Archive for category Decluttering

Ponytails and Pierogidillas

Pardon my long radio silence. I’ll spare you the posts about how it felt to drive instead of fly to Philly for our last visit. (In short, it felt pretty awesome.) Imagine lots of ruminating about how hard it was to move to Houston a few years ago, and how similar and different this move has been. Okay. Let’s proceed.

Way back when, KC had long hair. When he decided to lop it off, he had his “barber” (pretty sure she was a stylist – potayto/potahto) wash it and gather it in a ponytail so we could send it to Locks of Love. We discovered that they’ll take hair that is up to 10 years old, so it got moved way down on our list of priorities. I did bring it out for show-and-tell once when we had company because I thought it was neat, but our dinner-guests (this was long after dinner, of course) responded with mild horror, so I quickly put it away and forgot all about it. This is how clutter happens. Bizarre, organic clutter even.

Because it is probably the most interesting piece of clutter I’ve dealt with so far, I’ll risk grossing everyone out by sharing a highlight of the photo-shoot I had with the ponytail before taking it to the post office last week. Isn’t it cute?

I did not have the proper padded envelope to mail it, and I had to return a journal to Staples anyway (buyer’s remorse – I’m very picky about my notebooks), and I also had to mail a little souvenir to a friend in Houston, so I figured I’d make a trip of it. I took a bus to Point A (Staples), and then walked the route below, stopping at various points on the way.

Point B is a vegetarian cafe called Quiet Storm, where I wrote a card to go along with the souvenir I was sending to Houston, and where I addressed my padded envelopes and so forth, while noshing on something billed as a pierogidilla.

This reimagining of a pierogi featured fake bacon, broccoli, pickled onions, and slaw. It was pretty good, though I will admit to ordering it mostly out of morbid curiosity. That’s sour cream on the side, which I guess is the primary overlap between Mexican and Polish cuisines. Polish food is big in Pittsburgh, as are soft pretzels – often enormous ones – and fries in and on anything and everything. (I’ve had to ask servers to hold the fries when ordering salad.)

Point C is the post office. I will be going back soon to send some techno-trash to an e-recycling service, but that involves more elaborate packing materials than a padded envelope. I appear to be at a point in my decluttering process where any normal person would probably just throw these smaller items in the trash, but I am disposing of them in highly specific and somewhat inconvenient ways. I consider it one of the perks of unemployment. (Other perks include breakthroughs in housekeeping, like finally figuring out that a paste made of baking soda and dish detergent is by far the best tub-cleaning agent around. And non-toxic!)

Point D is Donatelli’s, an Italian grocery where I picked up some canned dolmas, a pantry staple in this house, but really I just wanted to break up that leg of the journey. Point E is Graziano’s Pizza, which has the distinction of being my nearest purveyor of beer. It took me a few weeks of being gouged for six-packs at bars to realize I should plan ahead for affordable beer at home. They don’t sell it at gas stations or convenience stores or, as seems most logical to me, at grocery stores. (Conversely, one of the first things I did as a Houston resident was buy wine at CVS. Because I could!)

So when I’m not moving things around the house or cooking or asking people on the internet for work, sometimes I’m taking long walks around the neighborhood.

The only other (not embarrassingly introspective) development of late is this bad boy.

Whatever success I had with the skirt I stitched last year seems to have been beginner’s luck, but I forge ahead only moderately daunted. More next time.



Blue Bags

I’ve encountered two challenges while trying to unpack. First, this house has virtually zero closet-space. Second, the movers used an inordinate amount of paper to wrap our stuff and pad the boxes, so much that I am determined not to have professionals pack up ever again if I can help it. If I have less stuff and it is better organized (my current goal), the professionals and their reams of paper should be unnecessary, not that I think they were strictly necessary this time around.

I was able to get this much out by last Friday, recycling day.

Before I figured out that smoothing out the sheets and stacking them would take up less space and, hence, fewer blue bags (before I even knew about the blue bags, in fact), I stuffed all of these boxes – see right – as tightly as I possibly could with crushed paper. Those boxes are pretty big, and there are almost ten of them. The idea of smoothing out all that paper makes me want to cry, though I did about three of them yesterday, listening to Midnight Marauders and Dewdrops in the Garden.

Speaking of which, the project of uploading my very dated CD collection continues apace. I was choosing them at random and putting them back in their little slots until I decided to get methodical about it. Uploaded CDs are now filed in the back of the book so that I will know when I am finished. Though I don’t even like a lot of this stuff anymore (Morcheeba, anyone?), I get an odd pang of nostalgia when I think about discarding the physical recordings, as though they are not just a cumbersome form of digital memory. I plan to get over this. Between a laptop (and another laptop that I have to purchase for work soon), an external harddrive, and my iPhone, this music collection that I don’t even love will be backed up at least thrice. Maybe my nieces and nephews would get a kick out of these relics. Or maybe it’d be further confirmation that their aunt is a humongous dork.

Moving on, our temporary solution to the no-closets problem was to put all of our boxes of clothes in what was billed as a den and was going to be my office. The previous tenants used this as a dressing room, which sounded strangely aristocratic to us, like we’d have to start drinking sidecars at home instead of PBR. However, I was so loathe to procure heavy closet-like furniture, which would be a pain to get up the stairs and unnecessary in our next place (because I hope it has closets), that I was beginning to warm up to the idea.

 A trip to Target and the purchase of a cheap wardrobe-like contraption (something like this) saved the day. The fact that it should be easy to disassemble makes up for what it lacks in beauty and structural integrity. I just hope it doesn’t disassemble on its own.

The ongoing process of unpacking my clothes has resulted in four categories:

  • Clothes I wear with some regularity. Some items are here on a probationary basis.
  • Clothes I plan to repurpose for sewing practice, either as patterns (items that fit well but are worn out or stained) or as scrap fabric. This whole pile is sort of probationary because my one moderately successful foray into sewing my own clothes could very well have been a fluke.
  • Clothes to donate to the thrift store.
  • Clothes to be made into rags. These were mostly pajamas, and I could probably wear them again as pajamas but I probably shouldn’t.

I swear I have been doing other things besides unpacking over the last 10 days since we got here, and I will post on those things soon, I hope. In the meantime, here is an alleyscape featuring my neighbors’ blue bags all lined up, because I think it’s charming that everyone here recycles, even if it’s probably because it’s (unenforcably?) mandated by the city.


Little Boxes on the Hillside

I enjoyed my last few days in Houston – the friends, the warm weather. On the decluttering front, which has started afresh, I had to regift a few bulky parting gifts because they would not fit in my suitcase.

We arrived Sunday night, and KC* went to work on Monday morning. The movers came and I found myself surrounded by boxes.

Our queen boxspring, pictured here, would not fit up the stairs. Because I did not personally supervise the movers’ attempt (I was out getting coffee), KC wants to try again. I am certain it will be loads of fun.

While a nice young man from DirecTV installed some sort of superdish so KC can watch the rest of the cricket World Cup (after which we plan to get rid of cable and enjoy internet-based entertainment), I sorted our CD collection and set aside a stack of jewel cases for disposal. I’m still figuring out how and where to recycle everything.

Uploading CDs to iTunes and unpacking are a multitasking match made in heaven, I must say. Yesterday, desperate for home-cooked food, I tackled the kitchen.

It was challenging because a lot of the shelving is high up. Also, I had to clean the fridge to get rid of a fishy funk, which still lingers. All told, it’s a very nice kitchen. The “after” pictures will have to wait a bit for a few reasons. Here is an in-process shot of my collection of seasonings.

It doesn’t look like much, but there are a lot. In Houston I had all the spices lined up on a shelf above the stove,  and I was trying to find a similar arrangement so that they could all be at eye-level, but it’s not possible. Also, even the high shelves are not tall enough to accommodate my taller bottles of oil. Boo.

On to happier things, I’ve been braving the freezing cold to explore a bit. These hills are beautiful.

And walking up them is no joke. I’ve been enjoying lots of informal exercize.

Yesterday, knowing that unpacking the kitchen while hungry would only piss me off, I went to the City Cafe for breakfast. It is a French-style cafe where my omelette came with this amazing first course.

I talked to the owner/barrista/server/cook for a while. There is lots to say about him, and about the bare-bones gym I toured, and the two grocery stores I visited, and a bunch of other things, but now I have to watch the end of this India-Pakistan match with KC and then attempt running on these crazy hills.

*I’m tired of saying “my husband.” He wanted to be “Tonto” on this blog, making me the Lone Ranger, which I think refers to both Texas and, possibly, the solitude that sometimes characterizes relocation (or something). Aside from the fact that I don’t identify at all with Texas and will probably be changing that subtitle soon enough anyway, I knew there was some cultural baggage associated with that particular fictional sidekick. I poked around and discovered that recent adaptations are almost entirely inoffensive to Native Americans, except that “Tonto” still means “fool” in Spanish. To be on the safe side, I hereby sacrifice cuteness on the altar of political correctness, and he will be known as KC until I think of a better moniker.

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Preliminary Purge

Even when plans for our departure from Houston were in a vague, sometime-in-the-next-year-or-two phase, I was bothered by the piles of crap I’ve accumulated. Now that these plans are in the still-vague-but-sometime-in-the-next-month-or-two phase, I need to get cracking. I hope documenting it all will help motivate me.

The sorting process is paralyzingly intimidating, so I decided to start with the stuff that I already know I don’t need.

Thrift Store Donations

Most of this came from a friend who moved to Vancouver. I saved a few things, and then I added some clothes I never wear (including quite a lot of brassieres), a few trinkets that were taking up space on our mantle, some yarn (this hobby never really took), and that charming candle-holder some one gave us as a wedding-present. I have several that are similar, and I’ve never used any of them. Yes, I feel a little guilty about discarding a gift, but I must be ruthless in order to succeed, and I’m sure it won’t be the last that gets the axe.

Broken Things

This part is pretty embarrassing. That chair looks fine, but I assure you it is not. The rungs are all detached, and several of them are split in places. We tried several times to fix it (notice the white bandage-like wrap on the left-most rung), to no avail. The coffee-maker became trash when I broke the carafe and realized the whole apparatus cost almost as much as the price of shipping for a new carafe. All things considered, it lasted a really long time. The rice-cooker leaked profusely, which is a scary habit for an electronic device. The vacuum-cleaner was a contributing factor in our decision to have hardwood floors in our next place. Behind the vacuum-cleaner are the remains of some-assembly-required items that I was unable to assemble. I blame shoddy design and shoddier manufacturing for these failures. It’s not me; it’s them. And it’s been over between us for awhile.

After learning that the only place that takes these things for recycling was 30 minutes away and only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during business hours, I talked my husband into going with me to the municipal trash depository. Though they don’t recycle this sort of thing, the guy who worked there did seem pretty sure he could salvage the vacuum-cleaner, which made me feel a little better. I was expecting a more stereotypical dump, but it turned out to be surprisingly clean and nice, not that it’s my next picnic destination or anything.


The depository does recycle glass and plastic and such. This is a more or less standard haul for us (curbside recycling in Houston might be the subject of a future post) and does not qualify as decluttering per se.

I’m going to miss Saint Arnolds.


We had a drawer full of orphaned adaptors, airline headphones, and the like. I even found a 3.5-inch floppy disk in there. My husband graciously helped me pick through all of it to make sure we didn’t discard anything important. I brought all of it to Best Buy, who recycles this sort of thing.

I hope this is only the beginning. I have high hopes for next weekend.

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