New Year’s Day and Two-Year Day

Clump #230: Basement paper piles shredded and recycled; Coventry Carol sheet music refiled.


Hello wonderful readers.  Not only is today the first day of 2015, it’s also the second anniversary of Clump A Day!  Amazing.  I am living and typing proof that anyone can fulfill any New Year’s resolution, even one as outlandish as this: a disorganized technophobe publishing on the web and clearing a clump of clutter every day.  Yes, I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon more than a few times, but have gotten back on and kept rolling.

I very much hope you enjoyed wonderful holidays.  I have been savoring the closeness of family the most.  Our older daughter was here and gave us the clearing of clumps as a Christmas gift.  My husband put her to work in the basement with some very old piles of paper.  The one below was spared shredding.  It was obviously a school project for our younger daughter, a menu, possibly created to use spelling words? “A guarentied smile when you leave” was her restaurant’s slogan, which could mean its customers were happy to leave :-).


Inside, menu items included “roast beef – the savory and tender meat matched with the stupendous flavorful juices will brighten any horrendous day.”  And, “green beans – these crispy fresh green beans with a lively bright color will give you a reasonable amount of the important folic acid that you need.”  Sold!

Ah, some things are just too good to throw away.  But many, many more were not.  I placed newspapers and flyers strategically over the bags in the foreground, below, to stabilize the shredded paper within.


Sometimes I feel my progress is not as dramatic as I would wish.  After two years of de-clumping, I still struggle with the holidays.  But I experienced one very clear victory: every year my husband and kids sing a quartet at our Quaker Meeting’s Christmas Program.  Like clockwork, late on the day of the program, someone utters the question: “Do you know where we put the music for the Coventry Carol?”


And just when they should be running through the song so we can get in the car and go, a hunt for the sheet music ensues.  This year, for the first time, I said, “I know exactly where it is.”  I had made the culling of sheet music a clump sometime last year.  “It’s in the pink folder with the whole notes on top.”  And, lo and behold, there it was.


And furthermore, there is where it was returned.


Without the early Christmas to-do list work that this blog inspired, I would have really been in trouble.  I had received some bad news about my mom’s health (she seems to be doing better) and about two dear friends during the lead-up to Christmas.  I was driving to Lancaster County much more often, and even at night.  The Santa I had photographed last year (at top) looked so different in the dark, as if he had come alive and was ready to go.  Me too!


Wishing you the very best of health and happiness in the New Year, and may your resolutions bring you comfort and joy.

Fierce and Flowery Black Friday

Clump #270: Christmas shopping and paper purging; day twenty-eight of National Blog Posting Month.

There was no rest for the weary today.  My niece and I continued our tradition of Black Friday shopping early this morning … after sunrise, that is.


Since the year we trooped out in the middle of the night to track down a large-screen t.v. for my dad, which was pretty scary, we’ve taken it easy both in time of day (7:00 a.m.) and number of stores (one).  The memory still lingers of the huge man vying for large electronics wearing a sweatshirt that said, “There Are Two Types Of People: Gun Owners And Victims.”  I let him go right ahead of me.  “After you.”  Actually, his was a pretty good Black Friday strategy.

My niece was looking like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with.


But it was all for show.  (No foam swords were harmed by us for the photo).


Later, we visited Longwood Gardens.  In the children’s garden maze, she punnily said, “This is a-maze-ing!”


We weren’t the only ones getting into the holiday spirit … or with a penchant for silly hats (see yesterday).


I was so thoroughly tired out that I fell fast asleep in my chair tonight.


My sister said I should be able to count just getting out of the chair as the clump for today, but I moved my clump of aching muscles and another pile of paper.


I was rewarded with a lovely handmade Thanksgiving card sent from my sister-in-law.


We also received our first Christmas card!  I’m going to have to reevaluate whether I can still be friends with them.

Clutter Tips for Turkeys

Clump #269:  De-clump paper pile; day twenty-seven of National Blog Posting Month.

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The one thing you kind of forget when committing to the post-every-day challenge in November is a little thing called Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving was the year of the Pie-fecta: my husband’s Apple-Pumpkin-Pecan Pie.  The Turducken of the pie world.  I confess I wasn’t expecting to like it, but was won over by the yummy combination of flavors and textures.

And wasn’t it enough of a clump to get the pies made, the feast carried over the river and through the Amish farmland to be with our grandmother/mom?  Well, we had the easy part of the meal, with lots of help.  This is my very obliging niece, lovely enough to make the silly turkey hat look good.


Later I had just enough time and energy to haul out a clump of papers and bust through them.


In today’s issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer I enjoyed a spoof of the typical “holiday tips” lists that I’m attracted to like a moth to a flame.


I loved the advice below on how to “distract guest from the clutter you were too lazy to pick up.”


Is the picture a little out of focus, or is it the fog machine I’ve fired up? Hope your day was festive and fun!

Everyday Clumps

Clump #248: Clear out old laundry clump and mail pile; day six of National Blog Posting Month.


An update to the soap-on-a-rope story from yesterday.  My husband discovered the silly soap this morning, put it over his head, tightly, where it wouldn’t budge any farther, the bar of soap resting on his forehead, and called out to me, “How’s this thing supposed to work?” (Cue the sitcom laugh track.)  Aren’t soap-on-ropes supposed to be worn around one’s neck?  Or maybe the short rope was the reason this one was 75 percent off?  My dear husband, a very patient man, is pictured on a walk above, with me catching up after having stopped for yet another photo.

Today’s clump might seem a bit wimpy.  Both just are everyday household chores that rose to the clump level.  First, a bunch of sheets washed, dried, but which just kept getting shoved aside for need-to-wear/use laundry.  When you (read I) avoid something for too long, roots start forming and avoidance sets in.  That and wrinkles.


Below is the heap of mail — mostly catalogs — that were delivered to our house today.  After vanquishing the big, bad paper pile of last week, I’ve been like a pit bull attacking the daily inflow of mail.  Now that it’s high season for catalogs and solicitations for charities, the extra vigilance is even more important and more laborious.


Here is what I kept: two catalogs I enjoy, and two bills to pay.


I’ll close with another in what could be a series: me walking behind my husband, due to my photo-bugging,


and an example from nature of the benefits of steady, consistent clean sweeps.

Pumpkins, Piss N’ Vinegar

Clump #245: Work through inner, inner paper pile; day three of NaBloPoMo.

Oh my, my.  I just caught myself starting to read an article entitled: How to Stop Procrastinating — For Good, while procrastinating writing this post.  I really didn’t even notice for a while; the irony is pretty thick.

Here is a great tip for hapless housekeepers: invite a neat-nick friend over once a week.  My dear friend and fellow The Voice t.v.-show-watching partner came over again tonight for the show.  One week ago she set off the clump that I’m finally peeling back to its essence.  Funny thing about last week: I dumped all sorts of paper in an ugly pile, stashed it in the corner of our study, turned the light out, and pretended that it didn’t exist.  But sometime during the Adam-Blake-Gwen-and-Pharrell-fest I wanted to mapquest a destination for this friend.  She came with me into the study where our computer is, I turned the light back on, and, well … my clumping shame was exposed.  But she came back again this week.  By the end of the Voice season our house should be immaculate. Or maybe I’ll allow myself to relax and be okay with the way things are.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this dichotomy between the public and private self/home.  The pumpkin I carved for Halloween made for an unexpectedly funny illustration.  Private, raw, and untamed:


Public, neat(er), smooth, and composed:


Dark night of the soul:


Put on a happy face:


I got through a bunch of phone calls today from the inner, inner paper pile that I had been putting off, but when confronted, felt very good.  I vented my spleen (where in the world did that expression come from?).  I was full of piss and vinegar (again…?) by the end of the paper pile calls. Not as big and grand as the mammoth herding of newspapers and catalogs of a few days ago, but in terms of sense of accomplishment, it was great.


Small, but far-reaching in impact.

There’s Still Time and Paper

Clump #244:  Inner pile of yesterday’s clump; day two of NaBloPoMo.


Ahhh, the gift of an extra hour, or as a friend put it, getting back what was taken from us last Spring.

I had a meeting early this morning and thought I was running late.  It really brought out the inner two-year-old brat in me (“No, I don’t want to!”), until my husband tipped me off to the fact that I was operating on daylight savings time.  Whoa!  Suddenly, all dressed and with the requisite papers printed out, I had a full hour in which to luxuriate. I made sure I didn’t blow it by luxuriating too long and having to rush out the door for a second time in one morning.  I left a little earlier than I normally would, and was able to marvel at the beauty of the day, above, taking photos along the way.  I left my cup of tea in the car, but had time to retrieve it.


I was the first one at the meeting (ha!), and even had time to take photos from inside:


It was what Winnie-the-Pooh would describe as a blustery day.  Clear and bright.


And as promised, a clearing took place inside our house, too: the inner core of the massive paper pile documented in yesterday’s post.  I organized it all into logical sub-piles, filed the fileable papers, and will work on the “action” pile tomorrow during business hours, since many items require a phone call.

Does everyone know that Bed Bath & Beyond coupons can be used even when expired?  Just checking.  Keep stashing them away and never buy anything there for less than twenty percent off.

Also, speaking of time, I’m currently not feeling love toward Harry & David, who we’ve done business with in previous years, and who kindly send us our gift giving history and catalogs, below.  Let the record show that on September 9 I received an email from them with the title: Judy, There’s Still Time To Order From Your Gift History.  Well I should hope so!  Bah Humbug!


This pile of old notes provided a surprising mash-up of messages.  I was happy to find I had jotted down three things to buy in bulk when on sale this year for a holiday giveaway for the needy: Barbies, nail polish, and wrapping paper, hot items last year.  I must have written “Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store” from the song “One Day More” from Les Mis for this blog; the penultimate day of a previous challenge?


NOW I’M HERE; DON’T STOP ME NOW sounds like some kind of desperate ransom note, but they were the two Queen songs I jotted down (quickly and messily) that my older daughter wanted me to call her and let her listen to when I and our younger daughter attended a Queen with Adam Lambert concert this summer.  The words away from the concert became oddly inspiring for me today in this challenge.


Don’t Stop Me Now!

Plunging Into the NaBloPoMo Challenge

Clump #243:  Vanquish paper dragon, yet again.  Day one of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).

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Hello again … I’m back from Baking Land!

Some big things happened when I was gone from the blogosphere.  First, I had a “big” birthday.  To mark the occasion, I was determined to take a dip in the lake where my family and I were staying for the celebration.  Yes, it was October.  Oh, yes, the  water was cold.  My older daughter and youngest niece joined me.  Here are some of the wonderful gifts from the experience:

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  1. My very wise daughter said, on the day we were to take the plunge, “Mom, it’s not going to be any warmer or more light outside than it is now.”  Me: “So true.  Let’s do it.”
  2. I had a very strong image in my mind of exactly what I wanted to do: walk, walk, walk in, with no stopping, then dive from there, float on my back and kick up a big ball of splash (below), the way my mom always did, then get out.  Done and done.  A clear, rock-solid goal is a powerful thing.
  3. My hot, outdoor shower afterward felt like heaven!  Gotta have the cold to fully appreciate the warm.
  4. The whole experience shook off every speck of dust and cobweb (old-lady-ness), inside and out.  Invigorating!

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Also, I completed a writing task that has been hanging over my head for a year. I was aided by life lesson number one, above.  I told myself, “I will never have more time to do it than I have now,” as the deadline bore down on me.  Later, I read said writing in front of a group, which was very big for me, given my history with public speaking.  A flashback to the “presentation speech” I was required to do in junior high or high school (blocked out the year): I had made the mistake of choosing to demonstrate how to make a tissue paper flower, not realizing how much my hands would shake in front of the class.  I told myself that it was loud to me, but maybe the other kids couldn’t hear the rattle of tissue paper shaking — until a class comedian piped up with, “It’s a good thing she’s not working with a knife!”  Ah, memories!


Now, down to business.  The clump. With all the Fall Festival baking, going away to upstate New York, and the big writing project to fret over, the paper-build-up in our house again reached danger level.  My good friend came over to watch The Voice with me last Monday night, so I swooped up all the paper and dumped it in a corner of our oft-beleaguered study.  If its walls could speak they would be crying, “Help, I can’t breathe!”


But here you go, old thing, my work in progress:


And after.  Pile on the right is the clump for tomorrow.


The study breathes a sigh of relief.  Enjoy, indeed.


A happily ever after.

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Until the next time …

Big thanks to my sister Jean for the lake photos!

Mail Basket and Beacon Hill

Clump #232:  Clear out mail basket; day 28 of the 30-day challenge.

I am so tired.  Before I fall asleep at the keyboard, here’s a small clump I forced myself to sort through.  A pile of old papers is like an archeological dig …  on the top, my Rosamunde Pilcher collection of novels that our younger daughter fished out of the basement for my post-surgical recovery (I actually chose to read Maeve Binchy, also cozy reading, featuring tea-drinking characters from the British Isles), and the “trashy” book my husband bought in the airport for vacation … ah, memories.


And, after, with a few remaining papers for discussion:


One reason I’m feeling so exhausted is a bit of work on behalf of our neighborhood association.  When I was in Boston this summer I took a walk through the Beacon Hill neighborhood.  My Fodor’s guide book recommended a tour that took me through Louisburg Square, below. Huh.  I just googled it to make sure of the spelling and found a Wikipedia entry saying that “the square has been mistakenly assumed to be private property but is, in actuality, owned by the City of Boston …” Who are you going to believe, Wikipedia or Fodor’s?  My guidebook said Louisburg Square was the first Homeowner’s Association in the United States.  I got a kick out of that.

It’s a U-shaped collection of very exclusive homes with a small park in the center.  One home is owned by John Kerry.


Louisa May Alcott died in another (not necessarily this one)


If, indeed, they do have a Homeowner’s Association, I wonder how much they pay in dues?


And what issues come up at their meetings?  Doorway beautification requirements?


Cobblestone maintenance?


Tempests in tea pots, all.  And speaking of tea, more tea please!

Celebrate Being Alive

Clump #230:  Clear kitchen tabletop (again) (and finally) of all papers; day 26 of the 30-day challenge.

For anyone interested in my photographs, I use an iPhone with no special equipment … just my often-unsteady hands.  Sometimes I’m amazed at the detail it captures.  This was a hydrangea I snapped today on a walk with my mom.


Admittedly, it was a bit like pulling teeth to conduct the final paper-summit with my husband and finish the job I started days ago.  It’s the last thing we have felt like doing, and there were so many other things to keep us too busy and too tired … good excuses not to do it.  But we got the job done tonight.  Clearness achieved and order restored.  My husband even made two more accounts paperless.  Yippee!


One paper that caught my attention was this one listing “Mature Driver Safety Tips” that for the first time came with my driver’s license renewal form.   I didn’t keep it, but if I did, I would have to file it under “You know you’re getting old when …” Ugh.


I can’t end on that note.  I’m finally putting the backing paper from the Cherry Blossom Centennial stamps I referenced yesterday in the recycling, but I have to share one more quote from it:  “Because these spectacular trees flower so briefly, the Japanese often see them as poignant symbols of transience — making every blossom an invitation to celebrate being alive.” (The photo below is not a cherry blossom, but a flower I photographed in Norway.)


I might be the only person to put cherry blossoms and driver’s license renewal forms in the same category: “symbols of transience.”  I’ll take flowers any day.


Mail: Benign and Hostile

Clump #228:  Send off clump of mail and clear, right away, incoming mail; day 24 of the 30-day challenge.

First, a moment of awe, please, for the Cardinal flower I spied today. Like an elegant designer gown: devastating simplicity and breathtaking color.


Now back to our regularly scheduled clump report.  It was a day of getting letters, checks, and packages out into the world.  Phew.  Tedious (especially in the case of the books to Russia), but so cathartic.


Equally cathartic in its own steady way: keeping up with the burgeoning piles of catalogs coming to our house, the start of the pre-holiday buy-buy-buy drumbeat.  Makes me think of my late brother-in-law who used to say when dealing with left-over food, “Should I throw it out now, or next week?”

Shall I recycle them today, or when they start suffocating me?


I’ll close with an excerpt from the Tell Me About It advice column by Carolyn Hax from the August 21st Philadelphia Inquirer.  This exchange stuck with me, to the point that I searched out and reread it.  Good armor-toughening advice for “hurtable” people (all people?), something I needed today.

“Question: Can you elaborate on what you mean by controlling “the access we give people to our sensitivities”? I don’t “give” people like this access to my sensitivities, they just know exactly what they are and how to use them to hurt me. Even if I put on a show like it doesn’t hurt, it still hurts.

Answer: I’ll use my experience in reading hostile mail for 16 years, and also in some volatile, now-ex friendships. Both used to upset me deeply, and now the same things barely register. Nothing about the other parties changed, the abuse still comes. What has changed is inside me: I value their (or anyone’s) opinions less; I am more accepting of, less embarrassed by, and therefore less defensive about my own shortcomings; and I learned more constructive ways to handle my hard feelings. Combine the three and I am just not as, for lack of a better word, hurtable as I used to be.  That’s what I mean.”


The exposure I’ve given myself through this blog has made me a bit more “accepting of, less embarrassed by, and therefore less defensive about my own shortcomings.”  Thank you for reading.