5 articles

The Goodbye Project

tori burch for target lunchbox

My Tori Burch for Target lunchbox. That I bought for myself, but that was shanghaied by my daughter.

I have too much stuff. This is an indisputable fact. Exactly how too much is up for debate, but there is no denying that I am closer to the Collyer Brothers than I am to Marie Kondo. I have read all sorts of books. I have done space clearings. I have wasted countless hours hating myself, trying to embrace the clutter as something beautiful, wishing I had a bigger apartment…

But now I have decided to turn declutterng into an art project. I figure, maybe if I take pictures of some of the things that are hardest to get rid of, it will feel easier. Plus I’m always up for making another photographic catalogue.

And so the Goodbye Project begins. I’m not photographing every object that leaves my hands, but there are certain objects that I just want to hold up above my head one last time before we part ways forever.

First up, my Tory Burch for Target lunchbox. I have never used a lunchbox, but there I was, on the Target website, suddenly feeling like I needed to have this one. It hung out on a shelf somewhere for a couple of years, until my daughter started bringing her own lunch to school. I lent it to her, just for a few weeks till she got her own, and that was the end of that. She must have used it for 4 years. But it is time for this noble lunchbox to retire. It wears its battle scars with pride, but there are so many of them… not to mention soy sauce stains too numerous to count.

And so we move on. But not without saying thank you, for all of the delicious meals you carried. And for helping my daughter acquire a taste for a more sophisticated vehicle for food carrying. You saved us from the Frozen lunchbox purgatory, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Another thing I really don’t need but totally want, regardless…

Baker's dozen wooden spoons on Food52. Photo by Rocky Lutton and Mark Weinberg for Food52

Baker’s dozen wooden spoons on Food52. Photo by Rocky Lutton and Mark Weinberg for Food52

In one of my former lives as a magazine editor, I wrote a piece about a potter (ceramics artist?) who lived out on the East End of Long Island. One particular thing I remember about that day was that she had an enormous, extremely well stocked kitchen and one of the most impressive collections of wooden spoons I have ever seen. She probably had more than 50, which made me feel great in that way that a junior hoarder gets to feel like a minimalist while looking at the piles amassed by the infamous Collyer Brothers.

They were all different sizes and shapes and were clearly all loved and well used. Ever since that afternoon I have secretly wanted to amass a similar collection for myself, though in the interest of staying married, I have limited myself to maybe 5 or 6 spoons in our much smaller kitchen.

And then I saw the above set of thirteen (13!) amazing, individual, hand crafted wooden spoons in all sorts of subtly-different-but-totalluy-practical-in-some-specific-way shapes on Food52 and all was lost.

Lets just say that I am working very hard to figure out a word that means the opposite of need, because that is exactly my relationship to this set of cooking implements. I really really really do not need any more wooden spoons. And yet my desire for them grows every time I look at the photo. It is evil cruelty. Maybe somebody will give them to me for my birthday or Christmas or something, and I will be forced to begrudgingly accept them and find room for them on my counter.

Because I wouldn’t want to be rude and return a gift, now would I?


karen Kingston Clear Your Clutter

Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston lays it all out plain and simple.

Anybody who knows me or has followed this blog for awhile knows that I have a problem when it comes to accumulating stuff. I have “tried” all sorts of things, but I still find myself buried underneath the piles of books and kids art and records and photographs and clothes and glass bottles (for all that iced tea I’m always making?) and candles and papers and anything else you can imagine.

You name it, I probably have 6 of whatever it is, taking up space in our closet. Or, worse and yet more likely, on the dining room table.

About six months ago, I found the solution… Or actually a friend pressed it upon me… a miraculous book by Karen Kingston called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. And while I find trying to figure out Feng Shui next to impossible, this book is filled with all sorts of great suggestions for how to just get over yourself and clear out some space in your home and your life, damn it! The mystical energy flow stuff is just a bonus, should you choose to go there.

I actually cried when I read Chapter 5 which is called: How Clutter Affects You. Procrastination, depression, extra time cleaning, disorganization, exhaustion, spending a lot of unnecessary money… the list goes on. So many of her points rang true.

But six months later, our place looks pretty much the same as it did when I first got the book. Life gets in the way… you know how it is… and just about any time I cleared a tiny space, new clutter managed to seep in and take over.

Just recently, however, our daughter finally graduated from the bassinet/crib/toddler bed she’s had since she was born to a bonified big girl bed, with built in storage to boot! We had to clear out her room to make the transition, and her things are now all over the floors of just about every room in our place. Adding insult (even more kids books and hair ribbons and spangly jewelry) to injury (all of the stuff I already had piled up.)

I have officially hit the wall.

Yesterday, in a conversation with some of my “other mother” pals during our kids’ Streb class, the Karen Kingston book came up again. So I dusted if off, took a photo of it and decided to try again. But this time, I will listen to the wise advice of my fellow stressed out never-enough-time mother and plan to attack just one small space at a time. And finish the task before moving on to the next one. It worked so well with my kitchen cabinet

Sounds basic, and yet has been next to impossible to practice.

First step is just to put everything away, even if “away” isn’t the perfect ultimate place for the object in question. Once our place is neat and my daughter’s stuff has migrated back to it’s home in her bedroom, I can begin to make some strides.

Pray for me. I need all the help I can get.

Monday, monday, or is less really more?

collyer brothers living room

I am not the Collyer Brothers. My office doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as this place looked. My problem is not insurmountable… right?

This past week, I have been forced to come to terms with a less-than-beautiful reality abut myself. I am a hoarder. There. I’ve said it. I’m sure my minimalist husband (if he ever even bothers to read these posts) will be laughing out loud at his desk, or shaking his head in disbelief at my admission. Maybe this will convince him to believe in God. Who knows? But here it is, in black and white.

Now, I am no Collyer Brother (see photo above for the extremes to which those Harlem based brothers took the fine art of hoarding) but I do have a problem. I realized this because it took me an entire week to clear out my office so that my landlord can come in and fix my ceiling (see last week’s post for details.) A whole week.

I have vinyl records that have not been touched for half a decade, magazine tear sheets from the 90′s (some of them were actually kind of good though– stay tuned for a future post featuring a few great things I forgot I’d noticed from back in the day) manuals for every piece of electronic equipment I have ever owned (plus the cords, attachments and accessories to go with them) and I could go on and on. In fact, I swore, back in January, that I was going to clear out the chaos. Clearly I haven’t gotten very far.

Someday, this (fill in the blank) might be useful, I say to myself. But I fear I may be wrong. In fact, I know I’m wrong, and now the fact that I’ve had to move so many of my piles of junk (did I say that?) into various other locations in my apt has forced me to see my situation clearly.

I am facing a challenge: I must not restore the office to it’s previous state of inglorious excess once the ceiling is repaired.

And so the battle begins with me looking on the internet for some kind of solace and inspiration to aid me in the struggle I am about to face.

FIrst off, evidence that I’m not so bad. A video documentary about the Collyer Brothers, who’s living room is pictured above. I am nowhere near this bad.

E. L. Doctorow, one of my favorite authors, wrote a beautiful sad poetic novel from the point of view of these two characters that is well worth reading. But if you don’t have time to read long form books, this NY Times review will do in a pinch.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that my place would just burn down, forcing me to start from scratch. Until I remember what happened to Q-Tip and how many records , recordings, digital files, equipment etc he lost.

There are countless online venues that claim they will help me. There is actually a website called: be more with less.

There’s also one called minimally minimal, which takes forever to load, but has nice stuff on it. Though maybe I like it because it’s all about getting more stuff, albeit minimally designed…

Brooklyn designer Jessi Arrington mitigates her love for acquiring clothes by only buying (and wearing) secondhand. I think she makes an exception for underwear.

But at the end of the day, I love homes that are all full of color and personality and look like my friend Lili’s place. Far from minimal, I know. Perhaps I’m a lost cause…

The January cure

Words cannot even describe...

Words cannot even describe…

Happy slightly belated New Year everybody.

The world didn’t end on December 21st and we are now forced to reckon with our realities for yet another year. Usually, by this time in January, I have made a long list of resolutions attacking every failing I have ever had in my life, determined to change the way I eat, work, spend, relate, create, exercise, etc in the space of one year. It never works.

This year, I have decided to be more realistic. I have two resolutions that I figure are enough to keep me busy all year. And if I finish them early, I can always add new ones. But at least, if I keep it simple, I may actually have a shot of accomplishing them. Not that they are easy, but at least they are not numerous.

First off, I am determined to become more mature about the way I deal with money. Enough said. This one is private, so I’m done talking about it here. Just wish me luck, because I’m going to need it.

Secondly (and here’s where the blog comes in because you are going to hear all about this one– sorry!) I am determined to clean up my office. Because I am currently giving the Collyer brothers a run for their money, and it’s only getting worse (see photo above for proof.)

This is how I plan to begin. I am not going to go my usual route of coming up with my own plan. Instead I am consulting the experts. Apartment Therapy, the wonderful home design online universe, (started by my high school friend Maxwell Gilligham-Ryan) has a thing they call the January Cure which, if followed, will result in you having a cleaner, clearer more organized home in just 31 days. I’m taking it down a notch, and just concentrating on one room. My office-from-hell.

Now of course, I’m starting the whole thing late, and as such, have several days worth of chores to get done in order to catch up, but I’m going to give it a go. And hopefully, by the end of the month, there will be a much improved version of the above panorama (taken with the wonderful app Photosynth, which you should all get, by the way) at the top of my post.

Click below if you want to hear about the first couple days worth of tasks.

Ok so this first week of tasks has been crammed into a couple of days in a desperate attempt to catch up to the rest of the folks who are faithfully completing their assignments in a more timely fashion.

First up, The List of Projects. We are to go through the house (or in my case, the room) and ID trouble spots. My list is absurd and includes something about every inch of my office. Ugh. I then am to take that list and pick 3 to 5 specific tasks that will make a big difference in the way I experience the space. I picked two, that are probably too big and will have to be broken down further, but at least I’ve committed to them in writing.

I’m going to clean my desk and then clear up (most of) the floor space. Right now, there is barely room for my desk chair to push back. You may hold your applause till the end of the month.

We then are instructed to Create an Outbox (a brilliant concept.) This is a place in our house where we put the stuff that we think we want to get rid of. It’s a kind of limbo. If, in a week, we still don’t want it, it goes. Mine is in our entry and already includes the birthday sign I made and used for my kid’s past two birthdays and the advent calender I made in 2011 that is now falling apart. Obvious choices, maybe, but you have to start somewhere.

Next we are supposed to clean and vaccum/mop, but I can’t do that because the room is TOO MESSY. Oh and buy flowers, which I’ll totally do– I swear– when I finally get out of the house today.

Next up, get a fresh perspective on your space by sitting in some kind of new spot and taking in the fresh view, visualizing the room empty and then mentally rebuilding it from scratch. This shit is hard, and the only reason I’m going to actually do it is so that I’m not caught lying about it here on this blog.

10 minutes later…

Staring at the mountain of clutter for 10 minutes straight was daunting, but I discovered a couple of great things. I have a Monopoly game here already, so I don’t have to go buy one. Also, I have a huge box of thermal fax paper from the nineties that I can totally get rid of, instantly freeing up shelf space. Who knew?

Ok taking a break now. I promise to keep you all posted as the saga continues. I know you are thrilled.