One day I only sorted a single box, the next day I powered through six. Negatives and family photos defy intentions. Nevertheless, I have made progress even during a “Very Bad Week.”

My grandfather’s canes and my dad’s fishing poles remain undisturbed, but the stacks of boxes on the bed are gone, and some of what was stashed on the floor too. The Kitchen Queen in the far corner will be leaving the building, because it can. It is a handsome piece, but no longer fits in our kitchen and does not belong in this bedroom. (Anyone?) The pew is barely visible against the taller windows. It will find its new place once the kitchen furniture moves out, probably next week. I returned new bedding I bought last week. The linen closet is already too full.

My upcoming 10k, diet, and writing. A body and a cherry pitter. Regaining control?

The two huge tubs that were on the far side of the room next to the Kitchen Queen contained framed pictures of various sorts. I’m not keeping any of them. My aunt Marcia was a devoted but poor artist. I have her maple leaf print on a wall, but I’m inclined to let the rest go. The very old pastel of a cow will likely go too—I don’t know where it came from but unless I have a place to hang it… I saved a half dozen images from various other plastic bins (on the bed just now along with a failed attempt to dismantle and reuse a metal frame) that will go on the north wall once the Kitchen Queen is gone. These works will need framing, which is an expense unless I can repurpose frames I already have.

Repurposing is an honorable intention. I should lead with that.

The chairs in our living room are recovered and handsome. One was Mom’s and the Morris chair was one we’ve had for thirty years or so. I chose simple fabric in russety hues that went with the carpet, and they are also the same colors in a favorite shawl. I had not noticed until I took off the shawl and dropped it on the arm of the chair. It’s been there since.

It is about control, isn’t it? At a time when my faith in American citizenry is at low ebb, and the pandemic is not really over, and an election… the Supreme Court… Our sons are grown, married and with families, and completely out of our control. And Gary and I are retired and theoretically in control of ourselves. Together since 1969, and fully capable of collaboration and compromise.

Beginning in 2020, I began eating with more attention to nutrition, cut snacks, midday meal was largest, no food after about 5pm. I meant to lose weight for several reasons, including because being overweight was a risk factor for covid and one factor I could control. Over the next year I dropped to about my college weight, my weight before and between births, my weight while I was running and teaching, though I was not running in 2020. I had to retrain myself not to fear feeling hungry. It’s okay to feel a bit hungry.

My weight normally fluctuates. Then I gained about five pounds this past spring. Those pounds do not want to come back off; it took me a very long time to recognize it was because I had begun running again. I weigh now slightly less than my best running weight, and I am almost an inch shorter than I was in my 40s. My clothing fits but I have more muscle. I took those pounds off my feet, and my feet let me run again. Marvelous! I never thought I’d run five miles again, but I did that ten days ago. The day after tomorrow, I am registered to run a 10k (6.2 miles). I plan to walk at least a mile of that distance. I have nothing to prove.

About the Very Bad Week. Actually only four distressing days. On the last Bad Day there were two stabbing deaths in Old Town here in Portland. I saw only the first victim as Gary drove us home from the Portland Nursery. No blood, but a man lay on the sidewalk. Police everywhere. Medics had just given up but not yet covered him. Gary was grateful he was watching only the road.

In the mean time, I am revising two stories and reading two books to review. Wonderful distraction.

I argue with most books I read. The short story I just read has a point-of-view character caring for her ailing mother who suffers from some sort of dementia and aphasia (“word salad”). She says more than once that her mother, in her early fifties, is too young to have Alzheimers and also that she’s spent a lot of time online trying to figure out what her mother’s ailment is. But if she had researched her mother’s symptoms online, she would know she’s likely had a stroke and that Early-Onset Alzheimers can be symptomatic in a person’s 40s or even 30s. (I knew this without research since my step-grandmother wrote a book called Care of the Patient with a Stroke and because my 23andMe results assure me I do not have one of the genetic markers for Early-Onset Alzheimers. I also did a quick online search.) And somehow this daughter has gone from obese to skinny in a few months? And then her mother’s insurance runs out, her mother still needs full-time care but without help, and the story ends.

This is fiction. In real life, the story doesn’t end just at the moment it becomes overwhelming. You have to figure out that impossible situation too.

I think I need to let that story go and return to my own.

In the mean time, we hope to have sorted most boxes and tubs in the next ten days. Mostly. I have cleared too many houses to leave this mess for our sons—though, to be fair, they might simply have it all hauled away, which is much the more sensible approach.

When a friend’s mother died, my friend was delighted that all she had was a single grocery bag of possessions. I was horrified when she told me this years ago, but I now see her point.

In my 50s, I ran when I could, cared for my mother (daily visits, sometimes five of them), taught full time, read 70 books a year, and earned an MFA in fiction. I did all the cooking, very little of the cleaning, was active on Facebook, and kept up a blog. I was… busy. I did not have time to sort through the accumulated detritus of my father’s family, my mother, aunt, step-grandmother, her husband and brother-in-law. I am a collector myself. Sorting my own accumulated art, books, and jewelry, excess furniture and household goods are in the works. Eventually I will sort my baskets and antique beaded purses. So much stuff, and mostly packed away where I cannot see it.

Yet, people continue to give me kitchen tools. A kind friend sent me a melon baller since I did not have one. There is a reason I do not have a melon baller or an apple-corer; nor do I need (another) lemon juicer or napkin holder or grater. I will never use a melon baller or one of those apple corner tools—they seem wasteful to me. My kitchen was thoroughly sorted prior to installing cabinets. I kept exactly what I need and use, a few extras that now live here at the Portland condo—two Staub pots, two cake pans, a pie plate, the other small saucepan—but many tools and equipment are gone because I do not need them or want them or ever use them, and I do not have space. The only single-use tool I keep is the cherry pitter because when I can find sour cherries at the Farmers Market (I missed them this year) the pitter makes pitting 2 pounds of cherries rather fun.

Most of the house has been sorted this way. The kitchen, dining room, my jewelry (which paid for the condo sofa), the living room, my clothing, and even my enormous stash of Koigu yarn, are coming under control.

And there it is again. I will do my best to keep my mouth shut about others, but control my self.

4 thoughts on “CLEANING HOUSE, pt. 2

  1. the Frederick and Nelson bag wouldn’t hold much of the stuff that is causing this burden
    we’re gunna need a bigger boat no I mean bag—ha ha
    don’t cut your finger when making a pie
    and I think my hair is turning a bit white
    there is light at the end of the funnel
    so put on your dancing shoes
    and run towards the wave, woody

    Liked by 2 people

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