Under the Hill of Clutter?

Dig Yourself Out

95

I have never liked open plan living, much preferring doors, walls, closets, cupboards, basements, attics, garages – particularly now, when there’s nowhere to go, and the biggest thrill of the year, so far, is the reopening of the Safeway. Whoopie!

Here’s hoping that with this spiffy new look, the oyster bar, and the popcorn island we don’t lose the homey touches, like the hot dogs for prostate cancer fundraiser, which no one but me seemed to find funny.

One good thing about open spaces is that there’s a limit to how much you can amass. There’s simply nowhere to put it. So the options are limited: toss it, don’t buy it in the first place, or stack it in piles and boxes hither and thither like an episode of Hoarders, a show I have no intention of watching.

Did You Say Clutter? Photo by Monica Cavanaugh Weddle

In this house, we are still in old-plan living with endless places to shove things. And when those places are full, a door or drawer is shut and ZIPPO! Out of sight out of mind.

Sort of.

The garage is packed to the rafters –trust me, there are rafters under there –with house parts and tools that my husband, Greg, insists he’s going to use to rebuild the back porches, rebuild the basement, repair the bathroom…

With no more space inside, the garage roof is heaped with ladders and who knows what –we don’t see it because the wisteria trails across the roof line–but neighbors look down upon it with sometimes audible displeasure. Though one said he wasn’t troubled; we were here before him so have dibs on ugly.

He’s amassed so much valuable stuff over the years that the overflow is in our neighbor’s garage.

I’m not much better. I have purple suede hot pants from 1970 and a t-shirt from Orwashers, the bakery across the street from where I grew up on Manhattan’s upper east side. The phone number has a Butterfield 8 exchange, which hasn’t been used since Liz Taylor made the movie.

And cords? I have bags of computer and camera and whatnot cords going back decades. If I throw one out, I’ll need it tomorrow. The leitmotif of my life.

Today we’re going through the linen closet. Things are piled on the hall floor. There’s a hatch in the ceiling of the closet that leads to the attic. Let us not go there.

Items: Four cans of hairspray, all nearly empty; rollers, hot rollers, permanent wave rollers;  little bottles of shampoos, conditioners, and so on from however many hotels and trips. And the shower caps. Will I ever wear a shower cap? Have I ever worn a shower cap?

These long, thin plastic things with jaggedy teeth that I just threw in the discard pile?

“They’re for cleaning the drain,” I’m told. “That’s how I get your hair out.”

And back they go.

If we ever get a pile that we can agree needs to go, it will then have to be sorted into recycle and not and so forth.

Oy.

Meanwhile I drag about waiting to be hit by the plague and thinking of my poor only child Monica having to dig through this sh… stuff. I imagine her weeping and cursing – at least it will take the edge off any sorrow she might have at my/our loss.

I once started to write about the contents of the house so she’d have an idea where to start. There were thirty pages on the contents of my office. Unfortunately she deleted it, and my computer crashed with no backup copy. I did try to start again but….

So! How to get rid of it
Until this past week there was a dumpster down the block, where refuse from a small apartment house being remodeled was being trashed. Many furtive and not so furtive trips by neighbors, dumping that which needed to be dumped, were observed – it certainly was the easiest way to get rid of large amounts of trash.

For big trash we do have a city dump, more fancily known as the Ft. Totten Transfer station which sounds like a band from the 1940s. The place is worth a trip if only to see what people throw out (us being us, we actually retrieved a brown leather chair from the pile. It sits handsomely in the dining room).  Check the department of Public Works website for rules and times – there are special days for shredding your incriminating papers and ditching your electronics.  Make sure to bring two forms of ID – they don’t just take any old persons trash.

No vehicle –or don’t care to soil the leather seats in the Maserati? Check Yelp under “Dump Trash” and a list of haulers pops up. Have a martini while they do the dirty work.

Sadly, we no longer have a thrift shop nearby, but Goodwill has reopened. There’s one right off South Dakota Avenue, NE, opposite the turn-off to Costco. The Salvation Army store in Hyattsville is also open, and fairly convenient.

You may have noticed that the Little Free Library boxes are spilling with books. Step one: Put them out in front of your house. Step 2. If there are no takers, cart them off to the free table at Capitol Hill Books across from Eastern Market on C Street. If they’re of any possible value, check inside.

If you’ve given up on getting back into size 2 jeans, Clothes Encounters of a Second Kind, across from Eastern Market, has reopened and will sell them for you, the challenge being not to leave with as much stuff as you’ve dropped off.

Facebook has a new group. Listings on Buy Nothing Lincoln Park (which also includes Kingman Park) range from clothing to deviled egg carriers to plants to a carton of “Forgive Me I’m an A-Hole balloons” (a carton of them?) – there’s plenty of activity and constant turnover.

There’s also a Facebook page for selling whatever, and Craigslist, of course.

I’ve never been organized enough to hold a yard sale, besides everything I want to put out is covered in dust and I really don’t feel like dealing with it.  Happily, yard sales are now so fraught that no one’s holding them.

Just put the whatnots out with a sign saying “Free,” and it will be gone. Poof. You can furnish an apartment in a weekend from what we put out on the sidewalks.

Can’t let go? When I was a kid we used to have a walk-in closet called the Shame to Throw Away closet – where things of marginal utility held on for a final breath before heading to the thrift shop or the trash. These days that would be a storage unit. Put the tab on automatic payment and let the kids deal with it all later. Much, much later.

Stephanie Cavanaugh writes an occasionally helpful gardening column each Thursday for the news website mylittlebird.com.