Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cleaning house

The Christmas tree came down on Monday.

I used to think that having an artificial tree was my lazy solution to avoiding pine sap on the hands and needles on the rug, even though real trees do smell better. But the “Coming down of the Christmas tree” ritual makes me doubt that logic.

Because the tree – not to mention five big plastic crates of decorations, ribbons, lights, wrapping paper, bows, stuffed Santas, etc. – is stored in the shed attached to the house. And mostly because, before putting them all back, we always decide that this is the ideal time to clean out the shed.

“We,” of course, does not include “me” although I never argue much about it.

So Monday, I took everything out of the shed and piled it in the backyard and then attacked the large empty space with broom, blower, and vacuum cleaner.

The final step is to throw away everything that we don’t want, need, or use and place whatever remains in a nice orderly display.

Recently, one of the bloggers I follow -- Kathy at Four Dog Day -- caught a nugget of truth, writing about how hard it was to throw away a pair of old slippers.  Her blog was followed by a bevy of comments about holding on to old shoes, dresses, hats, etc.  Now I don't want to sound like I'm stereotyping -- but most of these comments were written by women.   I don't have a problem chucking out clothes. 

BAGMAN: “I’ll even throw away the ones I’m wearing!!!”

BUTLER: “You would, you compulsive exhibitionist!”

But the point is that there is a male version of this.  Being a guy, I can throw away clothes but I have a hard time throwing away tools and "stuff."    I start sorting through the pile in the backyard and come upon a broken rake handle. This should be a no-brainer. But I look at the trash bin and something comes over me.  I think that I might have a need to attach something to this handle someday or use it to poke something out of a tree.

A broken and torn window screen. Ah, but who knows? Someday I might need to build a small box with ventilation holes and a piece of the screen might be useful. Why would I build a small box?  I don’t know.  But maybe.

Scraps of wood and siding. Well, duh! I’m sure I’ll be looking for a piece of wood sometime in the future.

So, after throwing away nothing except a couple of bent nails, I put everything back including my two large tool boxes. And why, you might be asking, do I need TWO tool boxes?

BAGMAN: “I wouldn’t be asking that.”

BUTLER: “Neither would I.”

I’ll answer it anyway. I have one tool box for my tools. The other tool box is stuffed with accumulated small pieces of metal – parts of curtain hanging assemblies, angle irons, hooks and fasteners, etc. There are unidentifiable things that were inexplicably left over after assembling grills, mowers, cabinets, and ceiling fans – parts that probably should be somewhere in those appliances but I never figured out where to put them.

And you never know when you might need the knob from an old record player.

So, once I was sure that Karen wasn’t watching, I put absolutely everything back in the shed. Then I went back in the house, walked straight to my closet and threw away two pairs of shoes and a shirt, just to prove I could.


  1. Well at least the shed is shed of its dust. And it's orderly in there.
    I love chucking things out, including clothes I don't wear! (though there are a couple of things I just can't quite bring myself to part with, in spite of knowing full well that I will never - ever - need formal wear. and if that occassion does come around, I'll go out and get something new. Something that fits.)

  2. My husband throws away NOTHING. He is not handy with tools, plumbing or electricity. He is a gardener. Yet he keeps all kinds of metal, electrical and other doo dads. He also keeps anything that reminds him of his mother including a 14 foot oriental rug that has been rolled up in our basement since we moved here and which I trip over every time I go down to get a bottle of wine or papertowels!

  3. HA! Camillo is good at throwing away paper, magazines, and my things... in Paris I had to throw out a sweater he brought that looked like he had cleaned out the pine trees in it.... really! but you cleaned out your own shed, and even putting everything back I bet it looks better. thanks for your comments on my travel blogs.

  4. Sounds like HH when it comes to keeping all the little left over pieces from new bookshelves or table or whatevers we have put together. You are absolutely right about the screen and pieces of wood. I am always saving things I might be able to use around my fish pond or garden art. Happy New Year to all.

  5. Well thank you for explaining that it is part of the male hard wiring!! My husband could have written your post. And reluctantly I have to admit that some of the things he has saved have come in very handy.

    He is known far and wide for his storehouse of knobs, handles, wires, hoses, car parts, gadgets, etc. etc. and people often phone asking if he might have this or that....and he invariably does - and derives enormous pleasure at being the only person who can fill their need.

    He doesn't complain about my inability to throw out a book, so I work hard at not complaining about his garage and shed full of 'you never knows'.

    You, however, are a bit more advanced than my hoarder - he cannot throw out his clothes (so I do it for him, and he rarely misses them).

    A fun read. Thanks!

  6. Generally I'm with you on this. But I did once have a favourite sweater which still looked great on me after 14 years or so of wear. Then one day when my mother was over visiting Linda, and I was innocently off at work, the two women decided enough was enough and threw it out.

    I spent months wondering what I'd done with that great sweater before Linda confessed.

    I still don't know what they had against that sweater. OK it had a few moth holes but they weren't really noticeable....It had many years of good wear still left in it.

  7. I really try to weed out one clothing item for every one that I buy. However the basement and garage need a visit from a front-end loader and a merciless operator.

  8. I'm sure the solution to being a hoarder is to lose your memory. I don't have a good memory, so I don't hoard things - I wouldn't remember where to find stuff. If it's out of sight, it's forgotten. Makes life so easy really.

  9. ewww, the hardest and loneliest part.. pre- christmas is such fun and exciting. then comes the post and everyone complains.. like me.. huhu..

  10. I would like to throw away everything and hit the road. Bagman, you wanna come with me?

    Your post reminds me of one of my favorite paragraphs from Walden Pond:

    I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables (9) never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

    We are all pushing or pulling out material things. But that is the gypsy in me speaking, of course.

  11. I have no problem throwing useless stuff out but I have to you never know when you are going to need them.

  12. Brilliant! I TOTALLY go along with this point of view. I put it down to having a creative streak, that can always see a use for every odd-ball thing I lay eyes on. And why throw away clothes? They re-cycle into smaller clothes, dolls clothes,patchwork or dusters in the twinkling of an eye. Throw them away? What a waste!!!