of the “Cherry Blossom Centennial” stamps I’d bought this spring.  I just love the little poem written by someone who lived in the triple-digit years.


Soon the leaves will be falling in haste …


but right now we are in a delicious state of suspended animation.

Birds of a Feather, Stored Together

Clump #224: Clear out catch-all box; day 20 of the 30-day challenge.


At first look, this box below seemed like a container with a certain logic: mostly office supplies.


But … No.  It was clearly a soldier pressed into service during a company’s-coming-clutter-attack.  A mishmash of all sorts of junk:


Since our younger daughter’s summer project to create logical areas of storage in the basement, I find it is satisfying to place office supplies with office supplies; Easter grass with the Easter baskets, etc., in their places down there.  Even a tiny button is now with its compatriots in the vintage 1991 (our son’s infancy) baby food jar.

I considered giving away the Monday through Friday calendar note pad (unopened, unable to help me get organized), but I decided to actually give it a whirl, and placed it on my desk.  Here goes!


And then came a tough one.  A very old card I had found in a five and dime when I was a college student.  The courtly language and pictures still charm me today, but do I need it?


It’s not in great shape, so I don’t even think it would be valued by a collector.


I can’t be so organized and streamlined that I omit things in my world that give me joy, like the one folder I’m keeping from yesterday’s file purge.  It was put together by our older daughter when her hero was Jane Goodall.


The folder opened to another folder:


And then opened to reveal a dozen animal fact cards that, I’m sure, were sent to us to entice us to buy more.   We didn’t bite.


One of the Honest Tea bottle cap quotes I unearthed gives me pause: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”  –Charles Darwin.


I’m responding to change as best I can, while holding on to a few cherished things.

On Angel’s Wings

Clump #222: Transport clump of junk to Fall Festival storage area; day 18 of the 30-day challenge.


So the thing about a big de-clumping project is this: things look worse before they look better.  Exhibit A: part of the pile of stuff that was (past tense) clogging up our older daughter’s bedroom, the current repository for things to be given away. Most of it had been brought up from the basement to be sorted, or was handed over to me by a friend who was moving.


I filled our car with most of it today, and put it in a storage shed for the flea market-style fundraiser at our Quaker Meeting’s Fall Festival.


The basket below and its twin lived for years and years in the basement storage area. Why not let someone else have them and put them to good use?  But they caught my heart at the last minute.  I had bought them to fill with flowers to decorate our wedding ceremony.  I just couldn’t give them away.  I told myself if I kept them I’d really have to put them to use, but how?  At this point in my life I’m not interested in containers of artificial flowers, or any such dust-collectors.


And then it hit me.  What am I constantly struggling to control and corral?  Magazines and newspapers!  Hooray!   It was a “You’ve had the power in your shoes all along” moment.


The newspaper on the top contained an article called “The angels who care and comfort in worst of times,” from The Philadelphia Inquirer about health care “angels.”  Talk of angels seems to have a new-age reputation, associated with being “out there.”  I loved seeing this biblical quote at the top of the piece:


Nothing flaky about Luke 22:43.  Reassuringly solid.  May you, as I have, feel strengthened by angels.


Perfectly Imperfect

Clump #217:  [Finally] finish clearing kitchen table.  Day 13 of 30-day challenge.


This will be short but sweet.  I delegated today’s clump to our younger daughter …


and now a kitchen table is reborn.  Kind of a boring photo, but very exciting in person, believe me!  Tea anyone?


A quote from one of the bits I clipped during my recent newspaper purge has been turning around in my head.  It’s from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the “Side Show, Your Daily Dose of Gossip” (I never miss it), by the wonderful Tirdad Derakhshani:  “Jeff Bridges lays it out   The modern obsession with being positive blinds us to the darkness and negativity all life forms need, Jeff Bridges declares.  ‘Imperfection and perfection go so hand in hand,’ the Giver star tells the Wall Street Journal, echoing his fave author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  ‘Our dark and our light are so intertwined that by trying to push the darkness or the so-called negative aspects of our life to the side … we are preventing ourselves from the fullness of life.'”  Hmm.  Makes me picture the Yin-Yang symbol.


The table top’s perfection will not last long, soon to be darkened by the endless stream of clutter, but I will enjoy it thoroughly while it lasts.


Eye on the Prize

Clump #216:  Clear out box of awards; decide what to keep and why. Day twelve of 30-day challenge.


This was a gut-wrencher.  The one I couldn’t face yesterday.  The box, below, was collecting dust in the basement until our younger daughter unearthed it during her recent basement-cleaning quest.  The awards belong to our older daughter.  I used to joke that if she liked earning ribbons so much, I would offer her a ribbon for making her bed every day … but somehow that didn’t work.

Does she need to keep them?  And if yes, why?  Some of them are easily dispensed with.  The equivalent of participation medals.  Others she worked really hard for.  Obviously she doesn’t want them in her current residence, or even in her childhood room.  As luck would have it, The Daily Beast today contained a thorough article on the subject, “My Loser Kid Should Get a Trophy,” by Brandy Zadrozny.

As an adult, this daughter is now learning the dangers of deriving one’s self worth from outside affirmation.  We all do it to some extent or another.  I wish I could give her a medal for coming to terms with that important life lesson.  (Ha!)


So, okay, after a long consultation and photo documentation of the awards for posterity, these were the two worth keeping.  A ribbon from an elementary school environmental contest when she was determined to solve (single-handedly) the global warming crisis, and an important academic medal.  I was an abysmal student, myself.  Maybe I need something to touch in order to prove to myself that a child of mine was able to defy the odds of my genetic contribution.


When I was looking back for some other photos to illustrate this post (reaching for the brass ring, above), I scanned through pictures from a recent trip to Boston and Cambridge, MA, where there was a crowd waiting to take photos with John Harvard in the Harvard Yard; a line to touch his left shoe for good luck.  I googled the tradition and found out the likeness is not really John Harvard, rather a Harvard student (descended from an early president), since no pictures of J.H. existed when the statue was being made.


Another misconception is the myth that it’s a student tradition to touch his foot for good luck.  I was horrified to learn from an article in The Harvard Crimson, The Truth About John Harvard,” that the actual student tradition involves peeing on him.  (I truly apologize for the second mention of pee this week.)   From the article:

“Harvard may be an elite institution open only to a lucky few, yet it seems to exacerbate, rather than mollify, concerns about status. The product of this anxiety is frequent displays of contempt for the institution. We pee (figuratively) on things all the time: we skip classes, we are contemptuous of the entire education system, and we constantly bemoan the inadequacy of the social life.”


I’m just going to go now and wash my hands a few hundred more times.


Clump #215:  Clear off batteries and magazine pile from tabletop.


To be perfectly honest, I was working on another clump today that really stumped me.  Stumped by a clump.  So these were done quickly to keep the momentum going.  A bag of batteries of unknown origin.  I’ll find out whether the Goodwill takes batteries, since there are too many of a kind we don’t often use.  Did we go crazy preparing for the power outages this past winter?


Recycle this pile of magazines.

With all that’s been said about Robin Williams after the shock of his recent death, I find myself thinking of our late hairdresser, Cindy.  She was never late, but a few years ago she died of lung cancer.  One of the things that defined her was her love of Robin Williams.  I’m sure it was mentioned at her funeral.  Cindy went above and beyond the call of duty for our family, from styling theatrical hair styles and wigs for a theatrical daughter (no charge), to finding the impossible-to-get beanie babies for us, using her network of client-informants.  What a gem.


It makes me feel a little better to imagine Cindy and Robin in a realm where labels of hairdresser and celebrity are meaningless.  And both of them recognizing their mutual greatness, but especially Robin starstruck over Cindy.

Whistle While You Work

Clump #212: Clear and clean kitchen island and sink; elevate mood.

I felt like a Disney princess this morning.  And not in a good way.


I imagined Cinderella and Snow White cheerfully cleaning up other peoples’ messes.  How did they manage that singing-with-the-birds spirit?  The closest I came was thinking ‘This is for the birds.’


Actually, the Disney character I most resembled (just in attitude, I hope!) was Grumpy.


Here’s a glance at the kitchen island before, with one of my favorite books in the foreground:


I won’t identify those who might have played the roles of dwarves/evil stepmother/sisters, but a baking project had been taken on that was so big, it depleted energy and time needed for the cleanup.  And now they had gone back to the salt mines (or was it coal?).


Here’s the “after,” our imitation granite (the secret is out!) formica, all shined up.  Notice the darkness outside; it took a long time, what with all the grumping.


Kitchen sink before:


(I think it might be bad feng shui to have a dead bug, legs-up, inside a wishbone.  Jimminy Cricket!)


And the much-better after:


With the center of our house’s universe clear, and my mood restored, I read a moving article in The New York Times called What The Sparrows Told Me, by Trish O’Kane.  Ms. Kane wrote, “I tell [my students] that the birds are a gift to get them through the day.”

Maybe those princesses were on to something!

To Put Away Childish Things

Clump #208:  Clear out basement toys; decide what to keep.  Day four of 30-day challenge.  No time … no energy?  No excuses!


This has been one of those days I found myself wishing I had never declared a 30-day challenge. “Let’s face it, I’m tired.”  (Thank you Mel Brooks and Madeline Kahn.)  I pushed myself through a pile of toys and games from the basement (I’m barely able to hold the camera steady, I’m so pooped):


All except the two below will be donated to our annual Fall Festival at Meeting.


I couldn’t let go of the Party Bingo.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t remember the last time we played this game. I’m just happy (not as happy as the girl on the box on the right, certainly) to own one of those spinny-things (does it have a name?) that randomly selects the number balls.


I also kept the magnet blocks.  I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law gave them to us, and I remember thinking they were the greatest thing since sliced bread: somewhat open-ended for creativity, but satisfyingly easy for very little hands to snap together.  Oh, yes, and I managed to keep all the pieces through three children and many years.  A miracle!


It was a day of fanciful, childlike things, from the goose of Strasburg, PA (at top) looking like Mother Goose, to a tiny fairy home at a garden store:


…to a woman, where my mom lives, who offered to teach me her clay art.  I promise to get photos of her amazing creations.  This was just a very primitive example:


Oh that nostalgia, the bane of the de-clumper.  The framed polaroid photo below stays, also.  Our kids made it together when we were in the gigundo Lego store in The Mall of America of Minnesota on a Father’s Day long ago.  <Sniff>


Of course, the real issue with this clump was feeling like I was letting go of pieces of our kids’ childhood.  Plus, I hope we’ll be lucky enough to have grandchildren someday, probably traveling in by jet pack, and that they might enjoy the old favorite toys. The Magnet Blocks and Bingo game are at the ready.