Tag Archives: Clutter

The Great Purge (Saws and Tight Underwear For Sale, Cheap!)

18 Sep

(Note: This will be the last post here at plumbananas.wordpress.com. New stuff will be forever at plumbananas.com. Adjust your bookmarks.)

One of the most exciting aspects of our impending move to London is what I’m calling the G-POOSH, or The Great Purge Of Our SHit. (Okay, I’m not really calling it that.) It’s the process of jettisoning everything but the essentials. For example, I have a shirt that pisses me off when I look at it because it fits a little funny. I like the idea of wearing it, but not the actual practice of it. At one point it had potential, but ultimately, it’s a huge disappointment. Needless to say, it’s not going to London. In fact, if it had a face, I’d punch it. Yes, I’m the kind of dude who would punch a cantankerous shirt right in the face without remorse. Pow!

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I'm not sure.

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I’m not sure.

That reminds me of my tight underwear. A year ago, I bought two pairs of tight underwear at Target to wear while I jog and exercise. You know, to keep things in place. I haven’t decided if they’ll make the trip. Sure, they’re small and take up very little space, but I haven’t touched them all summer. Each time I open the drawer where my underwear live, they’re like “You bastard, you better not abandon us!”

This will probably be a last minute decision. I’ll be at the airport with my tight underwear balled up in my hand, and the authoritative airport voice will say something like “Last call, get on the plane now or we’ll leave your ass in the United States!” and Jennifer will be, like, “Come on Mike, we have to go!”

Me: But what about my tight underwear? Do you think I’ll need them?

Her: Are you freaking insane?

As a family we have a thousand decisions like this.

But some have already been made for us. We have a Blendtec blender that cost about as much as a 1984 Honda Civic (with low miles) that is worthless in the UK. It’s not that they have strict anti-smoothie laws, but the thing just won’t turn on over there, or, worse, will electrocute my dumb ass for even thinking that a spinach-blueberry drink is a good idea. I would tell you why this danger exists, but I have no knowledge of basic electricity. I will just type words like “voltage” and “fire” and numbers like “120” and “240” and leave it at that.

Blendtec and 1984 Civic

Since I no longer know how to use electrical hand tools (I swore them off in 2009), I am especially happy that they won’t work over there either. Actually, I haven’t even checked, but I’m hoping really, really hard because I would rather read or sit around looking at the walls than saw boards and drill holes. Books will never, EVER tear my fingers off. (I especially hate circular saws. If I believed in hell, I would think there would be running circular saws all over the place.)Saw Injury

The most annoying problem so far are the toys we have accumulated in the “play room.” I would say that it looks like a tornado has swept through the room, but that’s an overused, boring expression. So I’ll go with this: it looks like three elephants devoured the contents of our kids’ youth and took giant shits all over up there.

I’ve collected enough broken crayons and pencils to choke a rhinoceros. No, a HERD of rhinoceroses. (If it were up to me, the plural of rhinoceros would definitely be rhinoceri.) I have amassed a pile of broken and mismatched toy parts taller than me. Tiny doll blouses. The smallest blue jeans you ever did see. Itty-bitty rubber shoes that won’t even fit on my pinky. (Where’s the doll wearing all this tiny shit?) Plastic pellets from exploded bean bags. Confetti. A headless Toy Story Woody doll that does absolutely nothing when you pull the string. And about four thousand pieces of paper with, like, one scribbled line on each.

What I don’t throw away immediately, I have been bringing down for Ainsley to go through, to choose what goes and what stays. So far–luckily!–she’s decided to “shitcan” about 95% of it. Since she’s discovered Minecraft, she’s much less interested in REAL blocks, like Legos. It’s pixels over plastic.

Okay, that’s it for today. If I continue to write about moving, that just means that I’m avoiding the actual work of preparing to move to the other side of the world.

Don’t Judge my Boxers Until You’ve Walked a Mile in them

5 Feb

If you haven’t been following along (shame on you), I’m thinning the stuff in my life and publishing embarrassing photos of myself and my junk. I listed the first five items the other day. One of the reasons for this nonsense might be that the well of writing topics has completely dried up. How else can I explain why I’m photographing and inventorying MY UNDERWEAR. You’d think I’d have something to say about immigration reform or gun control . . . anything.

Hey, screw it, I’m gonna roll with this.

I guess I’m writing about it because I’m fascinated by what other people keep. When we were looking to move to Edwardsville, we walked through dozens of homes. Jennifer looked at the overall layout, the size of the rooms and all that practical stuff; I was peering into closets and mentally calculating the cubic tons of junk that was stored in basements and garages.

Jennifer: So, what’d you think about that tiny kitchen?

Me: Did you see how much shit they had in their basement?

Jennifer: Yeah, but what about the kitchen?

Me: Yeah, I noticed the pantry was loaded with pudding and jello.

And the hoarding shows on TV . . . oh my god, I can’t watch a single episode without craving 100 more. So I don’t watch at all.

A minimalist is the opposite of a hoarder. I’m waiting for a show about minimalists. Do you know why that’ll never happen? Because you won’t find seven decomposing cats in the layers of trash in the garage.

* * *

Here’s an article about a scientific study about the stuff people keep. Watch the video and check out the book.

* * *

Today, the fifth day of February, is, officially, across the nation, Count Your Underwear Day. My new favorite holiday.

First, I want you to know that I could totally live without underwear. 

I’m out there, Jerry, and I’m LOVIN’ EVERY MINUTE OF IT.” 

Okay, let’s get this over with.


6. Boxer Shorts (yellow with black bikes)

7. Boxer Shorts (black with white skulls)

8. Boxer Shorts (gray with baseball players)

9. Boxer Shorts (black with Tiki Gods)

10. Boxer Shorts (white with thin black lines)

Four were purchased on clearance from either Target or Old Navy; the fifth was a Christmas gift.

Next time we might count and inventory my socks, so make sure you sign up for e-mail alerts. It would be a crime if I were to write about my socks without you knowing.

The Stuff in my Life

23 Jan


Well, I’m counting my possessions again. I wasn’t going to, but that was because I had too much to count; now I don’t. If you’re wondering why the hell anyone would want to do such a thing, click on the above link or read all about this “movement” called minimalism. In as few words as possible, for me, it’s taking a stand against rampant consumerism, one thing that’s messing up the planet. If you’re skeptical about going to the extreme of counting your stuff, I get it. In a way, it’s totally pointless for me to do this because I live with three other people. I live with their crap too.

The kids want to keep every scribbled on piece of paper and every little rock they pick up. Last May, Chloe packed away a big box of her 6th grade work. I’m all for keeping the best of the best, but a big box for each grade? No way. Maybe I’ll get rid of the 6th grade box when she packs up a new box this Spring.

And Jennifer just took over one of my closet drawers. An ongoing concern is that as my junk recedes, she’ll fill the void–erase my gains–with that insidious need some of us have to fill in the empty gaps of our lives.

But still it feels good. Feels light. Liberating. Over the years my neurotic obsession with blank journals and notebooks of all sizes had manifested itself on a cheap snap-together shelf to the left of my office computer. This was the closest thing in my life you could call a collection. I’m not a collector, obviously, so I jettisoned several of the notebooks regardless of where they came from or how new they were. My rate of acquisition has been greater than the speed in which I would fill the pages. Like I said, liberating as hell.

This “challenge” will force me to examine every single item in my life. Another example: I’m not into jewelry, but I’ve had this thumb ring in my life for years. I would look at it once in awhile. I’d move it around the house, not sure of the best place to keep it. I’d pick it up, slide it on each thumb–marvel at the way it fit one thumb perfectly and hung loosely from the other–and then I’d put it back down. This weekend, looking at it like a “minimalist,” I decided to get rid of it. It wasn’t adding a damn thing to my life, except a tiny amount of guilt for never using something I paid money for.

Even today (last example, I swear) I’m wearing a light brown pair of Old Navy pants that are going into the Goodwill pile tonight. I’ve never been big on brown pants. When I’m in my favorite blue jeans, I don’t think about my pants. When I’m wearing this brown pair, I’ll be busy with something else and I’ll glance down and think “Oh, I’m wearing brown pants today.”

The end result of all this will be living in a house that has barely a sign of a fourth person living in it. And I know, most people need–or think they need–to live with a certain amount of stuff to feel secure, to feel alive. I think it’s time to get past that nonsense. You’ll find no “man cave” in our basement with pennants and old trophies and other memorabilia lining shelves and walls. You’ll see no golf clubs, kayaks, guns, or deer heads. No high school letter jacket in the closet. No magazine stacks.

An incredibly cluttered "man cave"

An incredibly cluttered “man cave”

Life is simple these days. I have my family, my Kindle, my running shoes, my laptop, and my bicycles. My days are filled with reading, writing, thinking, learning, running, walking the dogs, pedaling, and experiencing the ups and downs of two growing girls. And food! I can’t omit food from this list, for I spend so much time buying, slicing, dicing, sorting, and on and on. The battle to get whole, natural foods into those girls is as important as anything else in this paragraph.

Oh, and I thought my old blog was gone, but it’s still hanging around here. My last post was April of 2009.

Eww, Your Clutter is Touching my Sleeve

17 Jan

Every few years I go on a mad purge of my personal possessions. In 2008 I even counted all my stuff and blogged about what I kept and what I got rid of. I trashed my blog, but I got the idea here: 100 Thing Challenge. Once I whittled my shit down to under one hundred items, I quit keeping track. Then, like a well-behaved U.S. consumer I resumed accumulating stuff at a dizzying pace. Until this winter.

What’s behind this bizarre anti-consumerist attitude?

  1. I don’t like to walk into a room and feel the need to say “What the hell? Look at all this shit in here. I’m not living in a Hoarders house!”
  2. I’m done standing before my closet and seeing shirts I never wear. I once owned over thirty t-shirts. I’m down to three (not counting workout shirts).
  3. I refuse to buy a bunch of shit just because we live in a big house. When we moved in May of 2010 it was horrifying to learn that we “needed” to double our furniture.
  4. mnmlist.com

I’ve donated a shitload of books to the library and hauled a dozen garbage bags stuffed with random clutter to Goodwill. I’ve sold shit on Craigslist and practically worn out Freecycle. It all would’ve made for a helluva yard sale.

And I have more to purge: our second TV and Blu-Ray player, two area rugs, a dresser, crib, two dry erase boards, old  magazines, a broken printer, old paint, a camcorder, a small dog cage, redundant kitchen gadgets, a screwed up lawn mower, and maybe a domestic pet or two.

Of course, with kids, it all falls apart. We’ve allowed them to hoard too many toys and it’s difficult to pry them from their surprisingly strong little hands. Once in awhile I brave the bowels of the “play room” to weed out the scribbled on papers, broken toys, random puzzles pieces, doll parts, and the occasional rock-hard dog turd under the bed.

I hate to say they’re spoiled, but THEY’RE FREAKING SPOILED! Okay, maybe not. I don’t know.

We have the extra space so I’m kinda okay with their stuff because Chloe is twelve and outgrowing most of it. Ainsley’s right behind her. Oh my god it’s making me sad to think of them growing up. When Chloe’s sixteen I’ll grab her hand, give it a tug, and say “Hey Chloe let’s go play with your American Girl dolls, huh? Want to? Want to?” She’ll roll her eyes at me and say into her phone “Is your dad a frickin’ weirdo like mine?”

My In-laws Are Trying to Kill my Future Grand-baby

30 Sep

On September 22, the day we celebrated our daughter’s birthday with a houseful of people, Jennifer’s parents pulled into our driveway with an old wooden high chair. My father-in-law put it in front of our garage. I was hoping this was all part of some temporary display for the party. Sort of like a short run in a museum. But three hours later, they left; the high chair stayed.

I thought this strange because we no longer lock our kids into kitchen chairs to feed them pureed vegetables–they’re eight and twelve. I learned that Jennifer sat in that very chair and threw pasta on the floor and chewed on mashed peas and other soft foods and probably shit her pants in it a time or two. Whatever. She’s now in her mid-thirties. I wondered why the hell the high chair was still around in the first place. Obviously, the old thing has been stored away in some dark, spider-infested corner for a long time. Nobody cared about the high chair.

And now we’re supposed to care about it?

Her dad wanted to trash it, but her mom thought it’d be better to give it to us. Maybe she expects us to store it for 15 to 20 years just in case Chloe wants to strap her first child into it, assuming she’ll want to have kids. Hell, it could be Ainsley in 25 years to bring forth our first grandchild.

I know the drill, the American way. If an item has a chance of being used in the next sixty years, I’m supposed to store it in the basement, attic, or garage. I’ll watch as stuff piles up and we lose track of everything. And we will be convinced we need to stay in an over-sized house to store all of it.

Just because a house doesn’t qualify for Hoarders–just not quite scary enough–doesn’t mean there’s not a problem with this craziness.

I’m not sure what Jennifer thinks about the high chair. Does she want to store it away for a couple decades? I’ll probably ask her today. If she’s ambivalent, the chair will be in the hands of someone looking for such an item right now. Maybe a single mother who would be thrilled to receive a free high chair. Hopefully, by Tuesday, a smiling baby will be sitting in it, squishing wet cookies between her fingers.

I know, I know, most people have a different view. They scream “SENTIMENTAL VALUE!” Keep this. Keep that. When Chloe moves away to college am I supposed to hold a tiny little jumper against my cheek and cry? I can cry and remember just fine without it.

In fact, besides photos and videos that will be stored on some future computer, I own nothing that I wish to still possess twenty years from now.

There will be no auction when I die, I assure you.

If the “We have no room!” argument falls flat, I’ll point out the design flaws inherent in a 70s model high chair. Let me call it what it is–a death trap. No air bags, of course. The legs are too close together which means it will tip.

“Jennifer, do you want are first grand-baby to smack her soft little head on the kitchen floor?”

Also, it seems to be designed especially for smashing tiny fingers when the  eating surface is lowered. What kind of animal would put a child in a high chair that was manufactured by cretins back when Carter sat in the White House munching on peanuts?

Besides the safety concerns, I would be ashamed–no, appalled!–to give this to my daughter and have to say:

“Oh, I’m sorry about the Frisbee-sized eating surface on this antique piece of furniture. Just know that you’ll be spending most of your day cleaning food from the floor. Also–and you may  even remember this–I tried to get rid of this piece of firewood back in 2012. And you might remember the subsequent attempts in 2014, 2018, 2022, and that final valiant effort I gave back in 2028. I realize you can’t walk into a thrift store without tripping over modern, practical, safe high chairs available for five bucks, but you’re Granny, bless her soul, wanted us to store this for a large portion of our lives so you could–in twelve minutes–realize its many faults and hazards. You might have better luck duck-taping this precious baby to the wall. But still, enjoy.”

Note: If you were wondering how I could hand over such a hazardous chair to a stranger, you’re right. The best thing I could do for this world is to burn this high chair immediately.