Yes, that’s a hazmat suit I’m wearing, which I discovered in Clif’s room. Last year, an enterprising, Martha Stewart Living-reading mom made astronaut suits for her boy’s birthday party, but little did she know that I’d end up wearing one around while doing an EPA SuperFund cleanup in my own home.
Okay, everybody, noon has passed, even if you’re in Honolulu. What a lot of guesses! Thanks for the encouragement, the discourses on trash bag volume, the gruesome confessions, and the optimism that a Hefty bag of yarn might be a desirable thing and not a burden.
A word on methodology. I’m awfully sorry not to have defined “Hefty bag” more precisely, because there is a difference between a 30-gallon and a 45-gallon Hefty. I decided that a way to finesse this dodgy issue was to consider a Hefty bag full when it was heavy enough for me to lift, but not so heavy that I made weird noises trying to pick it up. A really dense bag of catalogs dating back to 1982 is the same as a big fluffy bag of creepy throw pillows which might have appeared on the set of Three’s Company.
I’ve done my thing, as far as I can stand to do it right now, and the number is:
Here is the elite group known as Guessers of 18:
“18 bags…shoes alone could be 3!” Posted by Beth at August 20, 2006 08:18 PM
“Being a junkstress myself, and knowing how old busted toys can eat up those Hefty bags, Herself and I guess 18 bags.” Posted by Jenn Umali at August 21, 2006 09:53 AM
“I’m guessing 18. I just got rid of 2 bags o’ crap, and I only cleaned out the stuff under my bad. Under MY side of the bed only. And it’s a double bed, not even a queen or king! So, if you are hitting the whole house, I’m hoping you can fill 18!!” Posted by Danielle at August 21, 2006 10:26 AM
“18 bags. More than that you’ll have no strength left to knit. Be sure to keep that one bag with ‘just not sure’ items somewhere safe. Once you start hauling bags to the trash you’ll have second thoughts about something….Been there, done that. Best of luck!” Posted by sue at August 22, 2006 09:50 AM
To choose the winner, I scientifically wrote each name on a piece of soon-to-be-recycled paper, placed it in a soon-to-be-given-away hat, and drew out the winner:
Please email me your address! I’ve got a big ol’ bag of yarn for you. Don’t hate me when it shows up!
The Ugly Proof
Down in our Hannibal Lecter garage . . . Row 1: 3 bags of recyclables. Row 2: 5 bags for Goodwill. Row 3: 10 bags of utterly useless crap. This is such a grim sight–I am chastened to see so much dreck coming out of this house, and very sorry that over half of it is going to the giant landfill in the sky.
Ach, what a mess. I hate to drag you through the past three days of my life, but as I’ve dumped, I’ve been writing down my thoughts and discoveries so it could be just like you’re right here being miserable with me. Misery shared is misery doubled halved.
Day One: My Lair
At first it was going so well, this Hefty Bagging. Right after I wrote you, I immediately loaded up two bags with dead magazines, carefully culling out the Cook’s Illustrateds which might as well be National Geographics–I study that eggplant recipe the way I used to ponder those aboriginal disc-lip men.
I got to my desk. Under my desk is the Bermuda Triangle. Ech–what a graveyard of wishful thinking down there. A library book which I discovered was due July 5, 2005. Five New Yorkers hopefully left open to depressing short stories and articles about Kofi Annan. I discovered all sorts of knitting books (Charlene Schurch I love your sock book now that I have excavated it, and I especially love the way you spell your name which sounds kind of like the sound a sock makes when I accidentally zip a DPN out of the stitches: SCHURCH!).
Once I hit carpet, I figured it would be a slice of pie to throw the books up on my shelves, then cart the (several) (yarn-laden and therefore desirable) bags to my closet, which is the innermost inner sanctum sanctorus of my yarn problem. I was making the closet situation much worse by adding these bags, but I also knew that you gotta make a mess to clean up a mess.
I also knew that I have the weakest possible orbit when it comes to wholesale cleanouts. The minute I discovered the photos from when David was three, I lay down on the floor and went all the way through his baby book, my baby book, my dad’s baby book. Aren’t babies great? Maybe we should have another baby! Where’s Hubbo?
Day Two: Toyland
Shelving the books was a problem–my shelves are rilly full–but I decided to fudge the question of books because it is so loaded. A true book purge is its own excruciating event. I moved stuff around to make room, and I even sacrificed a few snorers (The Maya Explorer, Easy Ornamental Grasses). Thinking about what to do about my book problem sent me over to that piece in the Times Book Review by Henry Alford where he attempts to “handsell” books in front of his apartment. I laughed and laughed and started reading one of Henry’s books.
Moving on . . .
Toys. Totally irredeemable crap, just piles of it. What kind of mother imposes so much junk on her children? Since I scraped out the cabinets, the fellas have not even noticed. From now on, they’ll have to find their playthings in the yard. Go get some sticks or something. Start a fig war. Roll around in the grass.
Things I discovered during the toy purge:
A fake chicken.
Rubber band airplane vs. Kidsilk Haze. Victor: rubber band airplane. Mother never saw this until she pulled it out of the bottom cabinet in our den. Mother was probably never supposed to see this.
Collection of cotton balls. Who was collecting cotton balls? Why are these ones special?
Day Three: My Closet
My wedding shoes! Look! My wedding, back in 1783, was so glorious and rainy that my ivory shoes ended up the exact brown of the backyard of Hubbo’s grandparents’ house. So I dyed ’em black for a party, ages ago, haven’t worn them for fifteen years. Free shoes! I’m thinking I ought to wear them out somewhere. Maybe to see Marie Antoinette? Sofia Coppola + Kirsten Dunst + decline and fall of French empire = right up my alley.
Unearthing shoes meant that I had worked my way to my closet. Jeezeepers what a mess. At least the yarn was still in pretty good shape. But my new sock-knitting habit has added an entire new category which means that I need to think up someplace for THAT stuff.
Nobody mentioned that cleaning up can be lucrative. The pocketbook-purging segment netted me $6.89, which bought me a tasty gyro at Kalamata’s. Ka-ching! Bring on the tzatziki sauce!
Stowed the yarn, dumped a bunch of clothes from the mid ’90s, managed to change the flourescent light bulbs which just about killed me.
People write books, build entire careers on what I just experienced. I can’t really say that I’ll never have to do this again, but I do think I could save myself a lot of trouble by asking the simple question, “Why am I bringing this throw pillow/handbag/magazine/pair of shoes into my house?”
One fact: this sort of container Does Not Help. This little magazine bucket, for example, contained four street atlases from the early 1990s. If you don’t believe in the system–if you’re putting street atlases in your magazine rack–don’t have a magazine rack.
I keep thinking about Flylady, who is the Einstein of order. Flylady says to pitch 27 things a day. She says things like: “Go outside, walk 7 minutes, turn around, come home. That’s almost 15 minutes of exercise right there.” Nuggets of wisdom from her are really inspiring.
I think it’s one thing to clean out a bunch of junk for the landfill. Maybe a better thing would be to fill a Hefty bag with stuff that still has actual value–stuff that another human might actually have a use for, and move along some of THAT. Now that I’ve scraped off one layer, maybe I can scrape off another one. Quick, everybody! Grab a Hefty! Toss until it feels good! I cannot exhort you loudly enough.