the browning

22 12 2010



Things.  Lots and lots of things.  Her things.

Going…going…gone.  Sold to the highest bidder.

Sister Sib’s benevolent Nascar Guy comes from a place much like Butcher Holler where family ties are unbreakable bonds.  So when an elderly aunt was being moved in with her only son who lives in CA to be cared for through yet another round of chemo – Nascar Guy raised his hand.  He’d be the one to sort through her belongings…things she’d collected since forever…things held on to since her husband’s death some 16 years ago… You get the picture.  Two weeks working full-time sorting, tossing, donating – they were finally ready for the auction.  The vultures swooped in – left their dollar droppings and flew away with their prey.  Now the empty nest of a house stands picked clean and ready for it’s next flock to begin padding it with feathers,twigs and mud.

Hearing how someone had to come in and paw through a life-time of possessions, assigning values to each and every thing, got me thinking about the “stuff” of my life.  Until you’ve had to do a job like that, I’m not sure you can appreciate the emotions that bubble up regardless of whether or not the items are yours, a family friend’s or a family member’s.

It seems like things come in and take up residence in our homes alot easier than they go out.  Memories put a patina on things like layered years of fingerprints.  We sentimental types have a hard time sending our souls out the door with no one to voice the journey of how this thing came to be part of our story. Presently, my offspring seem to have very little interest in the stuff that has served as set decoration for our collective lives up until this point.  Frankly, I admire that about both of them.  They hold things loosely.  Maybe it was because in the chaos of our gypsy caravan lifestyle, we knew we HAD certain things – but we’d be hard pressed to know WHERE they were.  They are on their own adventures now, collecting trinkets that speak to their particular journeys.  So I feel like I want to strike while the iron is hot.  I want to send things out of this house like smoke being belched up through the chimney.  There’s plenty of tchotchke to use as kindling.

I’m thinking that I’d like to “shop” my own home this year for gift-giving.  Brown is my new favorite Christmas color.  Recycle, reuse, repurpose, re-gift – all wrapped in thick, rough brown Kraft paper.  Maybe I’ll host a Swap Party.   Set things out on the table – invite people in – and let them take what they please but it only goes one way. OUT.

A couple of members of Shop Girl’s backing band recently got married.  Being young hippie types, they mandated that all wedding gifts had to be used and/ or purchased from a resale shop.  I could single-handedly outfit their entire house and mine would NOT look bare at all.  I thought about an old oak table leaning against the chimney down in the basement.  It had grown too small and was replaced by a larger second-hand purchase.  I gladly bequethed it to a new nest where their kids would grow up laughing around meals, spilling milk, fighting over games and doing homework.  That table has no soul but stories?  Yes.

The table can’t tell those stories.  Those memories aren’t erased just because I’m not looking at the table.  I hadn’t actually looked at the table for years and I’d still not forgotten the times we shared around it’s gently rounded edges.  So I’m determining to spend the long days/nights of winter digging through more stuff.  It’s my stuff.  It’s my job.

Recycle? Freecycle!

14 12 2008

img_38102Of all the home appliances that make me salivate, it would be a new washer/dryer combo of the latest design.  I’ve wanted a front load washer ever since we came back from Spain in 1995.  When we first moved there in 1983, it took a good long time for me to adjust to dealing with front load washers and once I did – I never looked back.

They are almost always located in the kitchen under the counters and in my tiny kitchens would look to take the space where you’d imagine a dishwasher to go.  It is very un-American to wait 45 minutes for the shortest wash cycle to finish.  The drum would go a few turns to the right – stop – and then reverse and go a few turns to the left…and on and on.  But it was a great way to entertain the kids before we got a TV.

They were extremely economical in terms of water use and I always washed in cold water.  IF I had to do something in hot water – that 45 minute time frame suddenly doubled since the washer itself had a water heating element.

When it came into the spin cycle – it felt like we were on a launch pad at NASA.  And I learned in my early appliance investigation stage to look for more RPM’s – since we didn’t have dryers…the more water that got sucked out of the clothes, the less time they would take to line dry.

Here are my observations after years of use.  Number one, our clothes were never cleaner with less “special” cleaners and sprays and hoo haa and number two – clothes done in a front load machine and not dried in a dryer last a million times longer.

So when we came back to the States, I had some reverse culture shock.  It didn’t take three days to dry jeans.  Dryers could be my friend and then I didn’t have to iron the stiffness out of towels in the winter.  When they’d be dried over the radiators (good for indoor humidity during the dry winter months) they’d be like sheets of plywood that would stand up on their own if you’d place them just right.  

We were still in “missionary mode” when we came back which automatically meant that we were the recipients of a good deal of charity of all kinds.  Somehow a gal in the church got wind of the fact that we needed a dryer and told us NOT to buy a new one.  She gave us her “old” Kenmore since she was getting new.  It was probably from the 80’s.  This is one step better than taking someone’s used tea bags.

It had some broken bits and pieces but with a few dollars in repair parts, it was in good working order.  Fast forward almost 14 years and that thing is still running like a charm.  I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself again by calling attention to it.  

But the whole idea of finding homes for “good” appliances that we no longer need or want just struck me yesterday as I was drying load number five of this week’s laundry.  Before it was fashionable or even internet accessible…freecycling happened. Yes, I’ll even admit that Billy may have been ahead of his time using old refrigerators as storage spaces in his basement- it just meant he was keeping them out of the landfills for 30 years.  Maybe when they finally find their final resting places soon, they’ll disintegrate as soon as they touch the ground.

The real issue that I do battle with is wanting something new for the sake of it’s newness.  My old isn’t broken.  I can just find any number of things to complain about so I can rationalize the purchase.  Of course, we are all caught up a tad short these days because of the economy, but it was a good moment of pause to think about my ugly old dryer.

So in the spirit of the season, maybe there is something, anything around your house that you don’t really need any more that can be handed to someone who needs it – no strings attached.  There are freecycle groups all over the internet to join. We don’t need to look too hard to find people that could use a hand. Do yourself, the planet and someone you might know a huge favor and just give something away before Christmas.

Just to keep  you on your toes next time you are out driving around, I thought I’d show you two of Billy’s great finds that took a bit of elbow grease to get cleaned up – but they are nothing to sneeze at. What’s the best thing you ever got for free (dumpster diving counts) that someone else was just throwing away?