The Purge, part 1

So I started this weekend with my ‘great purge’.  I’m also just a touch drunk at present since I was so sore from cleaning, arranging, and moving heavy furniture this weekend that I went to the brewery and had *two* beers (yes, I’m a total lightweight) to ease the muscle soreness, so forgive any missing, misspelled, or just nonsense words in this post.

For the first time ever I remembered to take ‘before’ photos BEFORE doing anything *gasp/shock* so you’ll be able to see what I started with to get to where I ended up.  I started on the downstairs guest room and failed office which ultimately required me to do the hallway as well because stuff from the hall had to go into the guest room and stuff from the guest room ended up in the hall.  It’ll make sense when you see it.

This is a good time to mention a quirk of my house.  (oh, by the way, I was wrong on the square footage, it’s only 1,600, not 1,800.)  The house was built in 1932 but was remodeled by one of the previous owners.  During this remodel which seems to have been confined mainly to the kitchen area, the hall that used to lead to the kitchen now leads to a wall.  That’s right, I’ve got a hall to nowhere…

This hall has generally been the repository for all the ‘stuff’ in the house.  It was the stuff hall even when my parents had the house.  I always thought the hall would make an awesome mini-library, put bookshelves against one side and viola!

So when I started on the guest room I knew I’d have to do both because the unassembled bookshelves I bought 5 months ago were still in their boxes in the room and the bed I was moving into the room was part of the stuff in the hall.

Here are the beginning pictures.  It had a queen spring mattress and airbed in it, with a little side table, a desk with a computer that works but can’t connect to the wireless network in the house so is useless for everything my uncle needs it for, a white cabinet with a sh*t-ton of my uncle’s books, and a closet so stuffed with stuff that it literally started to fall out when I opened the doors.  I am somewhat embarrassed to show the ‘before’ pictures, but here they are:

View from the doorway

View of the desk. Mostly buried under stuff and the boxes with the bookshelves.

The closet, with stuff literally falling out.

Hall (to nowhere) with twin mattresses, captains bed frame, and various other stuff.

Saturday I started at 8:00 AM and worked pretty much straight through till 5:00 PM, then today I started again at 8 and worked till 3.  I was pretty sore all over, especially legs, back and abs, but the beer helped.  The cats did not help, no matter what they tell you.

Dexter taking a break from all the hard work he wasn’t doing.

Okay, so… final result?

Hall with new bookshelves. The white cabinet that had been in the room got moved to the hall, the brown cabinet that had been in the hall will get put in the barn to hold various barn-y stuff. I can now get to the door that accesses under the stairs!

Twin bed replaces the queen air mattress

Desk cleaned off (and some of my painted ceramics put on the wall above)

Other side of the desk

And now the part I’m most proud of: the closet!

The upper shelf holds my camping gear: tent, cot, sleeping bag, and a collapsible camp chair.  The lower shelf has my folded up feather bed/comforter.  But the closet floor is clean!  No boxes, no stuff, no junk, just open closet to *gasp* hang clothes!  Which, actually, these will go into *my* closet when I get that cleaned, but for now they’ll stay down here.

As an aside, did you know you can put furniture in a closet?  Really!  If you’re short on floor space but always seem to have room in the closet (if you get rid of all the other ‘stuff’ you store there) you can put bookshelves, dressers, even armoires in the closet!  Especially if you tend to hang shorter clothes like shirts or folded slacks, you have a lot of space underneath you can use.

Back to my redecorating, here is the other side of the closet: the kids play stuff.

Which brings me to the second topic in today’s entry: making a play area for kids when you don’t have any.

Sadly, at 35, I’ve still not managed any of my own.  This really is not how I thought my life was going to turn out, but there you have it.  But I have several friends who have younger kids, and it seems like it’s only natural to have an area in my house they can go have fun when “the adults are talking” because we all remember how boring that is as a kid, right?

It is *absurdly* simple to accommodate younger kids.  Go to the dollar store, buy a box of crayons and a coloring book.  Buy a couple of toys.  Maybe a stuffed animal.  Put them in a box for when kids come over!   (or, you know, take your stuffed animals and Halo figurines out of their boxes… >.>)

First, I assembled a short set of book shelves.  I had an old toy train set that I put in a bin, then took a few toy figures I’d had ‘collected’ over the years from various places (Halo, Lord of the Rings, etc) and put them in there, too.  Add in some stuffed animals, a board game, some dress-up clothes, and an old globe.  Last, I added a blanket and little pillow to snuggle up with and some kid-friendly art pieces, and came up with the above play alcove tucked in half of the closet.

Because all the stuff is inexpensive, there’s no real worry if they break something.  Give them lots of things to get into to explore and play with, lots of ‘surprises’ to enjoy, and don’t worry if anything breaks, that’s the idea.  Just be sure you don’t add anything  you *don’t* want broken!

So there’s my weekend.  A newly arranged guest bedroom and kid’s play area!  And I’m beat!

Oh, two more things:

Here’s the pile of stuff ready for the dump and cardboard recycling.  (I added a bit more to the pile after this picture was taken, but this is the bulk of it.)

And here is (most) of what will be going to Goodwill.  Two large boxes of things.  Even some of what I had originally slated to keep ended up being tossed into these boxes eventually as I re-thought it and realized that no matter how much ‘potential’ or how ‘cool’ some things were, I just was never going to do it or wear it or use it and it was going to go back into the ‘stuff’ collection.

It was interesting to think the whole time I was doing this I was imagining how I could turn this tiny room into a fully functional apartment!  Put a shower and toilet in the closet area, put a mini kitchenette where the desk is, raise the bed and put a desk beneath, or put in a wallbed/desk combo!

It was a good day, all in all! 🙂


Mother Earth

nrhatch‘s suggestion:

Challenge: Take one of these paintings:

And write a short essay about it ~ include at least one quote for us to ponder and mull over.

Irish Mother Earth by Eliza Murdock

Mother Earth

There are several cultures who view or viewed Earth as being a goddess, a mother, a living thing which gave us life.  I would say it is a shame that we’ve lost this wonder and see the world instead as merely a rocky planet with an iron/nickle core and accidentally capable of sustaining life.  We take, use, exploit – in the most graphic of terms, we rape the earth for our own needs in seeming ignorance that we have no where else to go when we’ve ruined this home.

I am fully convinced that mankind was happier 5,000 years ago.  I don’t like all the documentaries that show imagined scenes of our ancestors as being fearful, dreary, bent over from hard labor and strained from a life of struggle.  Do I believe their lives were hard?  Undoubtedly they were in many ways.  But what every single one of those re-enactments failed to remember was they were still human!  They laughed, they played games, they were probably happy!

How could I know that?  Surely I have some romanticized view of ancient peoples based on a general disillusionment with modern society and if only I could really experience the hardship of blah blah blah I can’t even finish that train of thought.  No, this isn’t just wistful speculation, I know.  I know, because of tribes of people who live in Amazonian jungles whose lives are probably unchanged since 5,000 years ago, and they are happy!

They are happy in a way we never can be, because they don’t have mortgages and alcoholism and the stresses of modern expectations – a complete disassociation with the world around us beyond what we can take from it or build on it.  Do they sometimes die from what we consider preventable causes?  Yes.  I’m quite sure they don’t have advanced heart surgery techniques – though I would argue they also have less need of them.  Do they sometimes die from conflicts within or between tribes?  Yes.  Do they sometimes die because we are destroying their way of life, their cultures, the environment upon which they depend?  Sadly, yes.

Do I want to run off into the jungle and live like them?  No.  I admit it, there are things that, having been born into a world where they exist, I would not want to now leave.  I like my computer, all my friends live there!  I like traveling to see other places, I love learning about things that I would never have even known about had I no access to modern technologies and scientific discoveries.

But I do fear that we have placed such a moral superiority upon what we call the modern western way of life that we don’t just try to impose it on others, we think that those who don’t follow it are actually less intelligent, less advanced, and in a way we consider them less human.  But they are the ones who have lived for thousands of years, and we are the ones fast-tracking ourselves to destruction.

Intelligence isn’t what we know, it’s our capacity to understand.  Ancient man was just as intelligent as we are, they were just as human, they had the same emotions, the same desires, the same drives; and they lived in a far greater balance with their world.  Not perfect balance, but far closer than we.

Ancient man remembered who their mother was.

Yo momma so fat, she is capable of sustaining all the life that she has produced, if only we would humble ourselves, denounce the greed of money and power, and act in the best interest of all our brothers and sisters.  White, yellow, red, brown, black: we all have the same mother.

Sure, this may all seem like idealistic drivel, but if we can’t aim for the ideal, how ever will we reach it?

PS: I used “we” because chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re part of the ‘we’.

Recycling’s Forgotten Elder Siblings

Recycling is awesome.  It reduces waste going into our landfills, it reduces demand for the raw materials, it reduces – to some degree – manufacturing pollution (though bear in mind, recycling produces a small amount of its own pollution) and it makes you feel all holy to help the environment, right?

I’m here to tell you: stop recycling.

Okay, that’s a lie, I’m not actually going to tell you that.  But I want to get your attention so I can tell you that recycling is only one step in reducing waste and pollution, and that it should be the last step, not the first, and certainly not the only.

Recycling has two older siblings called Reduce and Reuse.  These are far, far more mature than Recycling, and should always be courted first.

Recycling is sort of the easy-way-out of caring about the environment, and is a cop-out in many ways.  It still takes 100% of the energy to produce the first time, and then it takes additional energy to recycle it.  Oh sure, the energy to recycle is significantly reduced from the initial process, but why not save the whole mess?

Plastic, especially, can be tricky to recycle if you don’t know what the number codes mean, and some plastics aren’t recyclable at all.

Reduce: this should be the first step in saving the environment.  Stop the cycle at the very beginning – use less.  Don’t buy disposable items when non-disposables are available.  Don’t buy small sizes when bulk is available.   Don’t buy individual packaged items if you can repackage these yourself into smaller portions.  You’ll save the package from its very first use, reducing the initial impact on the environment to gather and process these materials the first time.

This means you have to get over some of your convenience, just a little bit.  And we are a nation that loves its convenience, aren’t we?  (Well, if you’re in the US.)  Individual sized things are this latest craze that makes us feel somehow special, I guess?  This little packet of crackers is *just for me*… it didn’t come out of the same bag as everyone else’s crackers…  Oy, we are a spoiled, childish culture sometimes.

Okay, so reduce prevents the initial package from even entering the cycle.  It reduces the pollution and energy at the source, which is awesome!  Instead of spending 100%+1/3 energy to recycle, we spend 0% when we don’t even use it in the first place.

But we can’t reduce 100%.  We still need some products and some packaging, because it would be awful difficult to carry 10lbs. of flour home in our bare hands.  And this is where the middle-child comes in, Reuse.

Reuse: When you’ve reduced what you can, there is still some left over.  Rather than dumping this in the recycle bin and using a bit more energy to turn it back into more packaging, reuse the package you have and save that extra bit of energy.

Especially plastics that often can not be recycled anyway, based on their number, your local recycling capabilities, and the type of plastic it was made from to begin with.

It’s a snap to clean ziplock or sandwich bags, – and takes no extra time or energy if you have a dishwasher – and you’ll save both the bag itself and the box they came in by doing so.

Take the glass jar your pasta sauce came in, clean it well, and use it to store flour bought from the bulk section of your grocery store.  Not only have you removed the jar from needing any energy added to recycle it, you’ve reduced the secondary packaging required when you buy the bulk flour.

This really is much more beneficial than buying two packages which both get recycled at additional energy expense.  Reuse one package, remove the need for the second!

I keep grocery bags in my trunk, lots of them, to reuse when I go to the store.  I keep lots of them because if I forget to put one batch back in the trunk, there’s more to reuse instead of needing new.  Of course, using cloth bags is a great way to incorporate reusable items into daily life without the initial consumption of paper or plastic bags.

You can even reuse at work, taking old paper destined for the recycle bin (if it was only printed on one side), turning it into scratch paper note pads.  An easy way is to cut or tear the paper into quarters and staple one corner, and voila!  You have a quick way to reuse office paper again before it ever needs recycling.

One of my favorite reuse items is an old teapot whose lid broke, that I now use as a watering can for indoor plants.  It has a lovely Chinese dragon motif on it, and I couldn’t bear to get rid of it being so pretty, so now it sits nestled among my plants and is both beautiful and functional!

Bulk: Bulk is the love-child of Reduce and Reuse, helping you to do both!  Find a grocery store that has an amazing bulk section if you can (and I mean a bulk section of product you dispense into a reusable container, not just bigger packaging, but that is at least better than individual packaging.)

Yes, this may mean you need to find a new or supplemental grocery store.  Again, we need to move beyond our childish convenience need and expend a touch of energy of our own to help make a difference for everyone.

While it isn’t the case that everyone has access to a good grocery store and bulk, if you do, I implore you to use it as much as you can.  I’m very fortunate to have a local cooperative where I can buy rice, flour, sugar, salt, spices, tea, coffee, peanut butter, honey, seeds, beans, olive oil, and so much more all in bulk bins which allow for greatly reduced and overwhelming reuse of packaging.

Things to consider next time you’re at the store:

Skip the bottled water.  It isn’t even as clean as your tap water, so why spend 1000% more for it?  Buy a water filter if you don’t like the taste of your tap water and buy a refillable, non-plastic water bottle to take with you (glass, or stainless steel.)

Instead of buying individually wrapped snacks, buy a larger bag and portion your own servings out of it.  Why spend more money for more packaging and create more waste when you can spend a few moments of your time and do it yourself?

Reuse containers from other products you need, such as glass jars, plastic sacks, or shopping bags, and take these back to the store with you for bagging fresh produce, bulk items and your groceries.  It may take some time to make it a habit but you’ll be saving packaging and the environment!

If there is a non-disposable option available, go for that.  You may spend a little more upfront, but you’ll save over the life of the product and you’ll reduce the impact on both ends of the manufacturing cycle.

Because seriously: this is the only planet we get.  It isn’t recyclable.  Our demand for convenience is killing us!  So it’s up to each of us to decide which we want:


Or this?

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