April 12, 2018 § 2 Comments
So I’m currently taking a poll to determine the fate of Garfield the latch-hook rug. Yes, when it comes to getting rid of things, I’m that desperate- apparently certain items require a crowd-sourced intervention. And let me tell you, Garfield is terrified. Or maybe it’s me. Hard to tell.
Ever since I cleaned out my own personal Hell Room, he’s has been scrunched up on an armchair in the library-hallway-room tormenting me. Yes, through a display of sheer Herculean willpower on my part I did manage to part with many terrible, horrible things during my Year of No Clutter, but Garfield was clearly not one of them. I mean, he’s juuuuuuust weird enough to be intriguing. Just random enough to be endearing.
Plus he has a face. Which is always hard.
Do I want him? Need him? Have any idea whatever to do with him? No. How do I feel every single time I lay eyes on him, messing up my armchair, cluttering up my tiny little reading area? Annoyed. Irritated.
For many people, the answers to those questions would be enough. They’d toss him in the trash or charity donation box and that would be that- not another thought would be given to the matter.
I am clearly not one of those people. Instead, I second guess. I think about how Garfield was, for a time, an extremely cool cartoon character. Really! If you were there, you’ll back me up on this, I know. In the late seventies when Jim Davis came out with the comic strip, Garfield represented a totally new idea: the Uber-Anti-Cat, the exact polar opposite of say, Hello Kitty. He was decidedly not cute. Not affectionate. Not demure and purring and sweet. Instead he was grouchy, lazy, and possessed of a propensity to eat all the lasagna within the nearby vicinity. He was a cat with chutzpah.
As a kid I read the strip religiously in the Sunday funnies, on the floor, by the heat grate, competing with the family dog to see who could sit most directly in the path of the intermittently blowing hot air. I had a t-shirt that my mom bought me when she went back to school with a picture of Garfield on it. He was unenthusiastically holding a college pennant in his hand with the thought bubble “So this is Pace University. Big, fat, hairy deal.”
In the early eighties, this qualified as highly sophisticated humor.
(That is until Bloom County came in and took over in a walk. Don’t even get me started. I still miss Opus.)
And then I think about all the many, many, MANY latch-hook rugs I made as a kid. I was an artsy-craftsy kid born to decidedly not-artsy-crafty parents, so I was constantly trying to learn new crafts, and yet there was no internet to teach me. !!! Instead of learning the complicated things I longed to know such as knitting or sewing or embroidery, I made ropes and ropes of macrame, dozens of wonky little yarn pom-poms, piles and piles of latch hook rugs… projects that were as easy as they were purposeless. My mom kept buying the latch hook rug kits because they were cheap, but once they were done I always wanted them made up into little zippered, decorative pillows for my room, which was expensive. In the interest of not having to take out a second mortgage on our house, she decided to stop having the rugs made into pillows right around the time I finished Garfield, which is why he remains unfinished to this day.
So. Now that I’ve told you all that, if the poll tells me to, can I really bear to pitch Garfield? Or maybe it’s the other way round: now that I’ve told you the story, maybe I’ll be released from my obligation to him, like a character in a fairy tale who has broken the magic spell. Hard to say. I keep imagining myself at the charity shop, trying to donate Garfield the Latch-Hook Rug and being violently overcome with remorse, much to the surprise and consternation of the little old ladies who take donations there. Hopefully (are you listening, Clutter-Gods?) HOPEFULLY that is not where this is all going. That would not be fun for anyone, you know.
By the way, have I mentioned that I also have latch-hook-rug Odie?
June 12, 2017 § 2 Comments
Every year I look forward to Mother’s Day. A LOT. Possibly a little too much. I imagine this is in large part because it is the one day per year that I can do:
Anything. I. Want.
But wait a minute, isn’t this also true on my birthday? Okay, technically, I get TWO whole days per year. The point is: if, out of 365 days in a year, you get just 2 Completely-Guilt-Free-Anything Days, when they come up on the calendar, you pay attention.
Inevitably, the daydreams of having a luxurious soak in the tub for ten consecutive minutes, or sitting in a chaise lounge in the sun without anyone yelling “MOM!?!” in the tone of voice usually reserved for announcing that the refrigerator is on fire, give way to more… practical thoughts. Wait a minute! I suddenly think to myself: I can get my family to do anything today! Like… anything! And so, every year as Mother’s Day approaches, I proceed to mentally fill the day up about 14 times over with all the different Wish List items I’ve been compiling in my head all year long. Everything from pickling the ceilings to learning ancient Aramaic suddenly seems entirely within reach.
This year the family had talked about a “garden day” outside, pulling weeds, spreading mulch, and generally picking things up around our yard. This is because I have dreams for a big vegetable garden this year and this would get things well underway.
I know what you’re thinking. Exotic, right? It was either that or skydiving with sharks.
In the interest of pursuing my verdant garden dreams, however, I knew I’d have to do something about the catastrophe we know as the garden shed. Over the last few decades or so the shed had become a catch-all where we keep the garden implements, outgrown plastic kid toys, folding chairs, ceramic pots, bags of dirt, bales of straw, antique farm tools left by previous owners, broken things, seven different sprinkler-head attachments, tangled Christmas lights, rusty hardware and much more. Much like my upstairs mess known as the Hell Room, the shed was a problem that had snowballed over time, deteriorated and lain neglected for years behind neatly closed doors. Every year when I thought about going to start a vegetable garden, it was the classic clutter-avoidance scenario of: “I can’t do this, until I do that. And I don’t want to do that, sooo……who’s up for shark-diving?”
However, on Mothers Day, with visions of fresh kale dancing in my head, I took the plunge. While the rest of my family mulched and weeded and picked up- I dove headfirst into a big, dusty shed filled with chicken wire and mouse poop. I pulled out random crazy things- half-melted sticks of colored chalk, plastic trays leftover from failed attempts at raising plants from seed, a badly rusted and bent fireplace pit, mysterious unused spare parts from the children’s play set, and attachments to long-lost power tools. It seemed endless the amount of crap there was to find.
I had resolved to get rid of anything that wasn’t entirely useful, discard anything that wasn’t part of what I had optimistically envisioned as a “real garden shed one could walk into and retrieve, say, a hoe or a rake from, and emerge entirely unscathed.” I gave myself permission to throw away the broken and the failed and the long-lost leftovers, which was an amazing lot.
Things were going remarkably well- the trash bin was filling up, useful things were being found and restored to order, when I came upon something that made me shudder, and it wasn’t even anything dead. No, I had come to the bane of the garden shed, the thing that was taking up fully half of the room in there. Yes- it was the old patio furniture set.
As one of our first major purchases as new home-owners, I recall that the set had seemed terribly expensive to me, and therefore I had purchased it with the highly realistic expectation that it would last somewhere in the neighborhood of forever. Over time some pieces had fared better than others, but ever since the plastic wicker had begun to unravel on a couple of the chairs a few years ago, my husband had been campaigning for us to get rid of it. (Clearly, my husband has never heard of “shabby chic”. Incidentally, he has also never heard of “dusty chic,” “disgusting chic” or “potentially hazardous chic.”) Around this same time we had also inherited a nicer table and chairs that my mother didn’t want anymore, so the entire patio set officially went into hiding. It was like our shed was a patio furniture Witness Protection Program.
And there it sat.
Years had gone by. The bulky chairs and tables had remained caged up in our shed, piled higgelty-piggelty, and occasionally I would ask myself: for what? So I could avoid feeling guilty for getting rid of something that was more-or-less still perfectly good? So I could avoid feeling foolish for giving away something worth money, something that had originally been expensive?
This particular day, as I contemplated the many-legged albatross for perhaps the hundredth time I wondered: Why instead did I not feel guilty for blocking up room that could have otherwise been put to good use? Why did I not feel foolish for holding on to something I now had no use for?
And still, I hesitated. I hemmed and hawed. As so often happens when I am contemplating something I feel conflicted about, I felt a sinking feeling as I looked over the dusty, imperfect, but still entirely usable furniture. Just looking at it made me sad. Shouldn’t that have been a clue? Looking over at me in my misery, Steve pointed out correctly that we’ve had this furniture for twenty years. Twenty years! Perhaps, he thought, that was long enough.
Hmmmm. The old fashioned time-limit-strategy. I had forgotten about that one- most famously employed in the “If you haven’t worn it in a year get rid of it” closet-cleaning technique. It occurred to me that twenty years was a pretty good run for any piece of outdoor furniture. And then it was as if a hypnotist had snapped his fingers, releasing me from his spell. I was suddenly able to let go.
Out the patio furniture went to the curb. Even the glass-topped end table which was without a blemish. Even the chaise lounge thing that still inspired in me those dreams of lounging in the sun reading a book that had never, ever materialized. All of it.
Well, if no one takes it by next Thursday we can ask the trash guys to take it, Steve said.
If it’s not gone by tomorrow, I’ll eat my hat, I said.
I did not have to eat my hat. By the next morning every piece of it had vanished- as if by the wave of some magic Clutter Fairy wand. Amazingly, I was able to register this fact, and not feel guilty, or foolish. I only felt relief. The well-loved patio furniture was off to live another life… and I had my shed back.
Happy Mother’s Day to me.