Spiders, Dinner Club, and Hoarding the Fiestaware

fiesta blog IMG_2435Bob would have loved the neighborhood Dinner Club. He loved good food, drinks, and convivial company. But joining meant hosting once a year — and back then, with all the piles of stuff around, I wouldn’t have let anyone in the house. I regret now that I was never able to find a way to organize the house so that was acceptable to both of us. As for Dinner Club, after his death I eventually joined with a neighbor who’d been a member with her late husband and needed a partner. For the first few years, we hosted at her house and I brought the food. Last weekend, I hosted at mine.

At table, neighbors shared stories of cleaning for Dinner Club. Yes, I was shocked. I’d spent all week putting things away and cleaning, but somehow I thought everyone else was neat all the time and never traumatized like me. One neighbor said that when she hosted, she’d cleaned for days, then happened to look up and see a big dust-web stretched across the ceiling. I was still smiling about this after everyone left. Then I went into the breakfast room, where we’d organized the hot dishes for dinner, and there, looping across the light fixture, was a long string of web. Dang. At least my neighbor found hers before the guests came. I’ll have to hope my guests kept their eyes on the food. The next day, sitting at the dining table, my attention strayed to the plants in the window – and there on the bottom of the Christmas cactus’ plant stand, shining in the sunlight, was the silver tangle of yet another web.

I was so sure I’d dusted every surface. Maybe spiders like convivial company too, and came out to spin while we were spinning stories. I hope so.

Dinner Club table

These are things I’m glad I hoarded.

Here’s a photo of my table: I don’t have sets of fine china and crystal like other members do, so I have Vintage Dinner Club with my mismatched flatware collection, Bob’s mother’s tablecloths, my grandmother’s linen and glassware, and fiestaware pieces that my mother, Bob’s mother, my aunt, and friends’ family members gave me.  I love using their things. It gives me a thread of connection to the people who made my life.


Coat Closet

I said I wasn’t going to clean closets yet, but here I am again, cleaning closets. The decision to have company creates a slippery slope. It’s February and I need a place for guest’s coats. The closet under the stairs is packed so tightly with our own, they almost spring out when I move one.

11 Bob Black Forest cropped

Bob in a favorite leather jacket: Black Forest, mid 1980’s.

I never knew a man who had so many leather jackets. After his death, Bob’s favorite jackets spent a long time in my bedroom closet, taking up physical as well as emotional space. I finally sent several to his nephew and gave one to my brother, and now here are two more I don’t even recognize. I see there are other coats of his, too, and there’s his Burberry. I take it out – it’s minus the liner. I realize now that I saw a coatless liner years ago when I was taking out donations. I wondered then what coat it belonged to, what I should do with it.  Here’s the answer, and it’s come too late.

I take Bob’s coats and a couple of my worn out sweatshirts that shouldn’t even be here, and put them in the donation stack and the rag-bag, respectively. It’s hard to give up the Burberry. He bought it in London before I knew him, at the Burberry store on Haymarket that isn’t there anymore. I went through a phase of wanting one too, but quickly realized it was not in my budget. I bought a Burberry scarf instead.

Bob in his Burberry, Chicago 2003

Bob in his Burberry, Chicago 2003

Bob wore his coat for decades, so, amortized over time it turned out to be a good buy for him.  In the years when we worked for the airlines, we went to London often enough that when he needed his coat repaired, he left it at the store and picked it up next trip.

Sorting stuff out:  it’s a job that seems so simple before I start doing it. Then it gets complicated.

Bob in Bruges, Belgium, 1986

Bob in Bruges, Belgium, 1986

Hoarding the Compost

Blogging about hoarding gives me new insight. I see hoarding I haven’t noticed before. Example: I’m even hoarding the compost.

I‘ve had compost ever since I’ve had a house. It’s a religious experience –  garbage transformed into fertile soil. I started with a modest mound in the back yard at my Kansas City house –  summer grass clippings, autumn leaves, and year round vegetable scraps. Back then, Bob looked at that lowly pile and started buying me nifty interlocking compost bins. By the time we had to move, I had six of them. They’re five of them in my backyard here, where the tree canopy is three times as dense and the leaf cleanup lasts for weeks each fall.

Compost Sam IMG_1966

This job takes two afternoons — thank you Sam.

I know I must have some useful compost, but (here’s the hoarding) the last few years I’ve just left it there and piled more leaves on top, not to mention making a mountain of leaves alongside.

Here’s my second experience accepting help. Sam helps me muck out the compost.  We even find the sections of a long lost bin lying hidden under the leaves. We distribute several wheelbarrows full of black gold to my outdoor plants. The mountain is reduced to foothills now. Soon most of the leftover leaves will fit into the bins. I think the secret is to leave the extra bin empty so I have a place to turn the compost.

Rethinking the Rules

Utility closet garage MG_2229

Oops… I already need to revise my rules. I’ve started on a closet when rule number three is to start with what I can see. In other words ‘forget the closets’.

But the utility closet in the garage is useless as-is: full of dirt and cobwebs, and with shelves that are falling off the wall. I need this closet NOW. Here it is after we took out about half the stuff: empty plastic jugs, old paint cans, brushes and stir-sticks, half full boxes of (dusty) dust masks, etc.



Utility closet garage IMG_2228

Here’s my friend Sam helping me clear out that closet. See how much we’ve already taken out?

It also dawns on me that I need to add a rule: “Accept help when offered.” It’s going in the list today. In the seven years since Bob’s death I’ve always refused help, feeling that the clearing out is my job and my karma, mine alone. But if I haven’t got it done by now,  I may never get it done without help.