organizing


Garage sale

Image via Wikipedia

Spent some time purging drawers and closets in anticipation of the hamlet-wide garage sale later this summer.

Dee has outgrown nearly everything, which caught me off guard because normally I shop for her every other year. She’s put on exactly zero pounds but shot up an inch-ish or better. It’s all legs. Devilish hard to fit the child’s waist. Girls’ clothing these days are vanity sized and reflect the chunkier body types that have resulted from our processed food/low-level of energy lifestyles. Dee is not the shortest kid in her class anymore, but she’s got a Scarlett O’Hara waist compared to nearly all of her peers. Tiny waist and coltish legs spells difficulty in sizing her, so just about every pair of pants I got her back in late February are now floodies and still a tad too big around her waist. Hobbit-legged and thick-middled, the girl ain’t.

I rummaged and purged my own rather meager collection of apparel myself, sticking slavishly to the rule that “if it hasn’t been worn in a year, its history”. I continue to pride myself on the fact that every article of clothing I own could be neatly packed into a large Rubbermaid tote should the need arise.

All this pro-activeness called to mind the agony of purging and packing for the move to Canada before Rob and I married back in June of 2007. In fact four years ago yesterday, we left Des Moines behind.

I sometimes miss the idea of that house.  The openness and space. Some of what we’ve done in our recent renovations replicates it in a way, but we are far from done and even farther from achieving liberation from boxes of packed away stuff that is never thought of much less in danger of every being used again.

Over lunch today, Rob ruefully expressed what he called his “buyer’s remorse” about the renovation project that never ends. Selling and buying new, however, was never an option. Real estate around here is overpriced and much of the newer stuff is poorly constructed. For a little bit of debt, we can create spaces in our existing home that will more than suit as opposed to taking on the monumental debt of a brand new mortgage for what amounts to overvalued real estate on a prairie that is downwind of various petrochemical plants. It’s somewhat of a no brainer.

It’s doesn’t make the process less cumbersome or tiring.

The last time I purged a house, it was slash and burn. Goodwill, friends and friends/relatives of friends benefited tremendously from my zeal to simply lighten my load. I gave away more than I sold and simply threw away everything else. And with only the occasional exception (it would have been nice to have kept that Pampered Chef pizza cutter because the one I have now bites in comparison), I haven’t missed anything.

That’s the thing about stuff that most people can’t wrap their minds around – it honestly won’t be missed once you are able to pry your fingers loose of it. In all likelihood, you will never waste another thought on it again.

I toy with the idea of just getting a waste-bin  delivered and just have a chuckfest. But, of course, I won’t. A lot of what constitutes clutter isn’t mine, and though I am convinced that it would be years – if ever – that anyone would ask after the departed items, I respect the fact that what I deem useless and spent embodies something important for others.

Accumulation of stuff seems to be a condition of life – unless one is a monk of some kind. Renunciates are what they are called in yoga. Renunciates eschew things in an effort to seek the balance between living in a physical world without placing too much attachment on it while Householders do the opposite while still being expected to rise above it all. I think the latter is the more difficult. Having fewer things, as I have learned, spoils a person. The more room I acquire the less I want to fill it up. The more stuff one has, the harder it is to decide what’s necessary and the greater the likelihood that one won’t recognize the tribble like nature of stuff. Stuff breeds because it feeds want.

Too much stuff blinds us as well because it fairly demands that we attach value – monetary and emotional – to it, making it harder to get rid of and easier to let pile up in one way or another.

I suspect I will spend the better part of the rest of my life waging a quiet war of attrition with clutter and accumulation. Most days I am zen about that but today it’s raining and cold and my hair is frizzy. Not that this has any bearing, mind you, and I have just been thinking  – again – about how to lighten Rob’s load without any success. Maybe banana bread and cookies? At least that’s not permanent clutter.


Coat of arms of The District of Summerland

Image via Wikipedia

Summerland, British Columbia is a place that’s name says it all. It’s a place that lives in the warm months and hibernates the rest of the time. Orchards and vineyards dot the landscape. Fruit stand every 100 metres and wineries nestled in any available nook or cranny.

Sitting along Lake Okanagan between another aptly named town, Peachland, and the retirement/summer playground of Penticton, I’ve only really seen summer there once. Most of our visits have occurred during late fall or winter when brown colours and cold air dominate, and even the local inhabitants seem to have snuggled in like bears for the duration.

In an attempt to make our hastily scheduled trip for G and G’s wedding more of a get-away than an obligation, Rob booked us into one of the nicer resorts on the lake, a place that is cost prohibitive in the high summer season.

Whenever possible we go for the suite option because it allows us all some space and Dee is no different from Rob and I in needing space.

It was a lovely set-up. One of the nicest kitchens I have ever seen in a suite with a full range, large fridge and a dishwasher. The cabinets were fully stocked with any type of dishware, pot/pan or utensil if cooking was a must, and the bath had separate tub/shower and an awesome vanity that stretched nearly the length of the room with an equal sized mirror and under the vanity a light that was motion sensitive for night-time use.

It also came equipped with two televisions.

TV is one of those weird things that while I don’t miss not having it on a daily basis, I do tend to check out when we travel.

Mostly, I channel surf. A few minutes here, twenty minutes there or just flipping at the speed of sound. I seldom watch anything from beginning to end because nothing is captivating or creative enough to compel me to do so.  And so much of it is horrifying anyway.

It appears that most television is some sort of reality themed show where the objective is to find the most objectionable representatives of humanity to showcase for entertainment purposes.  One such show – which I had no idea existed or that there were people in the world desperate enough for attention to agree to be a part of – is called Hoarders.

Part extreme intervention with a touch of home improvement via organizing, the show finds people who are steps beyond an Oprah moment in an attempt to help them reclaim their homes from mountains of crap and possibly direct them toward mental health services. The latter is, I suppose, noble. Every person they highlighted had severe OCD in addition to an alphabet soup of other issues ranging from personality disorders to dysfunctional family or intimate relationship problems.

I couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes or so at a time, but I kept coming back to it in my meandering in the same why you’d like to not look at the accident on the side of the road but you slow down, block traffic and size it up anyway.

The houses were nightmares. Not an inch of bare floor with all manner of items piled and mixed with garbage. Most of the people had animals, which totally contributed to the unsanitary conditions with their food and waste droppings.

One woman had two small children whose rooms she took over to store her “stuff” which forced one to sleep with her because his bed had disappeared and her daughter to sleep on the floor with her Dad in a child’s size sleeping bag. She was the one who thought there was nothing wrong with cat crap on the kitchen floor and a fridge stuffed with rotting food. Rotting. And she got all up and snarky when the psychologist insisted that she clean it out herself to see what was in it and understand why it was a hazard to her kids.

And that lady wasn’t the worst one the show highlighted.

“We need to clean,” I told Rob as we watched.

“We are not that bad,” he replied.

“Yet,” I countered as I thought about the box of cards I have yet to sort and Dee’s desk in the office which is the repository of anything that doesn’t have a home.

Granted. We are short on space because of the renovation. But the storage room in the basement, which we were able to walk through in the summer is now impassable and I can totally see how people can allow clutter to become hoarding, which flows like lava through the house, solidifying and turning to the emotional equivalent of stone.

My dad was a minor hoarder of tools, car parts and paper, but I didn’t grow up in a house where the floor disappeared for extended periods of time or the sink choked on dirty dishes until we were eating off paper plates. Even the rooms of my siblings and I never reached tornado strewn disaster level like Dee’s does though she isn’t as bad as she was when she was little.

She inherits her laissez faire attitude from her late father, who grew up with a hoarder mother.

One of the issues between my former mother-in-law and I was the perpetual filth and growing mounds of “stuff” in her home. By the time Will got sick, I wouldn’t even sit down when I visited – often because there was no place to sit – but mostly because the house was disgusting.

The dog, which wasn’t even hers, destroyed her backyard to the point that the neighbors were forever calling the city on her in the summer when the smell radiated to street side. When he died in the garage after days of bloody diarrhea and vomiting – she never cleaned it up. It dried and flaked off and as far as I know when the new owners began their renovation (it had to be completely gutted) that mess was still a giant crusted stain on the concrete.

Rob’s sister is a hoarder. The authorities eventually removed her teenage daughter and the girl, who is now a sixteen year old mother, is not allowed to move back in if she wants to retain custody of her son. It’s that bad.

My mother-in-law has a bit of a stuff issue too, but not to the point where her home is dirty. There are too many possession and no space, and one has to wonder why a person needs so much when it sits in closets, drawers and cabinets never to be used and probably often forgotten about.

TV is bad, but ultimately this foray into the kind of voyeurism that makes one want to use a wetwipe on her brain and scrub her eyeballs has renewed my purging purpose.


YOGA! July challenge

Image by lululemon athletica via Flickr

I’ve been catching up on work today due to a near two-week bout with what turned out to be an infected tooth. What I thought was asthma and a possible sinus infection was actually an abscessed molar.

Two trips to the doctor, four blood tests, a chest x-ray, 2 ekg’s, three antibiotics and a four-hour stint in the ER on a Sunday night (worth its own post) later, I am back to the dentist in a few hours to begin the root canal.

Today, at least, I can sit up long enough to get a bit of backlogged work accomplished. Between Rob’s heart-attack, Mom’s visit and then this tooth thing, I’m woefully behind on the yoga – practice and preparation for teaching.

I need business cards and a new blog plus the time to prep for two classes. I should get the proof for the cards today or tomorrow. The blog is underway. But I still have a bit of reading to do for the Restorative  Yoga class and have to thumb through my Yoga Works notes for the Flow/Vinyasa class on Saturday.

On the business side of yoga, I received a call from the neighbor across the street about teaching a twice weekly class at the community hall. If it works out, I could be teaching four classes a week this fall session. Very exciting.

So, I have not abandoned ye. Once life settle into a “pattern” as Dee is fond of saying, blogging is on the schedule. Perhaps even daily again. I really need to work my word muscles again because I have aspirations that I might share at a later date.

Happy Yoga Month in the meantime.


Three years and the basement still yields enough junk for a garage sale. How can this be?

When Dee and I moved in, we brought only one U-haul plus a Chevy Avalanche truck bed of belongings. That was twenty years worth of life that included no fewer than six moves, a marriage and a child from years zero to four that Rob and I pared down to the essentials plus toys.

Toy purging is a long tedious process that would test the patience of the Dalai Lama.

Before we arrived, Rob stripped the living areas in order to make room for us, but he didn’t do much in the way of purging. Partly because he needed the girls to help him go through their mother’s things – and they weren’t ready – and partly because he is a bit of a pack rat. Not Oprah intervention proportions, but he saves things because they might be useful someday. And while every once in a blue moon I donate, toss or garage sale away something I wish I’d kept – this type of reasoning will pack the empty spaces of one’s existence as firmly as a gluten laden breakfast plugs up a colon.

Every summer since then, we attempt to dig out and reclaim more space.

Progress has been slow.

Sometimes, it’s not even visible to the naked eye.

This summer – breakthroughs.

First, Edie moved into her first solo apartment. She has the entire basement of a home to herself and … too exciting for words … storage space. Two small rooms that are nothing but shelves and a home for all the boxes with her name on it currently taking up a 1/4 of the south west corner shelving in our basement.

Second, Dee has noted and began to see the wisdom of decluttering, AND she can be reasoned into selling – not donating, she’s eight after all – her less interesting possessions. I am loathe to foster monetary greed in the child, but if it empties the basement, I’ll cross my fingers and hope my karma stream isn’t polluted to the point of cockroach reassignment.

Finally, Rob is tired of clutter.

Oh, he’s been tired for a while, but when weighed against reno work, us time, family time and him time, purging and restoring order often fell off the to do list. But this summer, reno is being finished up with an eye towards simply basking in our space and the space … needs to be “spacier”.

I will, of course, never achieve my dream of near empty.  A room with a view via ceiling to floor windows with next to nothing from one end to the other save my mat and a few bolsters, maybe a book or two. However, I will take purged and orderly. I will take it and be sincerely grateful.