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Spring fever

The five seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Mud.

This is a transitional moment. Winter is over; spring is only thinking about kicking in with any seriousness. Daffodils are out, but casting a gimlet eye on the horizon for signs of the next cold front. The weather is 70 one day, 40 the next. We relapse into winter suddenly, and yet the forecast says summer will be blazing by the end of the week. I check the weather report pretty much every 10 minutes. Nothing is going to take me by surprise, if I can help it.

Tourists, meanwhile, are clustering around the Tidal Basin as if they'd never before seen a blossoming tree. I like the cherry trees, but mostly I wish I had their publicist. I want some of that action.

This is a season of renewal, which is to say, a season when we throw things away, purge, delete, subtract, clear the decks, atomize and flame-throwerize. Where did all this crap come from? I lifted one end of the couch to vacuum underneath and discovered Jimmy Hoffa. There are those in the household who claim we need more storage, and I agree -- storage in the form of a dumpster.

When you tour old houses, it's always amazing how few closets they have. But they had it figured out. Closets just get stuffed with... stuff. We are in danger of becoming archivists of possessions whose original purpose and significance has been lost to history. Don't think twice: Throw the dang thing away. (Or take it to Goodwill -- but you should see the crowds on a Saturday afternoon, when everyone else has the same idea, and another SUV stuffed with crap pulls into the lot every five seconds.)

Just once I want to feel organized, with taxes filed, insurance forms submitted, bills paid, possessions sorted, junk purged. And be caught up on work. Strangers will see me and think: There's a man on top of things. There's a guy in complete control.

Also I want to be a cowboy. That's a whole nother discussion.

--

In the boodle, Curmudgeon offers a corrective:

While it is true that in those old houses they have very, very few closets, Joel, what they *did* have in those houses were armoires, dressers, chifforobes, cabinets, sideboys, chiffoniers, cupboards, bureaus, lowboys, highboys, tallboys, sideboards, credenzas, cassones, chests, steamer trunks, trouseaus, Yorkshire dressers, hoosiers, Larkin desks, curios, barristers, cedar chests, non-cedar chests, and, of course, attics stuffed to the rafters with the crap they'd have put in closets if they'd had more closets.

What they did *not* have in those attics 10 and a half months of the year was an artificial, knock-down Christmas tree and six boxes of ornamets. Four cartons and bins full of Christmas cards, Christmas wrapping, gift bags, gift boxes, 9,000 yards of ribbon. Three bins full of baby clothes. Okay, maybe that's just *my* attic. YAMV.

I blush to list a few of the essentials in my two-car garage, which has barely enough room in it for one car. But among the un-throw-outable treasures are: a four-spigot stainless steel soda fountain (anybody want it?); an 18-inch-diameter bronze ship's porthole (no glass), painted and pretty gnarly; a 36-inch or thereabouts alumin airplane propeller (anybody want it?); a bronze boat rudder and steering quadrant of staggering beauty; various and sundry boat parts that only I can identify by name (a chine log, a binnacle, a triple purchse); numerous rigid, collapsible, folding or rolling ice coolers chests; tools only men over age 5o can identify (a brace-and-bit, several augers, a carpenter's ruler, trammel points), etc.

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 29, 2010; 9:49 AM ET
 
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Comments

Ooh, can we talk cowboys NOW?

Posted by: MsJS | March 29, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm convinced most people buy a bigger house because their closets are full.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 29, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

yello, wait til you downsize. It's not pretty watching a pack rat downsize.

*wincing at the mere memory of it*

Posted by: MsJS | March 29, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Stunningly dull until the cowboy thing. Now we're talking!

Posted by: jezebel3 | March 29, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

This is a major reason so many seniors resist moving out of their homes to retirement communities. They don't want to make these decisions and/or they don't want to part with any stuff.

My mom lives in a seniors community a couple of miles from us. She recently related the story of a neighbor there who celebrated her 100th birthday and got her driver's license renewed! She was required to pass an eye test but no behind the wheel test. When she learned that she had passed and was good to go for another 8 years, her response was "Oh my, aren't we the optimists!"

Posted by: kguy1 | March 29, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I learn so many things here. Until now I thought gimlet was just something associated with vodka.

Yep, we are, indeed, in the midst of the mud season. As I may have mentioned, the Vast Padouk Estate is located at the lowest spot in Fairfax County. At the encouragement of the Home Owners Association I recently added a "french drain" to the front yard because there was concern that being zoned as "swampland" might potentially damage local property values. But my property, alas, remains a bog.

Each morning when I go out with the wee little dog I don rubber boots and make sure my insurance is paid up. The dog, being, as previously noted, wee, sort of glides along the surface of the muck. Of course, when we return I must carefully wipe each little paw lest mud be tracked all over the carpet.

This has been known to occur.

So, yes, I am looking forward to the Dry Season. Because although spring is indeed a time of renewal, the plaintive cries of the neighborhood children struggling to extricate themselves from my front yard sometimes makes it hard to enjoy.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 29, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

While it is true that in those old houses they have very, very few closets, Joel, what they *did* have in those houses were armoires, dressers, chifforobes, cabinets, sideboys, chiffoniers, cupboards, bureaus, lowboys, highboys, tallboys, sideboards, credenzas, cassones, chests, steamer trunks, trouseaus, Yorkshire dressers, hoosiers, Larkin desks, curios, barristers, cedar chests, non-cedar chests, and, of course, attics stuffed to the rafters with the crap they'd have put in closets if they'd had more closets.

What they did *not* have in those attics 10 and a half months of the year was an artificial, knock-down Christmas tree and six boxes of ornamets. Four cartons and bins full of Christmas cards, Christmas wrapping, gift bags, gift boxes, 9,000 yards of ribbon. Three bins full of baby clothes. Okay, maybe that's just *my* attic. YAMV.

I blush to list a few of the essentials in my two-car garage, which has barely enough room in it for one car. But among the un-throw-outable treasures are: a four-spigot stainless steel soda fountain (anybody want it?); an 18-inch-diameter bronze ship's porthole (no glass), painted and pretty gnarly; a 36-inch or thereabouts alumin airplane propeller (anybody want it?); a bronze boat rudder and steering quadrant of staggering beauty; various and sundry boat parts that only I can identify by name (a chine log, a binnacle, a triple purchse); numerous rigid, collapsible, folding or rolling ice coolers chests; tools only men over age 5o can identify (a brace-and-bit, several augers, a carpenter's ruler, trammel points), etc.

That's the downstairs. I shall not dazzle you with what's upstairs.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 29, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning everyone
Happy Birthday to my Mom who is 87 today.I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday,she said clean the fireplace and take a nap.We are going out to dinner later.

I moved from a 3 bedroom house with a storage shed to a single room.What I couldn't give away,I ended up burning,but I still have a storage shed full of junk.If my house ever sells,it is either a yard sale,the church or an even bigger bonfire.

Have a Great day everyone!!!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 29, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

It really seems as though the "stuff" accumulates faster than we can dispose of it. We probably make 3 or 4 trips a year to Goodwill/Salvation Army, but the accumulation never seems to regress. We are probaby going to have to get a real garden shed to store the mower, the spreader, the rakes, the grass seed, the bug killers, etc., etc. that are currently living in the screened patio. Then there is all that accumulation in the attic space, which we need to get organized/recycled so we can re-do the insulation that was torn up by the racoons. On it goes.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 29, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Since we put a HDTV in the living room, the family room in the basement has become dead storage. There is camping gear, roller blades, games puzzles and diversions, various pieces of medical equipment accumulated from different accidents, two obsolete computers and an entire desk covered in obscure computer parts, cables, and accessories.

We have committed to donating the basement furniture to my son's fraternity if and when there is ever a logical way to transport it. Only then can we tackle the preliminary downsizing. My wife keeps suggesting that getting rid of all my books would be a huge step in the right direction. But I suspect that is a diversionary tactic to keep me from criticizing her shoe and handbag collection.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 29, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Happy birthday to gwe-mom. Which reminds me that my wife's mother-in-law turns 70 on Sunday. I hope she has bought her a card already.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 29, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

What an opportune Kit! We do not have mud season, particularly. Ours is more wind season. Of course, wind season rides along with the other four here, but the spring wind really does shout "Clean up! Get rid of this stuff!"

Over the winter I cleaned a bunch of stuff out of the shop. Unfortunately I haven't yet been able to haul it off, so it spills north of the shop, as if fleeing in panic. Fortunately you can't see it from the street.

Just yesterday I reorganized part of my china cabinet. It is an old, treasured and relatively small piece of furniture (two shelves and a drawer). My motley collection of flea-market glassware and serving pieces, interspersed with even less interesting items, was piled in there anyhow. Everything was at risk whenever the door was opened. I got a couple of sturdy little stackable box things, fit the random glassware, etc. inside, and reshelved it all. Maybe I'll tackle the drawer next. The top layers are Easter candy, tablecloths, odd serving pieces. I forget what is on the bottom.

Good spring cleaning has a lot in common with archeology, or the study of geological strata.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 29, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, if it's un-throw-outable, why are you willing to give it away?

*shaking the porridge out of my ears in confusion*

Happy Birffday, MaterGWE. PaterJS turns 86 on Thursday (yes, April 1). He also still drives. A. May. Zing.

Posted by: MsJS | March 29, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Criticizing a shoe collection? I'm confused. Unless it consists entirely of Crocs and earthshoes, what's to criticize?

About stuff piling up...remember in the 80s when there was all that talk about paperless offices? I think they just shipped it all here.

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 29, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

If NASA is looking for ideas (last kit) they might give the DOE a call-

"Federal monitors granted the Energy Star stamp of approval to a number of bogus appliances, including a gas-powered alarm clock and an electric space heater with a feather duster taped to it. The Government Accountability Office submitted the fake items in an audit to test the integrity of the well-known efficiency program."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/science/earth/26star.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&utm_source=TopNewsRSS&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sightline%2FjHnp+%28Today%27s+Top+News+-+Sightline+Daily%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Posted by: kguy1 | March 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

We may have mud season here if we can ever get out of flood season. Luckily, all the rain drains out to the corner of the back yard where I expect to see ducks or seagulls before the current rainstorm ends.

Moving is a great motivator for getting rid of junk. The cost of transporting stuff that hasn't been looked at or used in years makes chucking it much easier. Altho' there's always a certain creep back which needs to be monitored. I cleaned out a drawer last week that harbored quite a bit of accumulated random stuff. I'm going to do another drawer today in honor of this Kit.

Posted by: badsneakers | March 29, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

JA

Simply love the kit. I'm laughing the whole time I'm reading it. You go from one thing to the other, and all with lots of laughs. And you're right, we don't need more closet space, we need to throw away. I would love to back a truck up to my front door, and throw everything in this place on it, and have someone to drive off with it, and not even ask questions. And from the looks of it, the dumpster would be the appropriate place.

Vintage Lady

Most people don't realize it, but my weight is far more than it looks. But thanks anyway. I've always been a fatty, even as a child. My mother would almost be in tears trying to find clothes for me sometimes. But she didn't give up.

When I had ear surgery, I couldn't eat for awhile. I could not chew solid food, because of the surgery. Just broth and liquids. I did not lose one pound. Not one. You talk about disappointed.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 29, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

This Kit made me wonder how Vivaldi might have put the mud season to music. And, now I have a tune cootie of The Four Seasons rummaging about in my head. I think I might have the CD collection of that piece somewhere, which would come in handy right now.

I tend to collect stuff, but over the years I've also been able to part with a lot that years ago I wouldn't have even considered giving up. My dad was a pack rat, mom not so much. I've got some things to take to Goodwill, but I keep forgetting to go. Maybe I should move those things right in front of the door.

HBTY, all the senior citizens and parents of Boodlers. My nephew and his wife have back-to-back birthdays this week -- he's on Wednesday, and she's on Thursday. Mid-30s both. Man, those were the days, eh?

*brushing away the cobwebs*

Posted by: -ftb- | March 29, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

My recommendation is to pretend that you are moving every five years. Hire a truck, get boxes and everything. Put every world possession you have in the truck. Clean the house, vacuum the carpets, paint the walls, etc.

Then move everything back in the house and everything still left in the truck goes straight to the Salvation Army.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 29, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

It's an emotional thing, MsJS. I'm willing to give them to someone who will cherish them and put them in their own garages for a decade or two, just as I did.

Also, I don't wish to contribute to the overall entropy of the universe. Anyway, how can one throw out an 18-inch porthole? One can't. I'd have thought that was rather obvious, but I guess not.

Would you like a nice chine log?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 29, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Deaccessioning is much easier than throwing it away or selling it. I had exactly this conversation with my older sister last weekend.

When I was younger I didn't understand how older relatives and friends could give me such great stuff because It was valuable to me. Now I understand that it was just stuff to them.

I know we've talked about passing on jewelry, etc., now so that the recipient will have more time to enjoy them. Last week I sent my great-niece a pair of white gold & diamond hoops which I still loved but have rarely worn in the past year. The thank you email I received, well, it's encouraging me to deacession more. Even better, my sister, her grandmother, forwarded me the happy and unpremeditated email she was sent when they were opened.

So what do you do with stuff? Give it away.

Posted by: -dbG- | March 29, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and we're having a massive yard sale at the end of April. Will include a 1977 MGB (needs work).

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 29, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a bph opportunity to me, mudge.

Posted by: -dbG- | March 29, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I very much dislike it when people try to give me stuff that they no longer want but don't know what to do with. I am not a fan of stuff in general, and am not the dump. I've learned to say no very firmly.

I am exceedingly good at keeping my possessions in check. One rule is that for every new item that comes into the household, two must leave. That sometimes takes some creativity. Between Goodwill, the Salvation Army, consignment, used-book and junk shops and the recycling bin, it can be done.

Posted by: Yoki | March 29, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

We have a giant tinkertoy set (plastic and plastic tubing) if anyone is interesting. About 35 yrs old. Blue, red & yellow pieces. Can building entire rooms covered with quilts for toddlers to play in on rainy days.

Posted by: VintageLady | March 29, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Don't sweat over the details and control Mr.A, it's all good as long as you know where your towel is.

Posted by: qgaliana | March 29, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

bc must not be logged on.

Posted by: bh72 | March 29, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

A little song that I wrote myself, without any help from persons known or unknown to me, yesterday (or maybe the day before yesterday -- it can be hard to tell which is which, while in transit):

Baggage, baggage, baggage,
I packed it all myself.
And when I had my tickets,
I put it on the shelf.

Oh, baggage, baggage, baggage,
there's nothing bad inside.
Apart from dirty laundry,
I have nothing to hide.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 29, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

BRAVO, TIM!!!

Posted by: VintageLady | March 29, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I have a problem with proliferating books and DVDs. There's seldom time to watch the latter, and the local art museum's lending library has almost 1600 available, everything from Seven Samurai to Mr. Moto.

In the yard, freezing weather, drought, and nematodes cause enough casualties to keep the number of plants under some degree of control. I think only about half of last year's caladiums are coming out of hibernation. The bulbs may not have liked being soaked in 35 degree water during a nasty winter rain storm. The begonias, perennials that would be hothouse plants in the North, survived in sorry condition. 'Boomer' has started flowering anyway over the past couple of days.

Entirely off topic, Atul Gawande has a fine short article in the New Yorker (should be free access) titled "What Now" for health care. After reading him, my guess is that the medical device makers will drive the country into poverty.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 29, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, have tried posting twice. Didn't take.

Mudge, MrJS relegated all things nautical (and therefore mine) to storage when we downsized. You'd hear the yell in D.C. if I were to introduce such items to our living space.

Posted by: MsJS | March 29, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Being a cowboy involves low pay and a periodic need to buy stuff for the horse and (most likely) the horse trailer and the pickup to haul the trailer, and gas for the truck. This results in a certain lack of posessions. Listen to some Chris LeDoux songs.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 29, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I love your list of storage options in the old houses -- added comment to the kit. BUT...new kit coming...just fyi...

Posted by: joelache | March 29, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

kguy, I am under the impression Underwriters Laboratories is run about the same way.

I learned other people's cast offs, especially vacuum cleaners, are cast off for good reasons. Never again.

The peanuts are perfect.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

When Mom had to move into the assisted living facility, she had to let go of 30 years worth of geneology research. Due to the subject matter, the U. of Tennessee took the whole kebash (some 40 volumes) plus maps and the map case. Gave her a letter back indicating that the donation was valued at over $20K!. That'll help on the taxes.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 29, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Hurrying up! Last chance to mudge myself...

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 29, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

In space no one can hear you... take out the trash-

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8590103.stm

Posted by: kguy1 | March 29, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

ebnut, UT's interest in genealogy must be an indicator of how popular that sort of thing is. Not to mention the quality of your Mom's work.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 29, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

After moving his mother to an apartment (involving several Craig's List postings and 3 dumpsters) Raysdad swore he would start clearing out his own detritus. Except for the stuff that got ruined when a kitchen pipe failed, it hasn't happened. I donated carloads of stuff last year, but I think it breeds when my back is turned. Among the treasures in the upper reaches of our garage are the umbrella from two patio sets ago, the original packaging from a television we no longer own, and a birdcage that has been unused for going on 20 years.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 29, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

A new Kit is coming???

But I just arranged the furniture in this one ....

*oh, dear*

Posted by: -ftb- | March 29, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I have long been engaged in an inner battle between Austerity and Acquisition. On some days I feel myself touched by the spirit of Gandhi and seek to free myself of oppressive worldly goods. Then I notice that the lab is tossing out a Perfectly Good Helmholtz Coil and Ghandi is kicked aside by Smaug the Dragon. I must have this shiny thing for my hoard.

This has led to violent oscillations in the amount of available storage space in my garage. Right now I think austerity is winning. Just a few weeks ago I tossed a large box of cool mirrors, itty-bitty copper coils, and strangely powerful ceramic magnets painfully harvested from obsolete laser printers and the occasional microwave oven. You know, things that seem incredibly useful in principle, although it is sometimes hard to determine precisely what, you know, that use might be.

Unfortunately, any unused storage capacity is naught but a fleeting mirage.

For in the next few weeks we will be receiving several boxes of stuff from the house of my wife's grandmother. She, evidently, suffered from no inner struggle when it came to accumulating stuff. Indeed, when she finally agreed that assisted living was needed, she seemed especially worried about her extensive collection of cookware. And it is extensive. Some of it appears to be for the preparation of foodstuffs lost to history.

The problem is that this stuff has that most treacherous of all qualities: Sentimental Value. Which means you can't sell it, or, horrors, toss it. It must be stored. And since my wife is the only child of an only child, there is a dearth of siblings and cousins to share the love.

Much of this stuff I shall store in the crawl space above our garage, You know, where we keep unopened boxes of college texts and old medical records. I think the joists can handle it. There, these things will sit until we figure out what to do with them.

Or until we die. When they will become my son's problem. Fortunately, he's not the sentimental type.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 29, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

If I could get rid of all my stuff, I'd have more room for my lamp collection.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 29, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

New kit has arrived.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 29, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Saw it. Don't want it.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 29, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to sit right here and think happy daffodil thoughts like a good little garden gnome.

I bought lime basil the other day, can't wait until I can plant it; it's so good in summer salads. There is a certain satisfaction in the simple planning of gardens and crops that makes one feel wise, farsighted, above mere mortals with their daily fusses about today.

Forget today's woes, for I have sown tomorrow.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 29, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod... I first read that as...

"Forget today's woes, for I have sown tomatoes."

Posted by: -TBG- | March 29, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

That works, too. Tomatoes, tomorrow, tomaytoes, tomoyrrow.

We deal in vegetable futures here.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 29, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

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