Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Where did this stuff come from?

When it’s time to pack up the kitchen before countertop demo in the coming weeks, I decided to go through everything in the cabinets to see what I no longer (or never) use. Packing is laborious enough – why include things that I don’t need?

First I weeded pots and pans. Casserole dishes. The dutch oven my mom used for pot roast but hasn’t moved in at least 8 years. A juicer. Melamine dishes. Loaf pans. Mom’s old cookie sheets. All now boxed up to deliver to charity.

Next up were plastic containers. Dear Lord, where did they all come from? Were they making little baby containers in the back of the cabinet? Why don’t the tops fit the bottoms? Honestly, I was stunned by the debris but think the collection really got started when my dad died and when I was post-op and people brought food. I sorted and weeded, trying on tops and then just giving up and dumping a whole lotta plastic. Kept about 1/8 of what you see on the counter. Now I know what I have and everything can go in the freezer, which is important.

Still need to go through what’s on the top shelves of the cabinets. I never use them because I can’t reach, being shorter than everyone else in my family. What’s the point of putting something on a top shelf if I can’t get it down?

By the time I actually need to pack things up, it should be super easy – she said optimistically.

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Dividing up treasures

Half of the silver

My mother, sister-in-law, and I all chose the same Towle Old Master silver pattern. I never married but didn’t let that stop me getting pretty things. We grew up using the silver every night for dinner, not saving it up for only special occasions, and I wanted to be able to do that in my own home. My mom bought me some place settings from estate sales, I bought some, and my grandmother would sometimes give me a teaspoon or fork for my birthday.

I gave 4 of my place settings to my oldest nephew when he got married, but have rarely used any since moving to Texas. I added mine to my mom’s set carefully wrapped up in anti-tarnish cloth when I moved here, but it’s not doing anyone any good just sitting in a drawer. So as part of my house transition, I decided it was time to pass it on to the next generation. Not being a fool, I checked with my brother and sister-in-law to be sure what I wanted to do was equitable.

Today I spread all the pieces out on the dining table and started dividing them up. There were actually almost 16 of everything, which was more than I’d realized. Each of my nieces will get 8 place settings. But then there were the odd things that I never had in my set (spoons for iced tea and soup, little individual butter knives, pickle forks, etc.) and larger serving pieces that were a combo of Old Master pattern (large spoons and fork, pie server, gravy ladle) and miscellaneous pieces that I’d inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother. I randomly divided these between the two piles.

Most of me is happy that the new generation will have and use these, and hopefully will think of us when they do. But part of me wants to cry to part with these pretty silver things that I never use but know where they came from and (mostly) what they’re for, including the tomato server and sugar sifter. I just love them. But it’s not fair to them to be wrapped in a drawer and ignored. So I will polish them up, wrap them carefully in anti-tarnish cloth, and pack up to give for holiday celebrating – and hope that the pretty things don’t get mangled in a disposal. But if they do, well, my mom did that as well. It’s just stuff, even if it’s shiny.

I’m keeping a few things, though. I just couldn’t part with the silver sifter or the little sterling swords for appetizers or the baby set to give when the next baby is born. But most of it is divided up, hopefully fairly. Next decisions will involve silver and silverplate bowls and platters. I do not need two intricate silver breadtrays, Revere bowls, or the well-and-tree platter. I think the nephews are getting silver for Christmas, too.


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Obsessed with Jon and Kate Even Though I Don’t Like Them

Jon and Kate Plus Eight (image from TLC)I have become obsessed with Jon and Kate Plus Eight, and not in a good way.  It’s a show I knew was on TLC but didn’t really watch because, well, watching 8 small children with stressed out parents just isn’t my idea of fun, even if the kids are adorable.  Every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse when nothing else was on or I was waiting for another show that I did watch.  Last weekend there was a marathon of what must have been every show, gearing up the season premier of these wounded, angry, bitter adults with children who need to be enjoying their lives without cameras in their faces every minute.

Every tabloid at the grocery store (which is the only place I see them because they’re not things I seek out) had a picture of Kate on there somewhere, and even papers as reputable as the NY Times have had articles about the show and the unraveling of a family.  There’s even a Gosselins Without Pity blog with armloads of comments from outraged viewers.  The consensus there is that Kate is a witch, Jon is abused but not without responsibility, and the kids need to have the cameras stop now so they don’t have to have wall-to-wall coverage of the dissolution of their family.

I don’t know why this has hooked me.  I don’t have children and don’t want any other than my kitty.  Watching candid reality shows is not on my list of fun things to do.  Watching people of any age or sex be picked on and belittled pushes buttons inside and my heart hurts for them – so it’s not something I voluntarily do.  I don’t have any plans to watch any other episodes of the show (I broke down and watched the premier but it was awful and I don’t want to support the show in any way).  I even wrote to TLC to tell them what I thought, which is something I rarely do.

But yet I do care about the kids and in a train-wreck way, want to know what happens.  I’m not proud of it but will probably do Google searches (or just look at tabloid covers) to keep up with the story.  Let’s hope something more distracting comes along soon.

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In other news, I spent part of the weekend decluttering, inspired by Lori’s success.  I lugged a bag of clothes and some books to Goodwill but this is a particularly congested time there with students moving out of apartments following local college graduations.  I have other things in mind to take down when it’s a bit easier to get a parking space.  I also figured out that the way to get bill paying done more efficiently was to download Quicken to the laptop and move the whole operation to the dining table.  Going to the study to use the old desktop, which is usually turned off, just wasn’t happening.  I’m caught up on reconciling statements and paying bills which isn’t a sexy thing to do but definitely necessary and I like the tidiness of knowing everything is in order.

My parents are coming to visit at the end of June and I’m also debating whether to hire a maid service to do a thorough cleaning.  I hate to clean and somehow need to have things very clean and everything in place when the parents come.  Cat hair will, of course, still adorn everything but perhaps not in a thick layer.  They haven’t met their grandkitty yet so we want the first impressions to be good ones.  Let’s hope she doesn’t hide under the bed the whole time!


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What to Do About Those Clothes

Sorting clothes - no, this isn't meYou remember the story of Goldilocks:  she visited the bears’ house and tried their porridge (is that like oatmeal?), sat in their chairs, slept in their beds.  Things were too big/hot/hard, too small, or just right.  My clothes are like that, too, but they are mostly too small.   From reading a number of other blogs, I can tell that I’m not alone.  And the reality is that even if the clothes do fit, we may not like them anymore.

So what to do?  Step one is to pull everything out and look at it.  Did you wear everything in your “winter clothes” pile this season?  If not, why not?  Where they too small, too big, just not really “you” or need repair?  Deal with this stuff before you look at the rest of it.

If you have clothes that you really love but need some kind of alteration or repair, either make a commitment to getting that done (it’s worth paying someone to do it if you don’t have the skills or the time) or put the clothes into the discard pile.  They’re not doing you any good sitting unworn and damaged in the closet, where they give you a false sense of available things to wear.  Things that you don’t like should be laundered and either donated or sold (I donate almost everything because it’s easier and faster).

Clothes that are too big should be also donated, but be realistic and don’t get rid of every single thing because there may be “fat days” when you’re feeling a bit bloated and could use something more comfy.  But keeping too many of them around makes it easy to not pay attention to the slow creep of weight gain that moves you into a bigger size almost without noticing.  Play this one carefully.

The clothes that don’t fit present a particular problem.  Do you keep them in hopes of wearing them again when you lose weight, or do you get rid of them?  Think carefully about this and be realistic.  Keeping sweaters or pants one size down can be motivating — getting back into them is achievable.

But clothes that are several sizes too small can be, for some of us, depressing to have around because getting back into them seems so remote.   There they sit, in the back of the closet or in a plastic bin or big garbage bag, taking up space in your house and in your head.  “You spent good money on these things and you’re too fat to wear them,” is what most of us hear.  Not all, to be sure, but I know that’s what I get.

Donating things that are too way small frees the mind and the closet of that crap, and someone else will be happy to get them, especially in this economic climate.  As the pounds start to come off again and you need to fit a smaller body, you can go shopping for new stuff – even if that shopping is at the thrift store.  People like us donate good stuff, which means it’s available to people like us, too.

Once you’ve gone through the winter clothes, do the same exercise for the things that are coming out of storage for the next season.  They usually look different when they are unboxed and spread out on the bed than they did when we put them away months before.  Something you thought was great might look too tired or not fit as well.  Take the time to sort them all out even if  you did it when they were packed away.

I have one of these exercises to do in the next few weeks; some things I know without trying on I can just put in the “donate” pile.  I hate trying on everything and think of the money I spent on things that didn’t turn out as I’d hoped or don’t fit well or at all.  But once I’ve done it, and put things in piles and given them away, I know what my clothes options actually are so it makes getting dressed faster and the closet feels airy and spacious.  That’s a Good Thing.


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Happy 4th

This being July 4th and a day for picnics and parties and fireworks in celebration of our nation’s birthday, I was invited to a picnic by a buddy from the morning bus.  She asked me to bring a dessert and in my laziness, I decided brownies were the way to go.  Open a box, dump in some eggs, oil and water, stir, bake, and voila! Brownies.

Feeling virtuous, I didn’t even buy the box until this morning and whipped up a batch when I got home from the store.  Unfortunately by the time they were cooled, the picnic was cancelled because of expected thunderstorms.  Which meant there was a box of ready to eat brownies sitting on my counter.

Did I do the smart thing and demolish them in the disposal?  No.  Did I smush them up so they were unrecognizable?  No – and anyway, that wouldn’t change anything because they would still be brownies, just in a different shape.  Did I pour dish soap or some other revolting (and sick-making) substance on top?  Yes, but not until I ate about 1/4 of the pan.  Okay, maybe 1/3.  No, 1/4.  I made myself sick overeating something I didn’t even expect to have in the house and wouldn’t have bought or eaten if I’d been anywhere else. The remains of the pan are now in the trash, liberally squirted with Dawn and worchestershire sauce, but the damage is done.

The bad news is that I ate them without listening to my body enough to know that it was saying, “This is enough, you can stop now.”  The good news is that they are now in the trash, I have healthy groceries in the fridge, and tomorrow is another day.  And there is WW on Sunday morning, where I will step on the scale and hold myself accountable.  I don’t have to wait until Sunday to be more in controlle tomorrow.

Since I didn’t go to the picnic, I worked on The Closet Project today and have now successfully weeded through the closets and cedar chest. I still have the dresser and a box of reserved smaller things to evaluate.  I must say it’s pretty liberating to use the lens of “would I buy this again?” instead of “would I wear this again?”  My bags of clothes will go in the car tomorrow and popped into clothing donation boxes so they don’t get in the way.  Someone else will be thrilled to have the things that have no more value for me.  A Win-Win situation for everyone.


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The Closet Project

I’m committing myself to a project to clean out my closet, dresser, and storage places of clothes that no longer meet my standards.  Having watched What Not to Wear, and hearing Stacy and Clinton’s critical voices in my ear as I see myself in the mirror while wearing some of these things, I can’t bear to keep them.

So I’m starting what I’m calling the Closet Project.  The goal isn’t to declutter per se; it’s more about making sure the things I’m actually keeping are things that I like and would wear.  I don’t even mind keeping clothes in sizes that are too small as long as they meet that criteria.

The rule is simple:  is this piece of clothing something that I would buy if I were out shopping today?  Knowing what I know about its color, styling, fit, and comfort.   The original purchase price isn’t a factor other than as a way to separate the “to consignment” clothes from the “to Goodwill” pile.   I have some lovely Talbot’s things that I bought thinking they would be great for me because they were from Talbot’s but they just didn’t work.  And now they don’t fit.  By the end of the weekend, they’ll be in a pile.

I’m anticipating massive weeding out of this, and greater clarity about what I have.  There are some sweaters in the bottom of the cedar chest that I just adored when they fit and I hope and expect that they will again — but they will be checked for wear and tear to see if they are worth keeping.

Having clothes that fit just because they fit is a terrible reason to wear some of them.  I’ve learned a lot about color, length, styles and what works for me — and my closet has way too much that doesn’t.  Time to do something about it.


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Weekend Roundup

SundayThanks, everyone, for the comments about my ongoing gym saga. Sally, you gave me some great ideas!

The reason I joined this particular gym in the first place is because they are the only place around with a pool. When I first joined last fall, I started going twice a week to water aerobics classes which worked pretty well except the water was freezing. To the point that some days at least half the class would quit before we started, so it wasn’t just me. (I know I”m a wimp but still.) The class starts late for someone who leaves work at 4:15, which was another issue.

I know I could go and work out with machines or something before changing into my bathing suit and hopping into the pool, but realistically, I sat in the car and read instead. I’m totally not interested in doing that in the middle of winter where the car has barely warmed up by the time I get to the club.

The enrollment fee thing is for the personal training package options. You enroll first, then you have the privilege of paying for a minimum of 2 sessions/month – though they really really want you to have more to “help you achieve your goals quickly.” Bahh. Paying for individual sessions don’t require an enrollment which is good because I have no intention of paying that anyway.

I think what I’ll do about the machines is to just muddle through on my own, watch other people, and ask other gym members for individual machine adjustments if I can’t figure out how to do it. But I also ordered Sweatin’ to the Oldies so I have something peppy to do here at home.

In the meantime, I spent time this weekend in Big Box stores, walking up and down every aisle, and wandering around outlet stores in strip malls. It was annoying that the Talbot’s outlet I discovered Saturday only had a handful of women’s sizes and no women’s petites, which is what I wear. I thought of Lori and Jen and wished I knew sizes and current wardrobe needs so I could shop for someone. Next time I’ll ask in advance since now I know where the store is.

By a lovely coincidence, the same little strip mall plaza that has the Talbot’s outlet also has an L.L. Bean’s outlet and the only Trader Joe’s within 20 miles. I picked up a new toiletries kit in red at Bean’s to replace my current one that has a broken zipper. And I relished being able to find all the wonderful things at T.J.’s that I was used to eating and cooking with back in Boston, where there were Trader Joe’s stores all over the place.

Today was quieter. No gym trips, in spite of my good intentions. But I did some serious cleaning with lovely orange-scented cleaners, got rid of bags of trash and recycling, and took a big bag of clothes and a box of books to Goodwill. Plus size clothes are sorely needed and it feels good to know that others can use what I no longer need.