Sunday, January 15, 2006

Clean-up Time

Those of you who know me in real life know that I have a love-hate relationship with order in my
personal space. When things are super piggy (like when I found kitchen grease in the upstairs of
our new home...and there hadn't been a stove in the room for at least five years!!!! Eeeeuwww!!!),
I am a dervish with the scrub-brush. On the other hand, I have a very high tolerance for ordinary
academic clutter -- piles of papers, towers of books, and stacks of opened advertisements for desk
copies I might want to order can lay on the dining room table (or the latest crap-stacker, the
old chapel bench that runs against the south wall) for weeks without acknowledgement. To give you an
idea of the magnitude of the order-problem here, this is what's currently on that bench:

A stereo, seven CDS, a Yahtzee game, a Spanish dictionary (brushing up...dreaming about
Barcelona again), a box of thank-you cards and 7 .37 cent Santa stamps from a couple of years
ago, a chalkboard, chalk, and eraser, 64 colored pencils, one fleece sock, a pair of child's leggings,
outerwear from an earlier snowball fight (as in, two weeks earlier), a fleece reading wrap in a rainbow
cheetah print (kid's craft project before she started quilting), a detachable bicycle basket for a
bicycle that no longer exists (used by kid to periodically to haul folded laundry up the stairs...), a
yellow plastic grocery bag filled with folders of research, a hundred or so blue books that I can't throw
away but that no one will ever retrieve, a 15-inch vertical stack of lecture folders, and a fake-flower
wedding bouquet that kid caught at a wedding on December 28th, a box of white Christmas lights,
some Christmas paper, a child's necklace made of yarn, drinking straws, and colored paper in the
shape of the flags of Kenya, Mozambique, Cote d"Ivoire, and Ghana, a chalice, two maps of Africa (political, physical),
a map-sized sheet magnifier (also useful for microfilm reading), some construction paper,
a five-pound box of air-drying white clay, two spiral-bound notebooks (labeled Haiku and Spelling),
a bag of marbles, five Hal Leonard Level II piano books, a dance bag full of tap and jazz shoes,
a globe, a pint-sized pottery wheel, a bag of calico, some foam packing noodles stuck to a cardboard
tube, a headless Barbie, two plastic light sabers (one with Yoda voice, one without),
an X-wing fighter, a old Star Trek figure (Checkov, I
think) and maybe 50 78 records from dance bands of the 1940s (part of a much
larger collections of 78s of music between 1918-1953 that resides under the bench.

I live in a small house made smaller by the vast amount of crap stuffed in it. So, repeating
the cycle that I always start in January, it's clean-up time. Earlier, I did closets. Now it's the
living room/dining room that is getting the purge treatment. I Freecycle a lot of things (kid
is like living with Scrooge McDuck -- it's very hard to convince her to just throw something
away even if it is broken and beyond repair. It has been tempting at points to Freecycle the
kid herself, but I've managed to resist.) Other items are taken to the local charity
where they will be redistributed to those who actually need it. This ritual always reminds me, especially
at a point of the year when I'm prone to poopiness, that I am already in that place
of abundance that I worry I'm never going to reach. It also uses up some sad energy
that otherwise would brood about my spouse's departure this morning -- he's
gone for another semester-long chunk, with some time back during spring break.

Next week, when I get the house just as clean as it can be (a relative state, since
kid is just another word for entropy) and everything smells like orange oil, I'll sit up
late one night and light a candle just to see the gleam reflected in the wood.
Sometimes you have to prepare for change by letting go of the old.


Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Jeez, how big is that bench? Could you sublet the space to a family of firtile Mormons?

Neal said...

I agree that you have to get the old out before bringing the new in.
When I moved out of my house before coming here, I was shocked at how much poo poo had accumulated in a span of five years. If you haven't used it in the past few months, it's time to throw it out.

listmaker said...

That's some bench! You're inspiring me to stop procrastinating and actually start eliminating some of my hoarded treasures.

bridgett said...

The bench itself is an artifact of another phenomenon -- I attract old furniture. Not antiques, mind. Just old, sort of shabby stuff. (I also attract psychotics and guys fresh from doing hard time in maximum-security prisons, making it hazardous for me to take Greyhound, but that's a post for a different day.) The bench was left here by the former owner, who also teaches in a different department at Our Lady of Perpetual Low Wages. When Our Lady secularized somewhat and went co-ed, they no longer required that the Perpetuas (our female students) attend chapel. The chapel thus fell into utter disuse and during a big remodel, got gobbled up by some administrative department or another. The former owner of our house snapped up this full-sized oaken church pew (from 1920, Our Lady's founding) and lugged it several blocks to the house; it made it as far as the porch and there it stayed to fall apart from benign neglect. (Kind of the story of her life and her ownership of this house.) We took it inside and it awaits refinishing, but it's toward the bottom of a long list of other more urgent home repairs like fixing the roof and getting the bathroom fully operational. It's uncomfortable to sit on and probably needs its braces repaired as well, though I'm handy with a needle and have envisioned making bright cushions that would help it transcend its austere beginnings. Anyhow, it is quite a huge piece of furniture that no one wants to sit on, so we stack stuff on it until we can't stand it and then we clean it off. Almost.

It was just one of those things that seemed "too good to throw out." I try to use whatever I'm given, though I don't redeploy it beautifully like other people. There is no shabby chic around here. It sort of looks like what was left after the garage sale was over -- which is, I guess, probably exactly what we've received (and were grateful to get) from our wealthier relatives.

imfunnytoo said...

Okay, I was gonna hold off and *not* say this, but I'm just too tired and cranky not to...remembering that old banner of dot matrix paper upon which was printed...

"She's tidied up, and I can't FIND anything..."