Today got away, grand things on the morrow…

Primarily, the dining room. Marsh inherited his grandfather’s bar geegaws, and tomorrow, they move. Plus, there are massive stacks of STUFF on all surfaces, This time tomorrow, much of that matter will join Tom Dooley. With Before and after pics.



Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bag 27 is boring, but there are rewards…

So today in the wake of my mother’s tutelage, I trashed my bathroom and discarded a full bag of hotel hair conditioners and every instance of “shower gel” in any form. I hoarded this stuff most often because it was free or a gift, but the thing is I think gels in general are creepy. I use coconut palm oil from our favorite town in Mexico for hair product and actual soap for bathing. Goodbye to the products from the Hotel Kempinski, June of 2006, where Marshall and I received a free 4 star room when our plane broke down in Munich! Later, Caswell & Massey conditioner in all your discolored glory! Farewell, Gilette manscaping product that came with new razor blades which Marsh will never use!

The big upside of this weekend’s work is that we found a few things that we were happy to see again–in some cases, had forgotten existed. Yesterday before my mom’s red eye flight, our last family activity was to play Lewis & Clark bingo, which had been among the games in the bench seats, which I had purchased at Goodwill when Ro was a babe, hidden for later years among the Russel family games, and gleefully relocated atop the Parcheesi. Ramona was delighted to learn of the Nez Perce and to see Meriwether Lewis’ Newfoundland dog featured in a corner spot on her card.

We also uncovered the build your own birdfeeder kit that Jill Stukenberg gave me a couple of birthdays ago–while I finished tidying up the foyer and consigning things to their destinations (daycare, Goodwill, garbage, recycling) Marsh banged it together and Ro painted it–red on one side, blue on the other.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Farewell My Lovely Mother

I know the conceit of this project was to do a single grocery size bag each day–“Climb Mt. Fuji, Little Worm, but slowly, slowly,” yet my mother’s assistance during her visit has enabled larger scale scaling back: she’s a pull-everything-out-of-the-cabinet person, she scrubs, and she returns things with intention. She also makes amazing macaroni and cheese, which we indulged in tonight despite my issues with both wheat and dairy because my midwestern heart demanded it.

We were celebrating today’s triumph over the refrigerator: two full grocery bags of expired food–torn bags of nutritional yeast glommed to the fridge wall with leaked tamarind paste, November’s salsa, and a relic from a prior visit from my mom–the Miracle Whip purchased so she could make Michigan Style potato salad for Ramona’s first birthday party in 2007, a Scrabble Tournament with real prizes–Judge Cheryl Albright won handily. Interestingly, the prize was a fabulous lamp I had rescued and rewired from my neighbor Mr. Jones household purge that summer–a cast iron base with a plaster of paris tree trunk rising from it, around which two raptors wheeled. Stamped in the lamp’s base were the words “THE VISION.” Judge Cheryl later texted us a photo of the lamp in her chambers with a note: “When I’m having trouble deciding  case, I’ll tell the bailiff I have to go to my chambers to consult THE VISION.”

The salient thing, though, is that the Miracle Whip, which my own mother purchased for that party, was only one year younger than my child. If we’d waited one more year, it, too, would have been old enough to go to kindergarten.

But I digress.After the fridge, we disgorged the contents of the two built in bench seats in the foyer and living room. Foyer: sheet music for the piano Mr. Russel, our home’s former owner (see older posts) left in the dining room (Ramona bangs on it and may one day play); 1980s Dungeons and Dragons sets (email if interested), and Monopoly and Parcheesi as well as an old Jeopardy game–non-electric, pretty fabulous. These things I kept. In the living room seat, which is much larger, things got interesting.

There I found the wedding vows manually typed for a 1978 wedding, a dead Coleman lantern, a sort of cozy for an armchair crocheted in rainbow colors, stacks of magazines from the 80s and 90s, and my favorite, the BASE ONLY for a trophy that someone named Darlene earned for being the top fundraiser for something I was unable to comprehend:

Someone saved these things. Plus also, I discarded a Mr. Potato Head and a bunch of 70s coloring books (these go to Ramona’s daycare).






We also found a fantastic, well-sewn ladies leather jacket with about 15 sturdy pockets and all its buttons: I have been unable to decide its fate. Anyone? Here is my mom modeling it:

But we didn’t quite finish. My mom had to leave for the airport after we emptied and partially sorted the bench contents, but before we could get through the last of the detritus and reassemble the remains.





I think I can do it myself–I actually think it’s important that I do it myself.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 4:50 am  Comments (2)  

The MOTHER of all bag days: maybe bags 16-25?

My mother is visiting. She is a genius at getting rid of stuff, and she loves doing deep cleaning in houses that are not her house. Obviously, it’s been great having her here in general, sipping wine and talking, walking the hood and the woods and everything in between…but Mom kills at Bagging. And scrubbing.

The kitchen has been one of the last refuges for Mr. Russel’s spirit: witness the 1970s industrial coffee maker and the rice cooker that lacks a cord. Yet I must admit my own culpability: I am reincarnated from a survivor of the Great Depression. Plus also I am able to blind myself to absurd pathology in my immediate environs. My mother and I spent 9 hours on this project, the entire penultimate day of her visit. In the end, two black lawn-sized bags, three regular kitchen trash bags, and four grocery bags went in the trash–all out of my kitchen, which is small. And plus two grocery bags to Goodwill. Un-freaking-believable. Follow me on my journey to non-pathological kitchen.

Check out this Burgerville spread, acquired in a goodie bag at the premier party for Portland Spaces magazine–three years ago? Note how it is the wrong color, and the plastic jar is buckling–gnarly, gnarly things are happening here.

Ahem. Yes, I’d feel good about this can of pickled beets but for a few reasons. Note the brand: Wegman’s. That would be the Midwestern grocery chain where I shopped in–drum roll–GRADUATE SCHOOL. Correct–I graduated in 2005. Plus, to further cop to my Depression mentality, to really do the psychospiritual math–this means I actually moved this jar of beets back here from Pennsylvania. In my Dodge Dart.








Need I say more? Have we ever used this? Has anyone? Did Mr. Russel, ever? Why did we keep moving it around the kitchen for like a decade? These are all excellent questions!









This is the before shot on the counter. Words fail.

Anyone for Korean ginseng that looks like a deep sea creature?









Yep. The expiry date is in 2008. These marinated beans are not destined for a chopped salad.








RIP Evil Eye teapot, bought for me by Hein and Casey in my neighborhood bodega when I lived in Sunnyside, Queens when they stayed with me. Bentley the cat knocked it down about 6 months ago: it’s heading out to the deck to host a nasturtium plant in its new life as a planter.

The top of the refrigerator was a new frontier, despite a bag or two already coming off there a couple months ago. Does anyone even know what this is?







Yes, I had kept the broken Fiesta ware serving dish I acquired as creep tax when a woman who tried to tempt Marsh (VERY unsuccessfully, of course) while I was away at grad school left it at one of our roomates’ dinner parties. What dish? I said. Good bye, good bye!











Gleaned the side of the fridge. This is a pic of me at 3 or 4 crashed on Christmas with a new plush toy. For Don McIntosh.








My mom in front of a corner of the cupboards: a full bag of breast pumping equipment, jar lids, and baby bottle gear left the scene shortly before this photo.










My mother grimacing—check the after shot on the counter. Trashing 3 bags of expired food in the pantry made room for the seasonings that once crowded the counter.

Witness: I own about 35% as much food as previously, only what remains is actually edible. I trashed things like an open container of oatmeal filled with moth larvae; 2003’s baking powder; the abovementioned Burgerville Spread, etc.

Dear Mom,

Thank you one million times for taking glee in unburdening me from my overrun kitchen. Thank you for your grace and humor and your insistence on getting rid of the can of stewed tomatoes I tried to keep simply because it has always been there. Thank you for organizing the pans and tossing the lids to cookware I no longer own. Above all, thank you for inspiring me to restart this project, which is, like the best of practical measures, spiritually healing.



Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 4:13 am  Comments (4)  

One more day before resuming: but a note!

So, yeah. Still so f-ing busy. But I received a reward from looking into my email today. One of my early lettings-go came back to not-haunt me. About 2 years ago I went through the closet and parted hard with a dress Marshall bought me when we were shopping together shortly before we were married. On that same shopping trip, we bought the black silk incarnation that I wore to our wedding reception; the brown plaid dress with an orange velvet belt we also bought had served for the Harris family’s post-Christmas party right after the shopping, but I hadn’t worn it for four years. It fit me funny. So I gave it a couple of years ago to my friend Jill. Just finally looked at Jill’s wedding pictures emailed today (she married Eric; they are our neighbors and together made Jascha, Ramona’s Very Favorite Kid), and there she is, wearing the dress Marshall bought me on NW 23rd, which I wore only once. Blessings to your marriage, Jill and Eric! Hooray that the dress, which I let go, found a life of significance beyond me!

Does this count as a bag?

Published in: on February 3, 2011 at 7:09 am  Comments (3)  

Life got in the way. Return to business tomorrow

That about says it. But man, my house is less chaotic already. As is my head.

Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Bag 17: Books

for Laura’s mobile library, and pretty good stuff, too. Mystery novels, including Christie, essay volumes I got from being a teacher, kid books, poetry, etc. I had to go to the basement to complete the project. In so doing, I found an awesome kaleidoscope that I bought when I lived in New York, thinking I’d find a kid who would like it someday. I had entirely forgotten I owned it. Turns out I now know the perfect kid to like it–my kid, who was not foreseen when I bought the thing. I brought it upstairs and gave it to Ramona, who loved it, but was frustrated that her arms were not long enough to manipulate the gizmo that shifts the contents of the thing to change the image. She will grow.


Many great books. including Rick Moody, Portrait of Dorian Gray, various anthologies


–the kaleidoscope, various poets, a Henry Miller book

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 7:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Bag 16: The New Generation

Here is the hard part: I am kind of freakish in that I am a modern day animist. It is hard for me to let go of things because I see their inner life, and I fear that if I put them out into the larger world, they won’t be adequately cared for. That is crazy. I therefore have a hard time letting go of anything that my child ever owned or wore. I am trying to get past that, as we have benefited from lots of hand me downs. I need to hand down more. I am on that.

Tonight’s bag went to my great friend Richa, mom of Uma, a great friend of Ramona’s at school. I am a big fan of Richa–she came to the States from New Delhi with her rad husband Richi, and she indulges my questions about Hinduism without blinking. She makes it easy for me to ask about her family’s traditions, making Hinduism not The Other, but something I can ask my friend about. Richa’s my friend. And she’s pregnant with her second kid, due in March. I am letting go of a bunch of iconic stuff because I know that Richa, Rishi, Uma, and the new kid will take care of it. And I want them to have it.

Main thing: this accessory for the changing table, a little red fabric-covered arc with suction cups on either end that stick to the table. Descending from the arc is a little cow, a little chicken, and a little pig; all are secretly rattles and are festooned with circles and stripes designed to stimulate the baby brain. Ramona is not  a baby anymore. Uma’s sister will be a baby. She can use it.

Another thing that went in the bag: an incredibly beautiful wool cream jacket with embroidery on it that I found at an estate sale and was too big for Ro when she was born; I put it away for later and didn’t dig it up again until Ro was much too big for it. Some kid needs to enjoy this lovely jacket. I can let it go.

I am also passing on the lovely little stuffed eggplant and tomato, each with cream colored faces, in organic cotton.

This archivist is letting things out of the archive. They need to live.

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Bags 13-15: I am Not the Island of the Lost Clothing

Two bags of basement clothes to the garbage, one to Goodwill today. Some Mr. Russell’s, some mine: the dividing line between passing on and junking the amount of rodent poop/moth web involved. Apparently, Mr. Russell was at the Carnival Cruise’s Bahamas Golf Tournament at some point. Apparently, he had a brief brush with the Grateful Dead (though that may be cross-contamination from ex-roommates). The Big Goodbye was sending to Goodwill a bunch of clothes I picked up from an estate sale free box, including an orange suede skirt and a child’s red velvet dress. I had no intention of using these items when I picked them up and brought them here: I just knew that they needed a home and felt responsible for finding them one. News flash: I am not the spiritual caretaker for all homeless apparel. I will now leave that duty to the auspices of Goodwill.

I did find a box of my journals in this expedition, which I may record regarding at a later date. Or maybe not. It’s possible that some things, as Wittgenstein said, should be passed over in silence.

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 5:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Bags 10 through 12: RIP Mr. Russell

To tell the story of this round of movings on is to tell the story of William Russell, the man Marshall bought our house from in 2000. Marsh got a deal on the house that was good for both him and the owner–passing what is now our house while on his way to look at another, he literally saw a man putting up a For Sale By Owner sign. Marsh loved the crazy construction of our Kerby Street pad–built by a shipbuilder, the only house that fellow ever built, in 1910–it resembles a large pagoda. And Mr. Russell’s name being Russell, it even had a screen door with an Olde Englishe letter “R”, which stands just as well for Runkel. Mr. Russell was in declining health. He told Marshall exactly what he wanted for the house, and Marshall promised it on the spot. There was a handshake.

One of Mr. Russell’s stipulations in handing over our house (we call it “Kerby”) was that he could leave behind anything he didn’t want. While this landed us a good bedroom set and a piano, it also involved other things. Mr/ Russell was a Pack Rat. In the extreme. He never met a useful or useless item he didn’t like. To wit: there were 11 dust pans in the house. More than 30 ceramic lawn animals. Those copper cake forms hanging on the walls of the kitchen, caked in years of cooking grease and dust, in the shapes of lobsters, etc. While Marsh did a big dump/Goodwill run right off, all those years ago, and I dispensed with the cake forms personally the week I moved in (2003), I estimate that roughly one ton of Mr. Russell’s stuff STILL remains. This is often interesting, even magical, as when in 2004 Daphna agreed to sing “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” featured in Ulysses, at our wedding, and a week later I found the sheet music for it secreted in the bench seat in our living room. True story!

More often, though, it is a matter of confronting things like the heap of old trash bags filled with clothing in the back room of the basement. As I was 3 bags behind (and will be one bag behind tomorrow, but planning on catching up), I hit the Graveyard of Wearing Apparel tonight.

Mr. Russell was a career Pullman porter who raised 5 kids in this house with his wife; when they divorced in the 1970s. he tricked Kerby out: glitter on the ceilings, orange shag over the wood floors. He used to run an after hours club in the basement, and the orange fake leather bar remains there, along with stacks of scratched funk and soul records (yes, some were okay, and went to the record store on Mississippi Ave.).

As I shook mouse dung from each article of clothing I sorted, I contemplated the life of Mr. Russell. He liked to golf. He liked the ladies. Goodwill get what’s gone, apart from what was motheaten, which is in the trash:


–A turtleneck printed with golf bags full of clubs

–A t-shirt advertising that America starts here (?)

–Roughly ten v-neck polyester shirts that read like a Best of the 70s Color Wheel (caramel, teal, mint green)

–A pair of polyester shorts, lace up style, that I blush to picture Mr. Russell in


–One fly white polyester shirt with small pale blue dots. Advertised on the label, “Never Needs Ironing.” Someone I know will love this shirt. Any takers?

I think we should have our house cleansed of old spirits. I think Mr. Russell’s collector energy is still here, still drawing the unloved objects of the world to it. It would be good for all of us; he can move on now.

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 4:34 am  Leave a Comment