Living Lightly

Susan Vogt on living more simply but abundantly

Browsing Posts published by Susan Vogt

I’ve been waiting for April 24 for a long time. Apparently, so have a lot of other people in my neighborhood. It’s the day N. Kentucky finally sponsored a Hazardous Materials Disposal Day. I not only felt virtuous loading up an old computer, printer, and monitor, I also safely got rid of radios, lamps, light bulbs, paint, speakers, and various other broken electronics. On the way to the disposal center I ran into a traffic jam at the interstate exit. At first I thought there was an accident, but then I realized that all the cars were going to the same place I was – about two miles off the exit. It’s the first time I ever was thankful for so many cars ahead of me. It took a little longer but it was for a good cause.

Most communities have a day, week, or other period of time that they offer a drop off place for hazardous waste (often in the spring). Check the EPA website on Household Hazardous Waste for more information. Contact your local government for dates and places or find a Waste Management facility near you.

Happy Easter! The 40 days have come to an end, but not this project. The more I got into giving stuff away, the more I realized that these 40 days were simply the first round. Although I’ve given many things away, few items will I actually miss. To really stretch myself I’ll need to keep pruning and developing a stronger attitude of generosity. I’ve decided to try giving one thing away each day for a whole year. At first this seemed daunting but then I counted 151 drawers and 228 shelves in our home. If I just selected one item a day from these drawers and shelves that would be 379 days – well over a year. Even if I don’t find anything worthy of giving away from a particular shelf, I figure I’ve already banked 40 days. I believe that if I keep going, I’ll eventually be confronted with letting go of stuff that is not just excess.

THE FUTURE: It has, however, been time consuming to keep this pace of blogging and taking a photo every day. In order not to have my life taken over by this process, I plan to only blog once a week even though I will be choosing something every day. I still welcome your feedback and reflections. I’m taking the rest of April to disperse my collected stuff to good homes and resume the blog May 1.

Today is the last day for giving away – at least for awhile. I ventured out to the garage which is the last burial place for things on their way to the netherworld. There are probably a number of things that could be given/thrown away from here – like the STOP sign one of our kids liberated as a teenager. It’s a rainy day though and my back is not up to lugging stuff out. I did notice, however, that we still have over 50 signs from my husband’s school board campaigns. He promised he wouldn’t run again. Those can be history. We also have 5 bags of plastic bags waiting to be resurrected, i.e. recycled, into some usable material like composite lumber.
Tomorrow is Easter, the end of the 40 days but the beginning of the rest of life. I’ve decided to continue this process. Read how tomorrow.

If our basement storage room is the graveyard of electronic parts, the furnace room table is a step lower into the bowels of the undead. Dignity is surrendered here as I found an adult potty seat, speakers that were probably dead before we moved into the house but we figured maybe we just needed a little technical expertise to bring them back to life. Rug remnants waiting for a place that needs a patch are also stored here. It’s not a pleasant place but there are lots of nails and screws waiting to bring new life to a broken item.

Birdie was my Kris Kringle partner at our parish last Advent. I never met her but prayed for her and sent her a card. I know that she is African American from the parish directory. Jim and I have been trying to get to know more people in our parish especially people of other races since we have a racially diverse parish but often people don’t mix. We decided to invite Birdie over for dinner but she has been ill and has not been able to come. I decided to make a lasagna dinner for Birdie and take it to her. So today, I’m giving away food. Thanks to Jim who was the main cook.

I knew this storage closet would be a challenge. It stores camping, canning, and Christmas stuff plus kitchen supplies waiting for our kids’ apartments and toys waiting for grandkids to grow into them. (Don’t worry, Brian, I’m holding off on your 9 boxes of model train supplies.) It also is our electronics graveyard of known and unknown extra parts. In addition, this is our pantry for canned food complete with extra water in case of a natural disaster.
The real find, however, was a container of homemade rockets that started as a science fair project. It takes someone with know how to play with these. I’m no rocket scientist.

Our family loves sports, but contra dancing has replaced many of the sports we used to play as our preferred recreation. Even though both Jim and I grew up golfing, I haven’t played since my back surgery 15 years ago. I’m giving away my old clubs, tennis and golf balls, weights, and the extra ping pong net. (I’m not giving away Jim’s golf clubs, the bike rack and pump, 5 tennis rackets, basketballs, and the volleyball net – most of these are not mine to pitch.) We also have a crate of old tennis shoes that Jim has been saving because he heard you can recycle them. My contribution to this effort was to find out where to take them since they were not in good enough condition for Soles4Souls. Check out Run the Planet, NikeReuseAShoe, and Ecocycle.

We have 9 pairs of skates in our basement (4 kids roller skates, 3 kids in-line skates, and, 2 adult ice skates). Seeing as no one has used any of them in probably 10 years, I think I will give away all but the adult ice skates. Memo to our kids: “If you want any of these (even though they probably won’t fit anymore) better e-mail me pronto.” The helmet I might keep because that can serve multi-purposes. The knee pads will go with the skates.

I always resist the sacrament of Reconciliation even though I know I’ll feel better once I’ve examined my conscience and confessed. I also don’t like the idea of having a church rule about going to confession at least once a year. Still, I have to admit that if this wasn’t the case I would probably let it slip slide away indefinitely. Typically, I do this during Holy Week since parishes usually have Penance Services followed by an opportunity to confess to a priest. I know it’s healthy to wipe things clean periodically and trust that God has forgiven me. It’s time.

At the beginning of our marriage we decided to make candles for relatives as creative and economical Christmas presents. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, we also had more discretionary time BK (Before Kids) so we silk screened Christmas cards. We now have more candles than we can use and don’t send snail mail Christmas cards, so today’s decision was easy – get rid of these arts and crafts supplies. Besides the equipment was so dusty and rusty I doubt it would work anymore. We downsized our garbage can this year but this stuff will fit.

We call it the “tool closet” but it didn’t make sense to get rid of any of our tools. This closet, however, does store a number of other miscellaneous items. I decided to keep all the puzzles since they are good for visiting children – especially if they don’t speak English, but threw away the one that had no picture with it. I discovered that Play-Doh does not last as long as clay so I threw away all the Play-Doh and some of the clay. Then there were the garden sprays for pests. I had 3 ways to rid our garden of slugs – we haven’t had a slug problem for years – and 3 sprays to protect our apple tree from insects. We gave up on harvesting much from this tree awhile ago since it feeds more deer than us. Since our garden pests are now in the past, so also their remedies are now history.

This is the day you’ve all been waiting for: “Dead Pet Day.” Over the years we’ve had a dog, hamsters, mice, lizards, rabbits, fish, and birds. We are now petless. I decided to keep the dog dishes for a grand-dog who visits and I kept the rat trap to prevent visiting rats from staying. I will, however, get rid of the aquarium hood for heating lizards since we no longer have the aquarium. I’m also giving away a bird cage with supplies, a rabbit bottle and leash since we gave away the rabbit hutch years ago. Oh yes, notice the dried out bone on top of the bird cage. It’s not from one of our pets but I found it with the cages and it fit the title of this blog.

Now I’m looking at our historic “entertainment center.” I say historic because I counted 109 VCR tapes. The last time we tried, we couldn’t even get our VCR to work – but that’s mostly because someone messed with the cables and our local son wasn’t handy to reattach them to the appropriate places. I should probably get rid of all of them but some memorialize high school plays and some I still use for presentations. I decided to get rid of at least 27. I know it’s possible to transfer them to DVD’s but I don’t have the time right now. I keep telling myself, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

As I move to our front hall I find stashes of gloves and winter hats. I also counted seven umbrellas (plus one we keep in the car). Even allowing for visitors who may need an emergency umbrella, gloves, or hat, we don’t really need all of these. How many people are really going to visit us in January, gloveless and hatless? Would seven people without umbrellas really descend on us in one fell swoop? Out! Out!

Recently I was forced into “techno-purging.” I was trying to move some e-mails into Outlook folders and couldn’t do it. After the usual amount of fussing, I wondered if the problem was that my folders were too full. Bingo! Reluctantly, I deleted and archived e-mails that were older than 2008. It worked. I also sent out a global e-mail to my 500 dearest friends alerting them to this blog. About 30 bounced back. Obviously I’ve too often just hit reply to incoming e-mails and haven’t always updated my address book. It took time, but uncluttering my computer may save me headaches later.

…Stuff. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to REALLY clearing stuff out of our house is all our kids’ stuff that we’re storing. The last time I asked our 36 year old if I could throw away his grade school papers, he said “No.” Child #2 has stuff from her Peace Corps stint in Mali and later work in Senegal. Not only did she not want me throw any of this away, she saw one of MY skirts on this blog and wants me to keep it until she returns from Afghanistan. #3 lives nearby but refused to let go of any of his three PlayStations (one of which is broken) or any of the other electronics and games stored here. #4 has all his worldly possessions he could fit on a plane to Singapore. The rest are still in our house. Plus, we’re storing stuff for a relative who downsized to a smaller place when his wife died. My plan is to make five piles and tell each person the next time they come to take it with them or it will be history. It’s risky giving other people’s stuff away, but there comes a time… The problem is that it also takes time to collect and pile up their stuff. Maybe things will slow down around Christmas when they’ll all be home. 😕

Storage of the stuff I’m giving away is starting to become a problem. Since it’s not efficient for me to daily take each day’s give-aways to Goodwill or St. Vincent DePaul, I’m collecting all the stuff in a corner. After Easter I plan to put an ad in Freecycle for the bigger items and take the rest to a charity. Meanwhile our home looks more cluttered rather than less because we also have all the dining room furniture stored in the living room till the ceiling gets fixed. Perhaps today, I’m letting go of the peace of mind that an uncluttered environment brings and delaying that gratification.

How small should a piece of wrapping paper be to be useless? How much newsprint of different sizes does one need for banners and children’s art? Since I also store candles in the same area as the wrapping paper, I tackled them both together. I had more luck throwing away wrinkled newsprint than still usable candles. (You never know when the electricity is going to go out.) Wait, the electricity actually was out in this room since we’re still waiting for the drywall person to finish the ceiling which had the only light. It was too dark to sort through the candles. I just put all the paper that was going to recycling in the middle of the floor and took a photo – luckily the camera has a flash.

Our family is pretty competitive and likes to play board games. Now that the kids are only home for short visits and most games take at least three players, most of our games gather more dust than players. I counted 53 board games (some left over from Jim’s childhood like Foto-Electric Football). I’m giving/throwing away at least 8. Our current favorites (Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne) are definite keepers. There are mixed reviews for Monopoly. Risk takes too long (even though we love it). Cribbage and Scrabble are nice for two people.  Simon is great for playing with people who don’t speak English so we kept it for awhile thinking we would repair it so it actually worked. Sorry Simon, you’re gone.

Although we have lots of sports equipment scattered throughout the house, I had forgotten about the balls, gloves, bat,  and Frisbees, that were stored in a cedar chest. I kept about half of what you see, will give half of the rest away and pitch the rest. (Some balls are really not worth saving – even for the dog – which we no longer have either.)
PS: The greenest sports items I could find were the almost green (but decidedly dead) tennis balls so I draped a green cloth behind them. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!