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.

A Whole Lotta Shreddin Goin On

Clump #226: Sort massive clump of papers and start doing something with them; day 22 of the 30-day challenge.

Just as seasons do not change in a day,


so, too, our killer paper pile will not be vanquished today.  But my husband and I made substantial progress.


I’d say over half of it is either filed, ready to be mailed, or …


SHREDDED!  (In my head I’m hearing a lead guitar shredding out a lightening-fast solo.)


Yesterday’s comic strip, Dustin, by Steve Kelley & Jeff Parker summed up our previous state of affairs. (“Seriously, Kudlick, what are you looking for in all that mess?”  “My organizer.”)


The sense of knowing where every piece of paper might be in our house right now is downright thrilling.  (Please don’t laugh … Clump A Day thrills are real thrills.)


Must hold on!


Paper Chains

Clump #225: Tackle box of swept-up papers and other clutter; day 21 of 30-day challenge.


I must confess to a Clump A Day roadblock.  I was dreading clearing out this container of (mostly) paper all day today.  The task was especially onerous because much of it was culled from previous clearings … a core clump, one might say, dense in its stubbornness.  One might say many other less polite things, but I’ll just add that I spent most of the day doing anything else to avoid it.  (“These plants need watering … immediately!”)


I finally got it pretty much sorted out, but there are a few piles I’ll need to consult with other family members about, and a “Do” pile, which will take a bit longer to make go away.  More work for tomorrow.  But two full bags of paper for recycling are inspiring.

This continues to be the hardest part of my Clump A Day journey: I perform a herculean paper purge, feel victorious, and then the tide comes roaring back … and I’m pulled under again.  It’s been especially challenging this summer to keep up with the paper flow while away on vacation.

One such trip was to Boston, where my older sister and I spent a wonderful day at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  In a fairly new “Monk’s Garden,” pictured below, circuitous paths — almost labyrinth-like — wound through beautifully varied greenery …


evoking lessons learned over and over again in an endless (?) loop.

Antiques, Oddities, and Pretty Flowers

Clump #223:  Comb through and recycle ancient file folders; day 19 of 30-day challenge.


The photo above of a blue poppy (from a botanical garden in Stavanger, Norway) is for two-year-old twins who, I was told, viewed this blog today.  Crying “purple pretty flowers” over and over for five minutes while resisting a nap is the best “like” I’ve ever gotten.  Babies were the theme of the day, like this shop sign my husband and I passed by, both sweet and creepy:


But then, it did go along with the general Antiques and Oddities motif of the store:


So … to the clump!  An old, old, yes, antique, box of file folders, hideous in their out-of-date-ness.


They contained quaint things like preschool contact lists and actual written directions (before the day of the GPS):


I saved so many magazine and newspaper articles I know I won’t ever reread.  A good lesson for the present and my continuous clipping habit. And speaking of clipping, a bit of sweet and creepy of our own: hair from our older daughter’s first hair cut (Awww):


And, finally, the box is empty and a pile of papers is ready for the recycling bag.


I vividly remember having tried the sunflower house, above.  The idea was to sow sunflower seeds with morning glory seeds to make a cozy little house.  I believe there’s a reason it is shown in a drawn illustration. It never looked this dense and wonderful, just leggy and ratty.  Unlike the flowers that grow wild.


Purple pretty flowers!

Freeing Chi

Clump #221: Clear away piles of paper; day 17 of 30-day challenge.


Here’s proof positive that a clump can be cleared on a day of lethargy and low incentive.  I really had to push myself for this one, but was rewarded with a few hidden gems:

I hadn’t remembered that I’d put aside the April (!) newspaper section containing an obituary for Mary Scottoline, “Mother Mary,” the mother of my favorite Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and mystery writer, Lisa Scottoline.  I’d read about her for years through her daughter’s column, but I loved learning more facts of her life from the article.  For instance, she was the youngest of 19 children.  Wow.  Understandably, she had to fight for attention.


This little snippet also lightened the work:


And the feng shui chi is saying “Merci …


we may now flow free!