Category Archives: recycling tip

CLEANING THE STUDIO Redux

Lord, I hope “redux” means “revisited”…. Just checked Wiki–yes!!

It all started when we cleaned out our daughter’s old room. She came home to help. I had visions of the two of us cutting a swatch through the piles o’ stuff, filling bag after bag of stuff to be tossed, given, moved or….or….what else do you do with a 1942 manual on identifying enemy planes?

Instead, we spent a leisurely afternoon of Robin browsing through old journals, school notebooks and yearbooks. We tried on the hats we bought on family trips to Boston. (We once defused a family spat by stopping in a little shop on Newbury Street called TOPPERS. We all bought hats. Now it’s a family tradition.) Finally, after hours of delicate sorting, Robin announced she’d salvaged everything she wanted. I was free to take care of the rest. (My professional writer voice is calm and dignified. My mother voice is about to scream.)

From there, I’ve managed to keep up with my goal of removing one bag o’ stuff a day from her room, the attic and my studio. It feels like truly sisyphean task. I comfort myself by doing the math. If I keep it up, in a year I will have removed 365 bags. Not too shabby, hey?

This has all happened before. It will all happen again. (Who says you can’t learn something important from Battlestar Galactica reruns?

Sometimes it helps to know how you did it before. Other times, knowing what’s in store can add to the overwhelming nature of the task. (The first words out of my mouth when I tore my ACL the send time were, “Oh, NO, NO, NO, NOT AGAIN!!!” I knew I was in for another surgery, I knew I was in for at least six months of recovery, I knew it would be at least a year before I felt back to normal.

I couldn’t face it. But….

I did it anyway.

So today as I dig in once again, I share with you three thoughts and resources that are helping:

1) “Leave it for someone else.” Too many of my clutter–er, collecting–impulses are fueled by the thought that I’ve discovered something wonderful, and I need to save it from oblivion in the thrift shop.

But now I ask if I truly love it or have a use for it. If not, I know it will be found and cherished by someone else. So….I leave it for someone else.

2) “Would I buy this again today?” I can’t believe how much this helps me decide what will stay and what should go.

3) This website, Clutter Buster, by Brooks Palmer.

I can’t remember where the first two questions came from, but will credit them when I track the source down.

In the meantime, I need to go fill another bag.

What strategies help YOU clean out?

Happy spring cleaning!

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CLEANING THE ATTIC #19: Take Out the Empties

As I enter into the last 24 hours of cleaning frenzy (assuming I don’t stay up til 2 a.m. for the next two nights, which I’m not saying I won’t, mind you, but at my age, it’s hard) there’s one cleaning tip I come back to again and again. It’s ridiculously simple, but perhaps the most single most helpful tip I’ve found.

When I enlisted the help of my good friend Carol Laughner, the second thing she advised me to do seemed kinda silly at the time. (I can’t remember the other two right now. If I do, I’ll share those, too.)

As I empty storage containers or organizers, she said I should gather them up and set them aside, in one big pile, in an out-of-the-way area.

I nodded my head obligingly when she told me this. After all, she was helping me. I wasn’t going to argue with her. But I couldn’t see why this was one of her “big three” organizing tips.

Well, guess what? It works.

It turns out that keeping them in your line of sight as you work creates a visual distraction. I’d find my eye roving around the room, thinking of what I had to do next. I would see an empty rolling drawer cart, or a magazine file, or a box, or a jar. Then I’d have to think, “Oh, it’s empty, I don’t have to do anything with that.” Except, of course, step over it, move it out of the way, push it aside or stack it on something else.

Also, when I’d get ready to reorganize a space, I’d think of a perfect “thing” to use–but then I couldn’t remember where it was. I’d spend several precious moments looking for it. And sometimes I’d realize I’d already commandeered it for another spot.

About the eleventh time I stepped over an empty plastic tub, or searched for a basket the right size, I realized Carol was right.

I set the “empties” in a pile near the door to my barn attic. Several times a day, I took them upstairs to the “master pile”.

I instantly had more walking-around space. And fewer distractions to boot.

I could then judiciously add some of the containers back in as I needed them.

I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. So listen to Carol and move those empties to a staging area while you work on your mega-mess.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC #18: Find Someone More Worthy

The end is almost in sight. I’ve achieved a few clear surfaces in here. And this time, it’s not because everything that was on them is stuffed in boxes underneath. The stuff is either neatly organized and stored in the attic, or G-O-N-E.

The process is easier some days, harder on others.

One consolation: There’s very little that’s pure-D trash. Most of it is saleable, salvageable, worthy of donation or recyclable.

Of course, if it’s good enough to sell/salvage/donate, it’s also good enough to keep. And therein lies the heart of the problem.

It’s easy to talk ourselves into keeping something that’s still “good enough”. Hey, maybe we really will have another baby (or somebody will), redecorate our home (in the same color scheme/style we left behind fifteen years ago), or take up weaving again (even though I hate threading the loom.)

One trick around this is to find someone more worthy.

I’ve done this by donating to good causes: Our public library’s book sale, which raises money for buying more books. (Better them than me, right?) An art center’s fund raising “yart” sale, and also direct donations to their art programs (photography equipment, art supplies.) An after-school art program. A family that makes jewelry and donates the money from sales to worthy causes.

When it comes to fabric, there’s one place that always gets the culls from my stash.

It’s a sewing program at a state prison facility for women.

I read about this group years ago. They make clothing and quilts for children in homeless shelters and babies with AIDS.

It really moved me that these women, who have made some disastrous decisions in their lives, were trying to comfort someone else–a little person–even worse off.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had enough fabric to donate, so I had to make quite a few phone calls to track down a contact. But the program manager is delighted I thought of them again. We’ve arranged a drop-off point.

Inspired again by this group, I found myself pulling even more fabric off my shelves.

Pay it forward. Find someone who could really put your unused stuff to good purpose.

And watch the world grow a little richer, a little brighter, a little more loving.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC #17: Persistence of Utility

One of the biggest obstacles to de-junking is worrying you’ll get rid of something you’ll really regret later.

All of us have a story like that. One week, you throw away all your red widgets. The next, you realize you desperately need more red widgets. And they cost three times as much as what you paid for them last time.

Or you give away a wodget you didn’t use for ten years. And a week later, you think of some usage that wodget would be perfect for.

A friend once explained that phenomenon to me. It needs a good name. Like “rue-membering”.

The reality is, you’d already forgotten you had that wodget. if you hadn’t cleaned out your attic and come across that wodget, you still would not have thought of it a week later.

Or if you did find the perfect use for it, and remembered you had it, you wouldn’t have been able to find it anyway.

You remembered it only because you touched it recently.

It’s like that “persistence of vision” thing when you look at a bright light, then look away. You don’t really still see the light–you see an image of the light that’s temporarily “burned” on your retina.

Similarly, you are having a “persistence of utility” for that object.

And it creates just enough regret to slow down your purging process.

Remember that when you’re making your stay/go decisions and your supports-my-vision/distracts-me-from-my-vision decisions.

And if you find yourself still full of second-guessing, here’s a good statistic to keep in mind:

Out of the thousands of items I’ve given away in the past month, I regret giving away oh, maybe one or two of them.

And I can’t even remember what those are right now.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC #13: It’s Okay to Keep Stuff

I almost gave away half my collection of vintage suitcases this week. I even offered my six vintage Samsonite overnight cases to my daughter, to use for storage. She said no.

And I was secretly relieved.

I’m glad I kept them.

Remember when I described my altered art/paper collage projects as “vacations” from my regular artwork in the last essay?

Well, I’ve stowed all the materials in my suitcases. I stacked them on one of my
rolling steel shelving units
from Sam’s Club. (Thanks again for the great tip on these, Bonnie Blandford!)

I can grab a suitcase, make a funny pink drink with a little umbrella in it, and enjoy myself thoroughly. Just like a real vacation!

They look really, really, cool, too.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC #12: Love Your Inner Pack Rat

Last week, I was at a point in clearing out my studio I thought I’d never be again.

I simply could not decide what to do with certain stuff.

I know I’m not going to make a name for myself with altered art or paper collage. I know I’m never going to make pillows for my living room ever again. I could ditch all those funky old books that are such incredible candidates for altering, the old dictionaries and paper ephemera I’ve accumulated for paper collage, and the lovely home decorating fabrics I’ve collected.

But it’s hard. Really, really hard! Why??

The purging process slowed down to not-moving-at-all again, and I was frantic. Fortunately, we were social butterflies this weekend. We had so many social engagements, I didn’t have time to do more than think about cleaning the studio.

And that’s when I got my next three insights:

Vacations are important.

Those “not-part-of-my-vision” pursuits are still enjoyable. They’re totally fun, with not much riding on the outcome–a sort of artistic vacation from my major work.

Like a vacation, they don’t take up a lot of my time. I really only indulge once or twice a year.

And also like a vacation, they they get me thinking outside the box. Some of my best ideas have come from playing with new processes.

When I’m stuck on a more “arty” project, these little sidetracks often get my creative process jump-started again. Many times, coming up with a totally unrelated project for a craft book editor solves a technical problem I’m having with fiber, or jewelry.

I’d hate to kick this to the curb when it’s still working for me.

So….stay or go?

I can decide not to decide.

Neither.

That’s when I realized that it’s easier to make decisions about stuff in the attic, or stuff that’s been out of sight, out of mind for awhile. It’s harder when you’ve looked at it every day and just can’t see it anymore. (Or worse, can’t see what you’re supposed to be looking at…)

In this case, I will use the attic for what it’s supposed to do: Storage for items I want to keep but don’t use every day.

The next stage is simply boxing up most of these treasures, and putting them in an accessible storage spot upstairs.

Next spring, when my open studios are over, my book proposal is in and the weather warms again, I’ll be able to look at the stuff with a sterner eye than I can today.

I can accept my inner pack rat.

I will always be a pack rat. It’s part of who I am, and how I create art.

But I don’t have to be a passive bystander to pack rat-itis.

I can understand this part of my nature. Even embrace it. But also one I will monitor more closely from now on.

I think this is working for me.

I’ve been out junk shopping since I came to this conclusion. I’m finding it easy to resist buying the stuff I normally buy: funky books, old sewing patterns, etc. I’ve seen what I have on hand already, and now I know–I have enough of these things. (At one booth, I actually said out loud, “Luann, step away from the button jar….”

I don’t feel sad about passing over them. I’m leaving them for someone else to find and enjoy.

Until, that is, I find something so totally awesome, I just have to have it! I did buy a beautiful piece of vintage willow green velvet fabric for a new wall hanging. And a green sap bucket for a wastebasket. I’m still a pack rat by nature, after all.

The cycle will start again. And that’s okay.

Because now I know this is a cycle. It’s part of my artistic process. One that I will recognize, respect and accommodate. I just need to make sure I purge my work spaces and storage areas more regularly.

And find more friends with pick-up trucks.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #11: Remember What YOU’VE Been Given

A reader posted a good comment to one of my essays in this series, remarking that different purge strategies work for different people. She pointed out that she makes good money from regular yard sales, and that the motivation of making a chunk of change works really well for her.

The same day, I met up with old acquaintance through Freecycle. She told me I had quite a reputation in our local chapter for “giving away great stuff”.

Uh-oh. It got me thinking….

Was I being an idiot, giving all this “great stuff” away?

I got caught up again about how much money I’d spent of this stuff. I wondered if I should be consigning this stuff, or selling it. It affected my ability to make quick decisions about each item.

And the purge process slowed down. Way, way down.

This weekend, I showed someone my newly-organized attic, with all my booth stuff stored neatly away to one side. There against a wall was my big insight.

I myself have been given so much.

I saw a set of panel walls (sort of old versions of MD Propanels, sort of like these. And a big set of Abstracta. A set of black puzzle floor mats; a shipping container; and a number of other items….

Things other artists had given to me.

It came about this way:

One year, I opted to do a sales/demo booth at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Fair. It was a huge undertaking in so many ways, not the least of which was designing a gallery-like setting and a demonstration station in a 600 square foot tent space.

Yes, you read that right. I had to equip the equivalent of six standard-sized booth spaces.

I needed six times the walls I normally used. Six times the display structures. Six times the lighting. I needed a way to cover the floor, create signage, create traffic flow that made sense. Additional sales staff and inventory.

It was almost insurmountable. But I turned to my community–and my friends–and asked for help.

I posted on a few forums asking for ideas and suggestions.

Several artists responded not only with advice, but with stuff.

Thank you to Jill O’Reilly, who invited me down to her studio in Massachusets, and gave me her old wall set-up, flooring, and a ton of Abstracta parts.

And thank you to Amy Peters for giving me a ton of flooring and a shipping case to store it in.

I could not have created such an incredible presence at that show without their incredible generosity and support. What they gave me was worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. And neither of them asked for a penny, unless I “felt like” giving them a piece of my jewelry or something.

So when I start to fret about giving away a $25 object, or a $50 object, or a $100, I stop and think….

So much has been given to me. It’s my turn to give back.

For me, for right now, it would feel small-in-spirit to stop that flow, to hoard what I can’t or don’t want to use, until someone pays me for it.

That’s just where I am in my karmic cycle right now.

So as my reader said, if selling your discards works for you, go for it! If you need that money to finance your next step in your dream, do it! There have been times in my life where I needed the dough, and I truly understand.

But if you find it hinders instead of helps, know this:

You could be helping someone else take that big step forward, if you can simply let it go.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #10: What’s the Point?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the hard things about letting go of something is remembering how much I paid for it.

And every time I mention that, someone suggests I sell the item on Ebay. Or take it to a consignment shop. Or have a yard sale.

I decided not to do those things. In the long run, it really isn’t worth it to me, for several reasons:

1. The time involved.

Learning to do Ebay effectively takes time. And brain energy.

Silly as it seems, I’m still not that comfortable with a digital camera. I have no idea how to upload images. I know those are skills I have to learn eventually. But stopping to learn them right now feels distracting to my de-junking mission.

Someone ran me through the process of selling on Ebay, and it’s a lot to come to grips with. I completed one auction. I couldn’t believe how much time it took up.

It takes time to decide what’s really worth selling. Time to describe each item, time to come up with my terms, time to package each item for shipping, time to run it to the post office. Time for the auction to run its course. Time to respond to customer questions.

If the item doesn’t sell, I have to decide once again whether to relist it, hold onto it again for another auction, or give it away.

I end up making lots of decisions about each individual item.

Same with a consignment shop. Time to figure out what they’ll take and what they won’t. Time to haul it to the store (usually by appointment.) Time spent determining a price. Time to haul the unwanted stuff back home, and to decide what to do with it again.

When an item sells, usually you can expect to get about 25% of the retail price (depending on its condition and desirability). If it sells. And if the store doesn’t have to further reduce the price to move it.

Whatever doesn’t sell, guess what? You have to take it back (unless you give them permission to dump it or give it to charity.)

Same with a yard sale. It takes time, time, time, to gather, tag, store, set out and sell each item. And then dispose of each unsold item.

Time, time, time. Time I’m not spending directly on my art.

Which brings me to the second reason:

2. What is my focus?

We hear over and over, what you pay attention to, will flourish. Well, I want to pay attention to my art, not my stuff.

Is all this extra time spent relocating my stuff for money really moving my business and art forward effectively?

I would rather move this stuff on and get back to making–and selling–my art.

Nicole Caulfield, the artist who walked me through an Ebay auction, sells small works of art there called ACEO. The time spent using Ebay directly helps her art business. It might be worthwhile exploring Ebay if I intend to sell my work there. But I don’t, for now.

The last reason is more subtle. But it helped me the most.

3. Giving helps me emotionally and spiritually.

The donations I made to the Sharon Arts Center “yart sale” helped them raise funds for new programs. It helped other artists who could really use those supplies. And it helped me. I got a tax deduction, equal perhaps to what I would have made at a consignment shop or yard sale.

Giving books to our public library’s book sale helps them raise money for new books. And other people get to read my books. I get to make space for new books! (Ohmigod, I can’t believe I said that!!!)

Donating to Planet Aid helps others around the world, donating to Project Share helps local kids have a good Christmas, donating to Freecyle creates good karma.

Many of these items I’ve been holding on to represent dreams I used to have. But I have new dreams now.

Letting go of your old dreams may help someone else’s dreams come true.

A friend once told me, “Sometimes when we pray, we may feel our prayers aren’t being answered. It’s because we haven’t made room for them. We have stuff blocking the way. The answer can’t get through.”

I think about that a lot. Lots of things can get in the way.

Junk. Hanging on to old dreams. Getting caught up in recouping money from our past mistakes.

Need one more reason to move it all on quickly?

Making room for your prayers to be answered may help be the answer to someone else’s prayers.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC #7: Get People to Come to You!

I think the hardest thing about doing a major attic/house/studio purge is hauling the stuff away.

It’s hard enough making the millions of choices: “You, you can stay. We still need each other. But you, you and you–you all have to go. I know. I loved you, and a part of me still does. But I’ve changed. We’ve both changed. We both have different needs now. It’s time to acknowledge that and move on.”

Yes, it’s like a break-up thing. Except that, once you’ve broken up, the stuff just sits there til you do something about it.

So you thought about breaking up, and then you had to go through the break up, and now you have to pack them up and drive them to the train station. Ow!

Oh, wait–that’s getting your adult kids to move out.

To date, we’ve managed to find relatively easy ways to move stuff on (Freecyle, curbside donations, and Planet Aid.)

Yesterday, I found another way to make the process a little easier. I called the owner of a local used bookstore to come and take a peek at the twenty-five remaining boxes of books.

(Yes, we managed to fill not one, but two county jail libraries with our previous donations.)

She came that very same evening, and we went through the books together. It was pleasant (she was funny and nice) and it went quickly (she knows what she wants for her store.) She was also collecting children’s books for a friend who ships them to school libraries on reservations out West. So I got to donate to yet another worthy cause. (And someone else will be doing the packing and shipping, to boot.)

We could have gotten a nice check, or store credit, out of the deal. Maybe I still will. I told her I really didn’t care–which encouraged her to take more books than she would have otherwise. Hey, if I make enough to buy just a few really nice books from her store, I figure I still come out ahead.

It helps that the owner lives fairly close to us, and could easily stop by. So this option isn’t for everyone. But you’d be surprised how many people might be willing to come to your house, evaluate your stuff and take it away with them. Some charities do it–call your favorite one and ask.

Sometimes they’ll even pay you! They’re called “pickers” and they will resell your stuff at auctions, flea markets and their booths at group dealer antique stores. Some even turn around and sell it at consignment shops. Maybe you’ve seen their ads in the classified section of your local newspaper: “Wanted–old furniture, old jewelry. Call for an appointment today!” They show up with a big van or a truck or trailer. They are ready to deal!

Obviously, if you are trying to sell items of value, then you’d want to consider the picker’s reputation. And maybe even take action yourself–go the route of consignment or auction. Mostly they want to buy cheap and fast and move on. Be ready.

But if nothing is too precious, and your time and energy are precious commodities, and you just want the stuff G*O*N*E, then why not let someone else do the grunt work? And let them make a little money in the process.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #6: Help Someone Else

I’ve made a little more progress today, letting go of some really sticky stuff. Every day, I find a new way to think about each item, deciding if it stays or goes.

Books were the hardest. We love to read and reread our books, and we have eclectic tastes. Books had taken over our house.

Yet to date, we have packed up over fifty boxes of books. Yes, you read that right! (Fear not, we still have plenty of books left….)

Now, I’ve tried for several years to part with some of those books. How was I able to suddenly cull out 75% of my titles?

And what made me finally let go of a knitting machine, a camera stand with lights, a slide projector and screen? (I can just hear the little hectoring voice in the back saying, “Besides the fact that they’re all so outdated?” Hey, it’s still good stuff!)

Here’s what: I donated them to groups that would benefit hugely.

A friend works in program services at a county jail. When I first mentioned getting rid of some books, he said, “I’ll take ‘em! I’ve been wanting to beef up our library at the jail.”

It’s odd, but somehow the thought of my books being read by someone down on their luck, someone who’s taken a few too many wrong turns in life, someone who was so bored they’d read anything, someone who might think, “Hey…that was a good story!”…was compelling. And liberating. We quickly filled seven boxes of books and gave them to John. (It helps that he came to pick them up, too.)

He was impressed with our selection. “Not a single *$#!# romance, either!” he said admiringly. (Apparently people tend to donate romance novels to jails. Go figure.)

He said he’d name the library after us. Well! If that’s the case, we’d better give ‘em even more books! So we filled seven more boxes. “The Udell Memorial Library?” I suggested. “Nah, that would mean you’re dead,” replied John. Oh.

We packed up another ten boxes. Then a dozen. Finally, John said “uncle!” But he gave us the name of another program manager at another jail–who was also delighted to have our books. He even came to get them, too. We gave him fifteen boxes. Another twenty-four sit in our garage waiting for him. Hmmm…I guess that’s more than fifty boxes.

Tip: For each book, we decided if we could easily find it at the library, or if we could easily find the information on the internet, it left the building. Ditto if we didn’t want to reread it, or if we had multiple copies.

The big-ticket items were set free soon after. A dear friend mentioned that the non-profit arts center she works for was having a fund-raising yard sale soon. Would I consider giving them some stuff? I could give to a good cause, and get a tax deduction to boot. She even offered to pick up whatever I was willing to donate.

Turns out some of the items are coveted by the center itself. So maybe my donations will end up helping many budding artists and craftspeople. I found myself adding to the pile throughout the day.

There’s something compelling about knowing our donations might change someone’s life for the better.

Suddenly, it’s clear that hoarding something I know in my heart I will never use again, feels wrong. Letting it go to a good cause simply feels right.

So think of a group or cause that would benefit from your old stuff. Somehow it makes it easier to let go.

Maybe it’s part of that legacy thing I was talking about yesterday.

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CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip#4: Magazine Drop

I’m a magazine fanatic–can’t get enough of them. I love getting stuff in the mail. Especially a pristine issue of a magazine that promises to help you change your life in seven easy steps.

I love them all: Home magazines. Art magazines. Craft magazines. Business magazines. Craft business magazines. News magazines. Essay magazines. Environmental magazines. Lifestyle magazines. Women’s magazines. I love O and W, and MSL. My secret guilty pleasure is People magazine at my dentist’s office. (“I’m not ready for my cleaning, I have to find out what Britney did next!”) (And why can’t she spell her name right??)

I pore over the articles and dog-ear the ones that especially speak to me. I drool over the photo layouts, dreaming that someday my hair/body/home/wardrobe/closet could look just like theirs.

I save magazines, going back to read and reread those same articles. If they are “how-to” or craft magazines, I keep them until the projects and styles are so outdated, they’re retro.

Consequently, I’m always drowning in magazines. As I clean my attic, I find boxes, laundry baskets and suitcases filled with magazines. Yes, suitcases. You know those stacks of vintage suitcases you see in home style magazines? The stacks that make great end tables? You’re supposed to get “extra storage” outta them by stuffing your magazines inside the suitcases? Well, do they ever say what you’re supposed to do when those suitcases are full??

Now it’s time to move those wonderful issues on to some other unsuspecting…er…deserving…person.

Sometimes I find homes for them on Freecycle. Sometimes they get stashed out in the garage til I figure out what to do with them. Then, after they’ve been dripped on, tripped over and ripped up, I haul them out to the recycling bin. (The cardboard boxes won’t hold up under those conditions, hence the laundry baskets….)

But there’s one way to move magazines on that feels a little Robin Hood-ish, a little outlaw-ish….

I sneak them into public waiting rooms.

This idea came to me after spending eons of time in our local clinic last winter. I went through an endless period of testing, follow-up testing, surgeries, surgical follow-ups and check-ups. I felt like I was spending 90% of my time in waiting rooms.

And there was never anything interesting to read.

The worst was the pediatrician’s office. Okay, that wasn’t for me, that was for one of my kids. But I couldn’t get into the baby mags (my youngest is 16) and I couldn’t even bear to look at the pregnancy mags. (And oddly, the best magazine selection was in the orthopedics department’s waiting room….. What’s up with that?!)

It was then the connection was made in my brain. Hmmmm…..dearth of magazines….plethora of magazines…yessss!

So on my next visit, I brought an armload of my own magazines. And surreptitiously left them behind.

I even snuck in a few issues of the now-defunct CraftsBusiness magazine, the on I wrote a regular column for. Self-promotion! AmericanStyle, if your subscription rate suddenly spikes, you have me to thank for it.

I know they must be appreciated, because the last time I had to wait for a doctor’s appointment, I was surprised to see they had some good magazines to read.

Then I realized they were the ones I’d left the last time I was there.

I happily settled in to reread those great articles until the nurse came for me.

Now I carry a small bag of magazines in my car, ready to leave a few behind wherever I go. I’m taking some today to my appointment for new tires.

I will bet you a silk pajama they won’t have More or Country Living in their waiting room….

But there will be after I leave.

P.S. If you worry about possible repercussions, remove your subscription label from each copy before you leave them. Although why letting bad people know I subscribe to Mare Englebreit’s Home Companion would leave me more vulnerable to a potential home invasion, I have no idea.

P.S.S. Dube’s Tire loved the magazine donation!

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CLEANING YOUR ATTIC Tip #3: Curb It!

I’m guessing a lot of people are now thinking, “Why doesn’t she have a yard sale and make some money? Or sell that stuff on Ebay??”

Ebay is not an option right now because it would mean a whole new learning curve. I just don’t have the time for that. (I have too many other projects on my plate with a steep learning curve.) Most of what I’ve moving on is hard to pack, or not worth shipping.

A yard sale is out because I don’t have the big stuff that makes a yard sale a success–furniture, appliances, etc.

I also don’t have the time to spend gathering stuff, tagging it, lugging it out and displaying it on tables (not to mention hauling the tables down from the barn attic), making and putting up signs or paying to run an ad in the paper. I don’t want to sit outside in the hot, hot sun for six hours while people haul away TRASH for $5, yet haggle me over 25 cents for something really nice. (Yes, this happens all the time at yard sales.)

And then the yard sale is over and you still have boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff, and a hundred bucks in your pocket for all your troubles.

Most of all, I don’t want to sit on stuff for a week while an auction runs. Or have it languishing in the garage while I gather enough for a yard sale. I want this stuff outta here as soon as I cull it. I don’t want to have second thoughts!!

So here’s another tip on how to just make the stuff go away:

Leave it on the curb.

I learned this years ago while helping with a fund-raising yard sale. The end was nearing, and we still had a lot of crap left over. I asked the woman in charge if she wanted it packed up and hauled anywhere.

“Oh, no!”, she replied. “Just leave it on the tree lawn. It’ll be gone by tomorrow morning!”

I was astonished. But we hauled it to the curbside and left.

Sure enough, when I drove by the next day, 90% of it was gone.

I don’t know who these people are, these yard sale scavengers, nor what they do with all the unbelievably useless stuff that’s usually left over from such events. But bless ‘em!

So now when I get tired of keeping track of Freecycle pick-ups (or get discouraged by the no-shows), and it isn’t clothing (which can go to Planet Aid or local thrift shops), and when the thrift shops are full from everybody else unloading their attic junk, I just put stuff out on our tree lawn.

I put out a bunch of items last night, lined up so I could tell from the gaps when things were taken. Within a few hours, everything except a wicker bread basket was gone. (Why did they take a slightly disheveled mauve wicker wall basket from the ’80’s but leave a perfectly good bread basket? Don’t they ever serve bread to company?)

You know what was sweet? I put everything in small boxes so people could just pick it up and carry stuff. But most people just took the stuff and left the boxes behind.

Last night, I left two perfectly good white organizer shelves and they’re still sitting out there today. Uh oh. Has my luck run out?? I just ran out and restacked them so they like like shelves instead of pedestals. I’ll bet they’re gone within the hour.

P.S. Don’t abuse this privilege. If you have stuff out there every day for the summer, your neighbors are bound to complain. Unless they’re the ones doing the picking!

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CLEANING YOUR ATTIC Tip #2: Planet Aid!

Another tip for cleaning and purging your home….

Check out Planet Aid!

This organization sets out drop boxes (see photo at their website) to collect used clothing and shoes. The goods are sold to finance aid programs in Africa and Asia.

I have many charities I donate goods to. But I LOVE Planet Aid, because a) there are no hours–just drop boxes; b) they don’t seem fussy about what they get–it doesn’t matter if it’s out of season, and they are never “not accepting donations”; c) you keep good stuff out of landfills and dumps; and d) the proceeds go to programs to helps others.

I was surprised to find Planet Aid drop-off boxes in our small community (25,000). Not that Keene is that small, but from their website, it looks like they only operate in big cities. See how to host a box in your community here.

Sometimes during peak periods (end of college term, etc.) the drop boxes will fill up. You can’t leave your donations then, and that’s a drag. (Anything you leave has to go inside the drop box.) Sometimes the boxes move around and that was a drag til I learned you can call them to find out the nearest location to you.

But the short story is, they make it really, really easy to offload giant garbage bags full of your teen-aged daughter’s clothing, and that’s all I care about right now.

Can you tell that I just found out that, for the last eight years, whenever we told our daughter to clean her room, she simply filled as many garbage bags as she could with her stuff and stashed them upstairs in our attic? (I just found them today….)

Don’t delay. Call them today for a box location near you!

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Filed under action steps, art, cleaning the studio, life with teenagers, recycling, recycling tip, time management

CLEANING YOUR ATTIC Tip #1: Freecycle!

I’ve been cleaning and purging not one, not two, but three attic spaces for the last two weeks.  And nibbling away at my studio stuff. I would clean my studio first, except I have to make room in my barn attic for the stuff I want to store in my studio.

My studio is just too full. Partly from months of being unable to even unpack fully from last year’s shows (my Year of Surgeries and Injuries), partly from a kid moving into her own place (and leaving behind almost as much stuff as she took), partly because we realized we still have unpacked boxes from when we moved to Keene 20 years ago. (Oh, my….) When we moved into this house 8 years ago, it was lightening-fast, and I never got to really purge our stuff. I think we even packed and moved dirty laundry, it was that fast.

I’ve read a lot of books on the market about how to clear stuff out, and they are marginally helpful at best.

“If you haven’t used it in a year…” doesn’t take into account the stuff that can happen in a year. Just because I was too injured to decorate our Christmas tree last year doesn’t mean I should get rid of all my tree ornaments.

“Make four piles to keep, give away, to the garbage” blah blah doesn’t help, because if I could decide that easily, I wouldn’t have three attics full of stuff.

The most inspirational one I ever read was CLUTTER’S LAST STAND by Don Aslett. He gives you compelling reasons why you should move that stuff on.

I was going to say, you can’t go in the same river twice and that rereading such a book never works for me. But then I read all the reviews and I’ve decided I will read it again NOW.

Caveat: As I read the reviews at Amazon. I realized what I loved–and hated–about this book. I love that he shows how destructive clutter can be physically and emotionally. I HATED his derogatory comments about “people of size”, and cats! He is opinionated, thoughtless and ruthless. But what he says about C*L*U*T*T*E*R is gold. So read it with a thick skin and a grain of salt, and take what works for you.

Before I do, let me share another strategy with you.

I’ve got something I want to move on, but for whatever reason I don’t want to just throw it in the trash. Maybe it’s not worth the time and effort to sell it. (Honey, remember the dresser we kept taking to consignment shops and bringing it back home when it didn’t sell?) I don’t want to drive around with it trying to find which thrift shop will take it this week. (Sometimes they’re full, sometimes they won’t take out-of-season items, and sometimes they’re just really picky about what they accept.)

Renting a dumpster is expensive though it’s great for getting rid of a lot of stuff fast. But unless you’re sure everything is pure de junk, it makes it worse when you have to throw away perfectly useful items you spent good money on. Or maybe you don’t have a bunch of people with a full day or two free to go through this process. (In my case, I have to triage the process.)

Even if you throw the item away, you may get charged extra by your garbage company if you leave out too much stuff at a time, or ask them to take big items like furniture and appliances.

What’s the solution?

Let me introduce you to FREECYCLE. Freecyle can be a nice intermediary step between driving around town with bags o’ stuff in your car, and simply throwing everything out to the curb on garbage day.

My local chapter of Freecycle is Monadnock Freecycle. Here’s how it works:

I go to my Freecycle group online and post an “offer”. This is a post with the word “OFFER” in the subject line with a short description of the item. (“OFFER: 12 back issues of Bead & Button magazine”)

I can add more details in the actual message: “This is a mixed lot of back issues, in good shape, no torn articles, etc.” I can add any other information, too, such as my general location (“In Keene”) and any conditions for pick-up (“These need to be out of here within a day.”) I’ve been adding, “Please let me know when you could pick these up, as this will help determine who gets these…”

I post the offer to the group. Depending on whether people have opted to receive offers as they come in, or in the form of a daily digest, the takers start to email me.

We arrange for a pick-up time, I give them directions to my house, and voila! Soon the item is gone to a new home where it may finally be put to good use.

Advantages: I don’t have to clean or repair the item before it finds a new home, as long as I accurately describe its condition.

I don’t have to load it up on my car and then drive around for days because I forgot the Salvation Army isn’t open on Sundays, or before 10 a.m., or after 5 p.m.

In fact, sometimes I post, someone answers–and picks it up within the hour.

And sometimes I find out my item has gone to a really good cause, or to a person or family who desperately needed it.

Best of all, a still-usable item has not gone into the landfill.

Disadvantages: The no-shows: The people who swear they are coming by at 9 a.m. Tuesday–and you never hear from them again.

Or someone says they want it, and then they let you know they can’t pick it up for a week. Well, half the fun of clearing stuff out is having it GONE. So when you have to stash it in your mudroom or garage for another week, it can be disappointing.

You need a computer, though you can always use one at a library if you don’t have your own.

You also may not like strange people coming to your house, in which case you can always make different arrangements–leaving it somewhere more public, or delivering it to them, or arrange for times when you are not alone in your house.

Not everything flies out the door. I’m always amazed at what gets taken and what gets ignored. Sometimes you post the stupidest thing and you get six people begging to take it off your hands. Other times a perfectly nice item languishes. You just have to hope the right person sees it at the right time. Some days, the group doesn’t seem too active–your offer gets no response. Other times, it’s really hoppin’, and your items get dibs on them almost as fast as you can post. I’ve learned to simply wait a few days and repost with an item that didn’t go. More than that, it goes to a thrift shop–or the dump.

Oh, and another great feature of Freecycle–you can ask for things, too. I actually asked for–and got–a number of nice baby items for a friend who was expecting: A baby backpack carrier, a bouncy chair, etc. People were happy to pass these on to a new family. A couple years ago, I asked for a used bike for my son, and got two nice ones. Some people get carried away and ask for stuff like cars and houses. Good luck with that!

Anyway, it’s fun, it’s easy, and you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas. Give it a whirl! If your area doesn’t have a Freecycle chapter, maybe you can start one.

Please feel free to share your strategies for moving stuff on to other people, too.

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PACKING PEANUTS

I’m trying to get ready for my upcoming Open Studio and I am awash in packing peanuts.

I just received three big boxes of display stuff from another artist. BIG boxes. And all of them were filled with packing peanuts.

I hate packing peanuts. I hate opening a box and having them fall out all over my studio. I hate trying to pick them up as they either slide under furniture, stick to everything in sight, or fall back out of the garbage bag I’m trying to scoop them into.

No matter how carefully I proceed, I know I’m going to spend a chunk of time re-scooping, re-sweeping, and re-picking. Because everyone knows you’re gonna handle each individual packing peanut about three times before you can get it disposed of.

I do love how lightweight they are when I’m packing an order. But I shudder at provoking the same exasperated response in MY customer who opens up MY box of product….

So here’s my big packing peanuts tip to anyone who would like to recycle and reuse the damn things in a way that won’t pass forward the same frustration and inconvenience as well:

Grab some of those plastic grocery store shopping bags, the ones you bring home dozens of every time you go grocery shopping. Actually, this is also a great way to use up some of those bags, too. TWO recycling tips with one post!

(Please don’t tell me to use paper bags. We just end up with hundreds of paper bags, too. Yes, someday we will be organized to use the reusable shopping bags. When we are also organized enough to a) buy toilet paper the first trip to the grocery store; b) buy toilet paper the second trip to the grocery store; and c) don’t have to buy four different kinds of cereal for each member of the family….)

Okay, seriously, pour some of the packing peanuts into each bag, about half full, and tie the bag shut in a knot.

You can now stuff these floppy bags inside your shipping container to cushion and protect your product.

When your customer unpacks the box, instead of a bajillion packing peanuts flying everywhere, they can now simply remove the bags of peanuts.

They can also easily reuse them or recycle them as they see fit.

And no one need ever appear in public again with little white pieces of foam stuck in their hair….

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