Clean Hoarding, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

I hope I haven’t given the impression that we were dirty hoarders. One of the main things Bob
“collected” was cleaning supplies. My reserve supply is proof: here’s what’s left of the cleaning-hoard in the cabinets on top of my washer/dryer.

The cabinet on top of my laundry.

Here’s what I have left after 8 years of cleaning, and donating supplies.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg on mildew-cleaner (front row). He had a thing about mold and scrubbed the showers often.

After Bob’s death I had to face the basement alone.  His collection of cleaning supplies took up so much space that I moved a lot to the garage shelves just to clear a path. I made up boxes of things to give friends, and to donate, and as time went by, I set about using things up. The amount of paper products was staggering. If I hadn’t given away so many paper towels, I’d have enough for at least three lifetimes.

A domino effect of cabinet/garage cleaning (still not finished, so no after-photos yet)  resulted in my realization that I might fit this stuff into one cabinet. So this is it, minus the paper towels and … well, several things stowed under the appropriate sinks.

I’d like to switch to the newer eco-friendly cleaners, but if I give the old ones away, they’ll still be “out there”, so I suppose I should use them up myself. Last year I noticed too late that on Earth Day, Whole Foods invited customers to bring in old (harsh) cleaning supplies and trade them for new (eco-friendly) ones. I’m hoping the offer’s available again tomorrow; I’d like to take them up on it. But, I’d also like to know what they”ll do with the old stuff.

Meanwhile, I’m eager to try soap nuts, which I learned about on A Steward’s Heart blog.

As for my cabinet of supplies, I’m glad it’s semi-organized. And just to prove that I’m still working on my monumental task (see previous post), here’s a photo of something that once was on top of a real monument.

Do you know which monument this belongs to?

Do you know which monument this belongs to?


Related Links:

See more from the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top.

My Basement, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

What do Stonehenge, the Sphinx, the Mona Lisa, and my basement have in common? I’m hoping that the job of cleaning out my basement is a little like visiting those monuments: once I actually get to it, I’ll find out it’s not as big as I thought.

Haven't you always imagined Stonehenge was bigger?

Sam and I stopped at Stonehenge on a trip to the UK. “That’s it?” he said, “I thought it would be bigger.”

Perhaps this Stonehenge/basement-monumentality thing is a stretch, but consider: I first went to Stonehenge back when tourists could walk among the stones, so I know how big it is. Now the massive stones are roped off, always in the distance. Viewed objectively, they don’t look as big. As for my basement, I was here before it got filled up. I saw the collection of stuff grow to hugeness, and worried and fretted the entire time. I still put off going down there whenever I can, so it’s built up in my mind now, like a monument in my imagination. It’s hard for me to see it as it is.

Sometimes I get discouraged that it’s taking me so long to clear out the house.  In my last few posts, I wrote about sorting cassette tapes and suitcases. I was having fun with that. Then, a few days ago I found yet another trove of cassettes. Yesterday I found two more suitcases…  I’m getting a bad case of when-will-it-end syndrome.

Even more cassette tapes.

Even more cassette tapes.

On the bright side, among that last batch of cassettes were three boxed sets that looked so good that I tried listing them on, and I’ve already sold one (a Pavarotti/Freni (La Boheme).

Mona Lisa (photo courtesy of Web Gallery of Art)

Mona Lisa (photo courtesy of Web Gallery of Art)

So, I continue to pick away at my monumental job … Perhaps I need to concentrate on developing that other great quality of monuments:  patience.

P.S. Do you know how big the Mona Lisa is?


Related Sites:

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument




Extra Suitcases, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

What do I take with me when I step over the threshold and leave my house? Why… my suitcase, of course.  Yep, here we go with the hoarder stuff again.

I went a little suitcase-mad lately and bought 2 new bags, so I’ve dragged out all the old ones for evaluation: something’s gotta go.

Suitcases on the threshold and a rainy day evolution of carry-on bags.

Suitcases on the threshold, ready for adventure. A rainy day and the evolution of carry-on bags.

Buying new luggage was a guilty pleasure I succumbed to because my old carry-on is getting hard to pull. Now I have a “spinner” that can fit sideways down an airplane aisle, and is easier to handle in the airport or the street. I also bought a weekend bag with a padded laptop section. As for such self-indulgence, at this point, if it makes life simpler and easier, that’s justification enough for me.

Now for a wallow in suitcase nostalgia:
The tan one on the left is full of doll clothes (!) — I found it in my mother’s closet after her death. She made these for my dolls when I was a child. I couldn’t bear to go through them then, and put them away in the top of the closet until today.

A suitcase full of doll clothes my mother made for me.

My dolls had clothes to match the ones she made for me.

I’m still not ready to sort out the doll clothes, I just peeked inside long enough to take this picture.

The next suitcase is an old (empty) one of Bob’s. The gray one third from the left is full of photos and papers some from 30+ years ago , and it’s a bit scary to realize it’s been with me, apparently unopened, through three moves. I’d forgotten it existed. The next was another of Bob’s early ones. I remember its presence in Greece, Belgium, Germany and France in our pass-riding days. I had a similar one, and a separate fold-out trolley to wheel it on, back before carry-on’s came with wheels. Next is a larger bag I bought once as part of a set, then Bob’s black roll-aboard, and my roll-aboard imitation.

My first wheeled carry-on is a missing link in this evolution of suitcases.  I couldn’t find it, so I must have donated it already. Like the new spinner bags, it fit the narrow way down an airplane aisle. It also fit under the seat in front of me (seats were bigger). It had a handle like a leash and followed behind me, making it a hazard in crowds.

I can think of two reasons to keep old suitcases around:

  1. It’s good to have a spare one just in “case” (sorry) the current one malfunctions or gets lost.
  2. They’re handy receptacles for accumulating loads of things you’re getting ready to take away. I’ve already used and delivered three with one-way loads of mementos taken to family members in other states.

And by the way there is a third reason, maybe not to keep old suitcases, but at least to look them over fondly before donating them — we’ve been through some great adventures together, east and west and a good way around the planet. Some have even been lost, and found their way home from their own incredible journeys… so, now, “goodbye extra suitcases, may you find happy new homes.”

What’s your best use for extra suitcases?

Related posts:

See the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge for more on thresholds.



Donating Music, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Sometimes time passes so quickly it’s almost a blur, sort of like this street view  –

Street View: Early Morning on West Peachtree.

Street Life: early morning on West Peachtree.

The years go by in record time –  *segue alert* – speaking of which, I’ve been giving away records. That’s vinyl record albums, for the uninitate. Can you believe that after all this time I still had so many  left? Three tips of the iceberg:

Here’s how quickly time flies…   It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was playing these on the turntable of my stereo component set.

After record players came cassette decks, so of course we all replaced our favorite records with tapes. Then time flew on and we replaced those with CDs, with the wasteful result that people sometimes ended up with the same work in three formats.  Frustrated, I quit updating my stereo components and just listened in the car or on my computer until iPods came along.

One good thing about keeping my vinyl records so long: they’re back! Now there are people who actually want them. I just gave a friend’s niece two boxes full. Even my library is featuring them, so I’ll donate some to them too.

Here’s one I’m keeping. I always loved this “Brahms/Hedgehog” cover, so thanks to IKEA’s ready-made frames, I framed it:

Brahms' Hedgehog.

Brahms’ Hedgehog.

Hedgehog IMG_4879 The theory here is that Brahms favorite tavern in Vienna was called the Red Hedgehog.


Bob had lots of cassettes. I donated dozens of them a few years ago, and this week found these (mostly mine) tucked away in a cabinet. I’m not going to wait for hipsters to go cassette-crazy, I’ll just donate them now and trust that the right people will find them.  — and yes, in regard to Sounds from Norman Times, I like to think that, hundreds of years ago, the Normans sat around recording cassettes for archeologists to discover in the 1980′s.

Lots of cassettes -- I may have to listen to a few of them before donating.

I may have to listen to a few of these before I donate them.

Now time rushes forward to the next technology upgrade… 

Where do you think the music migration will go after the cloud? Will we have blue-sky music? 

Related post:
Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life



Sorting T-shirts, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

I love window shopping. Not that I want to buy the things in the windows — I just like the art of display. If windows are in the process of transformation and I get to see the art take shape, so much the better. I took this picture of a Fifth Avenue window (New York City), earlier this month.

Changing NYC window. Bergdorf Goodman.

A display in the act of changing — Bergdorf Goodman.

Windows can be surprisingly deep. It’s hard sometimes to tell what’s behind and what’s in front, let alone where the picture plane is.

Now I have to admit that I did buy something on this trip – a T-shirt at the Met Museum, so it counts as a souvenir, plus, it was marked down to $12.00. Upon reflection, now that I have a new T-shirt it’s time to get rid of some that I already have. I found 9 to donate and 3 to consign to the rag-bag to use for cleaning.

Why did I keep so many T-shirts? People I love gave them to me; they came from previous trips that I want to remember; they were free; or I wore them out but thought I might “need” them for painting or working in the yard. And do you know what? — I also found a cache of never-worn T-shirts that Bob had.  Should I have a give-away on my blog? If you’re interested and have a US mailing address, leave me a comment and let me know how to reach you. They’re mostly size XL. Here’s a selection…

Never-worn T-shirts, mostly free or from Cons

T-shirts: some were give-aways, some from past Cons.

Are T-shirts a reflection on the owner? I’m sure Bob just got Jar-Jar and those smiley-face ones to give me a hard time. Um, *admission* — maybe I gave him the vampire smiley-face.

Here’s another thing I’ve been hoarding lately — articles about hoarding.  I know I need to let those go too, but before I do, here’s a quote from Olivia Judson’s “Home, Dismantled”,  NY Times, February 16.

I never agreed with the idea that personality is defined by objects;  I would rather say that objects are defined by personality. Yet when someone is dead and belongings are all that is left, dispersing those belongings feels like an erasing of that person’s physical presence on the earth.

And another,

An old T-shirt waves at you and says “Remember when we went to Hawaii together?” … a dried corsage — where was the dance? who was the date? — reminds you of the girl you were, who thought a corsage worth saving. In other words, objects are keys to remembering what happened and who you were, and their loss can make the memories inaccessible.

There in a nutshell is why I still have trouble getting rid of Bob’s things, as well as my own things. Like those window reflections, reasons can go surprisingly deep, and it’s hard sometimes to tell what’s up front and what’s behind them. Hopefully, with all this effort, I can be like that window display — changing.

Related articles:

Here’s a link to Home, Dismantled by Olivia Judson, Feb 16, 2014 NY Times

More on the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

And here’s one on dressing Bergdorf’s windows.

Selling Used Books on Amazon, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

I’ve been selling used books on for just over two years now. I still have a few boxes of Bob’s books to go through, so a look “inside” one of the remaining boxes seemed like a good challenge to get me started sorting books again.

Inside a box of books that was inside my basement.

What’s inside the box? Here’s the top layer.

 I brought the first armload of books upstairs on Friday night. Here’s one…sHistory of Pi by Petr Beckmann

Synchronicity: It was Saturday morning before I actually looked at the books I’d brought up, and saw I’d missed discovering History of Pi on Pi-Day (3/14) by just a few hours.

The most modest author bio award goes to Don Lancaster for The Incredible Secret Money Machine. 

Incredible Secret Money Machine

Back cover of The Incredible Secret Money Machine

Plus, any idea related to Kurt Vonnegut’s books (granfalloons!) must be worth reading. I listed this one for sale but maybe I should read it first.

When unpacking Bob’s books I’m always amazed at the breadth of his interests. I admit I’ll be more than a little sad to finish cleaning out this particular corner of the basement. The books are the only window left into that ever-active mind, and though I know I need to disperse these things, I do it with a tinge of regret. From Droodles to the Decameron to The Theory of Parsing, Translation, and Compiling in this box alone, I can’t imagine that he ever got bored. I see now that in its own way, sorting through his books is one more illustration of going inside.

The Snake, by John Crompton

The Snake

Tally from this box:  19 listed for sale on, 20 to donate, and 1 to keep (OK maybe for just a little while).

Which one am I keeping?  The Snake seems like a practical choice for a woman with a yard full of ground-covers, (and it is St. Patrick’s Day today) but I’m feeling sticky-fingered about some of the others too, so I may change my mind.

Here’s a visual list of books I’ll give to friends or donate.

Visual List of books to Donate

Of those books I listed for sale this weekend, one sold this morning: Object Oriented Programming, an Evolutionary Approach, by Brad J Cox and Andrew J Novobilski.  More sychronicity: the matryoshka dolls on the cover make another nice illustration of “inside”.

Russian Nested Dolls, Illustrating "Inside" - Object Oriented Programming.

Illustrating “Inside” – Object Oriented Programming.

I got carried away and sorted two more boxes after finishing this one. They contained the entire set of Harvard Classics: Five Foot Shelf of Books. That’s a set of 51 books. I’ll have to puzzle over what’s best to do with those.  Do you have any suggestions?  (a little quiet reading while I’m thinking about it is always a possibility)

To see more of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside, click here.

“Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff”, the Whitney Biennial, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective

Funny, when I was a kid I did want my parents’ stuff. Bob did too. Funnier still, all this time I’ve congratulated myself on saving it for the next generation, thinking they’d be so grateful to have family  mementos (I was wrong).

– Can you tell what these details are part of?

Let’s zoom out for a different perspective  — they’re details from artist Joel Otterson’s pieces at the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

It was right about 100 years ago that Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp started using “found objects” as art, and neither art nor the way we view objects has been the same since.  In New York this week, both the MoMA’s and the Whitney’s current exhibitions showcase several contemporary artists working with found materials. In these examples, the artist used flea-market glassware, curtains, a quilt, old tools, and a collection of jewelry to assemble work that’s as witty as it is gorgeous.

Hoarders take heart! If we can just find the right artist, there’s hope for a new life, a wink, and big smile for our pass-along stuff.

"187 Bottoms Up", 2013 - Joel Otterson

Here’s a better look at the “Bottoms Up” chandelier, with the curtain of necklaces in the background. (I want!)

“Curtains Laced with Diamonds Dear for You”, 2014 – Joel Otterson

And one more close look, “Curtains Laced with Diamonds Dear for You”, 2014 – Joel Otterson

Related links:

For more on the Photo Challenge: Perspective, click here.

And for the Whitney Biennial, click here.