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Cleaning house

When autumn begins decluttering.

We dream of having a clean  house — but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning?  We don’t have to dream about doing the work, because doing the work is always within our grasp; the dream, in this sense, is to attain the goal without the work.

~ Marcus Buckingham

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Lower the bar.  Actually spending ten minutes clearing off one shelf is better than fantasizing about spending the weekend cleaning out the basement.

~ Gretchen Rubin

Sweeping away the leaves to see who is here.

I am once again inspired by Kathy.  She posted Scrub, scour, dust, wash, wipe, brush, vacuum and declutter earlier this week and asked if anyone would like to join her in “some deep cleaning and decluttering for the Holy?”  I said Yes.  A big YES.

After the colors fall and fade, we’ll still have plenty of green.

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about how people have been cleaning and decluttering during the pandemic.  So many folks are out there becoming minimalists, learning how to live simply, and Marie Kondo-ing their living spaces.  (I have the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” but haven’t yet read it and now I’m wondering… should I declutter the book?  Is it sparking joy?  Ha.)  I even read a news story about how Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other places that normally accept donations, were asking people to stop donating because they had too much.  (That was a while ago.  Things may have changed by now.)  Everyone, it seemed, was cleaning house in a variety of ways.  Some were even remodeling and redecorating and rearranging the furniture.  Others abandoned ship, so to speak, and moved to a new home.

An orb of sunshine.

Cleaning and decluttering didn’t happen here on the ranch except for the clean-up I did prior to going to Ohio.  Even then, I shoved stuff in closets figuring I’d get to it later.  I did make some weak attempts at decluttering that included some storage boxes I’m going to tell you about.  A year ago, maybe two, I bought two plastic storage boxes whose ultimate destination is the attic.  The idea is to fill them with the things I can’t bring myself to give away or throw away.  Generally, that means sentimental items.  For example, my father gave me my mother’s EMT badges after she died.  She was the captain of her squad and had some pretty fancy badges with her name on them.  If any of us had been capable of coherent thought at the time, we might have considered and asked about donating them to the squad.  Alas, we didn’t and nobody knew what to do with them.  They have been sitting on a shelf in my home since my father handed them over to me, asking me to keep them or do something with them.  Mom died over eleven years ago.  I doubt there’s anyone left on the squad who knew her.

Leaves and bald cypress knees in the swamp.

What do you do with items like that?  My brilliant solution is to put them into a storage box and shove them up in the attic.  Let my kids or grandkids figure it out.  Or maybe I will figure it out in another decade or so.  The storage boxes I obtained for this purpose are not too big.  One, in fact, is quite small in the world of storage.  Another objective in the storage box project came from the notion of Swedish death cleaning.  You take those things you cannot bear to part with and put them in a storage box.  The catch is that you get one storage box, maybe two (if they’re small), AND you can keep ONLY what will fit in your box or boxes.  That means that if there is no room, you either have to take something out and get rid of it to make room or you do without the item you wanted to add.

I have not yet filled the bigger of the two boxes.  It’s about half full at this point.  Or half empty, if that’s how you see things.  The smaller box has been allocated for jewelry, bits and bobs, small things of that nature.  I’ve put nothing into it as of this writing.

Ground cover.

When we began our lockdown status back in spring, it occurred to me that it would be a good time to take on a cleaning and decluttering project.  I started, briefly, by clearing out a drawer in the bathroom, tossing away old make-up that I never wear (and rarely ever did because I never learned how to put on make-up properly and tend to feel like a clown when I do try to wear it).  After cleaning one drawer, I moved on to a dresser and cleaned out some clothing.  Fat clothes, as they are known, that I will never wear again.  Even if I gained back the weight, I wouldn’t want to wear those clothes.  I’m not a fashionista or anything but even I can see they are hopelessly out of date (and were never flattering to begin with).

One of the things I enjoy about this time of year is being able to walk through the swamps and bogs without worries (aka mosquitoes and ticks).

And alas, there ended my attempt at The Big Pandemic Spring Clean.  That is one reason why Kathy’s challenge/project is so appealing to me right now.  I have procrastinated.  As we all know, procrastinating is more stressful than actually doing the thing.  I very much enjoy doing things with others, even virtually (hence, Walktober), so this provides the perfect opportunity and conditions to do what I’ve been putting off.

Sprinkled with autumn colors.

Naturally what that means is that having decided to start, I took myself off to the beach for the day yesterday.  LOL!  It is so funny to me how the mind goes after all kinds of shiny objects, things other than what I had intended.  I am perfectly capable of directing my mind, but there were all kinds of reasons to go to Assateague Island yesterday.  The chief and most important justification was that I needed to get a new pass for the OSV area before they close things up again.  That happened to us in the spring, and we were unable to go out and hike around in the back-country areas after our pass expired.  There was no way to get a new one while the park offices were closed during the initial lockdown because they weren’t doing it online.  You have to show up and prove you have all the equipment you need to get yourself unstuck or hauled off the beach if your vehicle breaks down.

As long as I was there to pick up a pass, might as well visit the ocean.

I did, however, make a few moves towards cleaning and decluttering before I left for my adventures on Assateague Island.  I cleaned out a drawer in the office.  I also organized the cork bulletin board that is hanging on the wall next to my desk, clearing away old notes that are no longer relevant, putting away old photos of my grandchildren, and replacing them with newer photos.  I made a point of prominently hanging the schedule for Julie Gibbons’ 2021 Mandala Magic: Alignment course because, you see, I signed up for it this year.  I’ve been wanting to enroll in her year-long mandala course for several years, but there was always an excuse not to.  There are no excuses this year.  It’s something I very much want to do and since we are not traveling anywhere anytime soon, the money to enroll was available.  (Traveling has its expenses.  Not traveling means we’re not incurring those expenses.  Even with M’s cut in pay — due to the pandemic — we’re okay, and the cost of the course is really quite affordable.)

A little social distancing.

Today was meant to be a cleaning day.  Honestly.  But then M and I took our bicycles out for a nice ride (about 9 miles) and when we got home he asked if I would cut his hair.  It was getting pretty shaggy.  (I like it shaggy, but he doesn’t.)  The only hair I’ve ever cut was my own.  I’ve been trimming my bangs since my last professional hair cut way back in January.  What that means is that after watching a video for a “business-style” haircut, several times, I got to experiment on M’s head.  No one will ever mistake his haircut/style as being professionally cut/styled, but I didn’t do too badly for the first time.  Poor guy has to live with a couple of spots where I trimmed too much (there are not-quite bald spots and you might or might not be able to see his scalp), but a hat will cover that nicely if he feels the need to cover it.  The great thing about hair is that it will grow back.  And then I’ll get to try again.

(For those wondering, hair salons are not as bad as going to a restaurant — where, according to the latest science, you are 20 times more likely to catch the virus — but the virus is really on the march here and it seems best to wait it out.  I will let my hair keep growing.  As for M, he’ll be taking his chances with me again.  Hopefully I’ll get better at it.)

Waving hello.

I think that’s about enough from me today.  Thank you so much for stopping by.  Clouds have been moving in this afternoon, but that might make the sunset all the prettier.  Let’s meet out at the Point.  It’s relatively warm (about 65°F).  A light jacket ought to suffice.  Sunset is scheduled for 4:47 PM.  I’ll be there about twenty minutes early to wander around and pick up litter, if there is any.

Please be safe, be well, and be kind.

Would you please stop bothering me? I work nights! (The Screech Owl in the pole barn.)

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,611)  Hiking around in the back-country on Assateague Island.  For the first time in seven years, I found the horses that live out that way.  Quite a few of them.  Pictures coming to the blog soon.  1,612)  Hoppin’ John for dinner.  I found a big bag of dried black-eyed peas in the pantry and decided it was time to cook them.  1,613)  Cutting M’s hair without making a complete mess of it.  It might take a few more tries before I really get the hang of it, but he’s game and I’m willing.  1,614)  Getting a little of the cleaning and decluttering out of the way.  A start is better than nothing at all. 1,615)  A nice bicycle ride this morning.  M and I explored a few of the dead end roads just to see what was there.  It was fun and interesting.

Mama and baby on the beach by the bay. This was taken last month, before they started putting on their winter coats.

Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

24 thoughts on “Cleaning house

  1. Always love your pics. Horses on the beach?

    I too read Kathy’s wonderful post. In terms of physical clutter, I think of various degrees. My wife’s father is 91, and still able to live alone. Someday in the future, we will be going through his things – and he has decluttered a lot. On the other hand, he had to clean out the house of his sister. I know we had 21 people hours in one room!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve done some similar cleaning over the years, Frank, for three family members that passed (my mother-in-law, step-mother-in-law, and father-in-law). All three had so much stuff that it took so much time to go through it all. Ultimately, a lot of it was sold or tossed away. The same with my mother’s stuff. I was surprised to find that there was something a little soothing in sorting. It was sad, yes, but also allowed us to talk about our loved ones, telling stories about this or that, memories recalled upon picking up an item, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My decluttering is sporadic and never very complete. This was really driven home when my daughter packed up things to bring when she took me to her house, but will be even more evident when we go back to finish the job.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I suspect there are very few of us who consistently and thoroughly declutter, Carol. Hence all the blogs and books about it. I’ve done my best decluttering as a result of moving. I’m hoping to get it done this time before the next move. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Cleaning our house after 30 years is plenty daunting. I aim this winter to make an effort to clean a little bit at a time so I don’t get too overwhelmed. Fits and starts best describe my efforts. 😉 I find it hard to sift through old stuff and sort what needs to go. I read Marie Kondo a couple years back and went through our books and eliminated about a third… could do more, alas. Also got rid of LOTS of clothes. So far this year, I’ve scrubbed and sorted through our sunspace with my DIL, which took 7 hours! (No wonder I hate cleaning!) This week, I took all my (over 100) vases out of the hutch, washed them, the glass shelves, then eliminated a small box to give away. I have trouble letting vases go– as you know, most do get used and many are antiques/heirlooms, what my spouse calls ‘holy relics,’ lol.
    Good luck with your ongoing efforts, it does help having company to cheer you on!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Eliza. 🙂 Books are the hardest for me. I have periodically managed to donate a lot of them as a result of moving (I usually reach a point when I realize I’ll have to pack and unpack, and that’s when it becomes easier to get rid of some of them).
      You have such beautiful vases. I’m not sure I’d be able to let go of them. I love that your spouse calls them “holy relics.” 😀
      Doing things a little at a time is the best way to go. It’s hard to keep up the momentum when it comes to tackling everything at once (or in a short amount of time). On the other hand, I’m very good at doing a thorough cleaning when I have company coming to visit.

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  4. Hey there, fellow cleaner and declutterer (is that a word?) There’s nothing like making our housecleaning efforts public to give us some incentive, right? I don’t think anything else would have given me the ooomph and push to get this done before Christmas. So glad you’re joining in the challenge and writing about it. Interesting also about putting things in the attic. We have a bunch of stuff up there but are leaving it for now. Would love for the kids to go through it and determine what they want to keep. But it’s getting challenging for the two of us to climb up there these days. (This won’t be part of the cleaning project this year.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely right, Kathy! I’ve been going slowly, a little at a time, but that’s better than nothing at a time. My husband went through the attic last year, somewhat forcing me to deal with some of the stuff we had up there. We’re going to haul down the Christmas stuff soon and start sorting through that. We’re usually not home for Christmas so I usually don’t bother to decorate other than a few things here and there. I used to make sure I put out the Christmas Lava Lamp, but that somehow got broken. Now I have the Christmas Flamingo that a friend gave me. I’m perfectly happy with just that nod towards Christmas. I celebrate the Solstice, and do so outdoors (figuring Mother Nature decorates better than I ever could). Christmas is more of a family thing. That might be why I don’t bother too much with decking the halls.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. For sentimental things in boxes, I’ve started taking photos of them then tossing or donating them. I find if they were in boxes, i.e., out of sight, I wouldn’t miss them and I haven’t. It’s nice to have the picture to remember. I need to visit the ocean. It’s been too long.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is something healing about the ocean, Tara. But you probably know that. 🙂 I’ve tried taking photos of things rather than collect them. Now I am hoarding photos. lol! I was going to add “at least they don’t take up space,” but they do. My computer is overloaded. That will be solved soon. Today, I hope. M is installing a new internal hard drive with more space (he says more space than I can possibly use but he has no idea how fast I can fill up a hard drive with photographs).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I use flash drives and Google drive for ones that I want to keep but aren’t ones I have to keep. If he’s getting you one with terabytes, I’d like to see you try to fill that!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This made me laugh. Our house is definitely cluttered. My husband has cleared out a lot of stuff, but me not so much. It just seems like such a chore that I put it off and off–and hey, we’re not having anyone over. 😀. I finally did clear up a pile of books and papers. I don’t blame you for wanting to see owls and horses and the ocean!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your husband and mine must be of similar minds, Merril. My husband has done a really good job of going through stuff and getting rid of what is no longer needed/wanted. Well done on clearing up the pile of books and papers!
      Owls and horses and the ocean are much more fun than cleaning. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. LOVE your last picture of the mama and baby horses! And I got a kick out of your description of the “home salon”! I’ve been to my stylist, but I have her open the front and rear doors so there’s plenty of fresh ventilation. As for clutter, sigh. I need to do some heavy cleaning, too, but it’s so hard knowing what to do with doo-dads and memorabilia when I don’t want to foist them on my son!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Debbie. 🙂 Yes! It’s the doo-dads and memorabilia that drive me batty. But I was just noting to Frank, in response to his comment, that sometimes sorting through a loved one’s things was not really that bad. Memories and stories would come up, and it could be somewhat soothing even in our sadness.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Love the horses on the beach photo. I also have to remind myself not to get caught in not doing (cleaning, learning watercolor, teaching yoga) because of “perfect.” Your Mandala class sounds fascinating. Good for you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m the same way, Sarah. It always interests me how my mind tends to expect me to be “perfect” at something right away. I forget that the learning process can be slow (and yes, sometimes tedious). I apply “perfect” to other things, too, such as cleaning or the “I shoulds” (I should walk every day, I should meditate twice a day every day, I should…).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m always interested in the journey when I clean or declutter! During the beginning of the pandemic we dusted/scrubbed and organized a lot (we listened to every CD we owned and only kept our favourites while donating the rest). I just finished my winter decorating with some decluttering and I’m loving my space for the arrival of December.
    Your gorgeous photos gave me a much needed break this quiet Sunday, it’s lovely to hear your voice as I read your words, Robin!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I suppose I have the advantage of not minding spending time alone, so sorting and decluttering – which I am also in the midst of – is easy for me to get into. Have you thought about taking Kathy’s suggestion and playing Christmas carols as you sort? Or any other music? That might help get the momentum going and perhaps you won’t feel alone. But honestly, think about it – you are heading into the winter months, so why not take a trip to the beach while it’s warm enough? 😉 There will be plenty of cold days when you won’t want to leave home, so the sorting can get done then. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Decluttering has been the subtext of our pandemic lifestyle, but I go through decluttering phases, I’m into it, I don’t care about it. I’ve inherited so. much. stuff. over the years and somewhat resent the fact that I have to decide what to do with it. But onward I go trying to find the best homes for the stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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