Monday, January 30, 2012


I hate dust. I dusted once – why is it dusty again?  I know, I know – it’s just a rhetorical question.  I hate dusting.  To be truthful, I hate housework.  You’d never know it if you took a quick look at my house – it is almost always neat and picked up.  Few people believe me when I tell them that’s because I’m lazy. I don’t want to have a big pick-up-and-straighten job to do so I neaten as I go. But the dust does accumulate.  Don’t come here wearing your white gloves, otherwise I’ll make you use them to do the dusting.

Spruce pollen cloud
I didn’t have to think much about dust for about a quarter of a century. We lived about twenty miles from the nearest city in upstate New York, out in the clean air of the country where the dust didn’t accumulate very quickly. Well, I must admit that during pollen season in the middle of the woods it could be a bit (a bit?) messy. And it didn’t come all at once: maple, oak, beech, evergreens – they took their turns. Brush past a spruce and it would explode with pollen. The mess stayed mostly outdoors on the porch and patio furniture.  A good hosing took care of it.

Here at SCCL I’m starting to think there are little dust elves sprinkling the stuff around when I sleep.  It isn’t as bad now as when they were building new houses around us, but it almost seems as though I could dust every day. It also seems as though I am less and less inclined to do any housecleaning at all.

On one recent sun-shiny day the angle was just right for the light to reflect off the floor into some of the neglected corners, and on to some of the kitchen cabinets – egad! I hate that kind of sunlight almost as must as I hate dust.  Well, I embarrassed myself into getting out the floor mop and the cleaning spray and sponges and I tackled the job: not just the mess so blatantly lit for me, but the whole floor and all the cabinet fronts. Counter tops too while I was at it. I did draw the line at washing the walls and pulling apart and cleaning the appliances. I mean enough is enough.  I do realize that I felt soooo much better for having done the job – but no one was there for me to brag to. Ah, well. I’ll get my reward somewhere later on in life – I hope!
Just thinking about how my mother and her mother kept house makes me ache all over.  My mother’s mother’s house shone from top to bottom. It will suffice to tell you just that she washed all the walls in her house at least twice a year. Though, like her mother, she did take apart and wash her refrigerator every Thursday, which I think excesive, my mother must have thought her mother's wall washing was the excessive thing. Most of Mom's walls were wallpapered, and the painted walls in the kitchen and bathrooms got washed perhaps once a year, and when I got older sometimes they were washed by me! 

I’ve lowered my standards even further. I take after my other grandmother: I’m lazier. That gal was one of the original liberated women: her house was, as they say, “Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy.”  She had places to go, people to see, and go and see she did. 

And so do I! 

Amen to that!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


        Do you walk into your house and feel like you’re walking into Fibber McGee’s closet?   Do you hear George Carlin (yes, the old Hippy Dippy Weatherman!) talking about “stuff”? He complained: “my stuff has stuff”.  Is your home getting stuffed?   Did you move every last thing you owned to SCCL?

        Peter Walsh, the ‘Organizational Expert’ you may have seen on the Learning Channel or Oprah, calls it “memory clutter” - it can interfere with the enjoyment of our lives and our homes.   We began our monstrous collections when we were very, very young.  We collected things because we liked them, because someone special gave them to us, or because we just could.   Along the way we forgot to how to drop what we no longer needed or what was threatening to overwhelm us.  We just hate to part with furniture or electronics or old birthday cards.  There’s always that sentimental, rarely practical,  reason that stays our hand from getting rid of stuff. These days you can find oodles of organizational hints.  What we seniors need is not organization for our stuff but elimination of a good lot of it.  I’m here to motivate you to make clearance your next project. 

        When we were in the process of moving to Sun City I came upon a saying that went something like “when the furniture heaves off your life you will love the deliverance.”   Well I must say I did delight in the deliverance: less stuff to pack, to move, to find space for in the new house, to clean, to maintain.   First I checked with the kids.  Lots of nice things from Christmas treasures to silverware found new homes away from ours.  I read about a gal who put it to her children like this: “Don’t be concerned, I’m doing just fine, but I’m writing my will.  What do you want of what I’ve got.  Better yet, come on over and take it now!”   Unless it’s your false teeth or eye glasses, what can you loose? Let them ask for what they’d like now - you can always say ‘no‘, but the best thing would be ‘yes’.

But sometimes something's
gotta give!

       Books? My books had books.  I was moving from a house where my husband had built in all the bookcases and storage I could ever need - built in, not moveable! Now the Stephentown Memorial Library has the majority of my books. I was told that many were sold to aid the fund for the new wing, and a quite few were chosen to be added to the shelves.  Made me happy to know I could leave something of value there.

       Living in over a half a mile on a dirt road, and that road off another road infrequently traveled, I saw no point in having a garage sale for much of the stuff that was left.   After all, who would want this stuff if I didn’t want it?  Well, they might, but I didn’t want to bother having a sale. Boxes and boxes of stuff found their way to the Salvation Army.  Boxes of craft supplies and fabrics went to two young teachers of my acquaintance.   What have you got that you no longer use or want and can box up and donate?   Keep good track of some of the better stuff you donate because there’s a nice level of tax deductibility to much of this. 

       What I do still have are pictures of my stuff.  Originally, the photos were taken for household insurance inventory.  They proved to be a treasure.  I’ve got pictorial records of many of the items I’d collected over the years, of the ways in which I changed the d├ęcor of the house depending on what curtains or quilts or crafts I’d made, and, to me, the most treasured: pictures of my books.   Most of the books I’d kept had been read two or three times.  I’d always felt that just looking at the title on the spine of a favored book brought the whole book back in an instant.  Now I can look at the pictures and get that same feeling.  If I really need to read it again there’s always the library nearby.

        It might not be easy to peddle your unwanted stuff on the street corners of Sun city, and you might want to get rid of that stuff before the next community tag sale. Let’s face it: after the tag sale you’d  still have leftover stuff to give away.  You might think of selling your stuff on eBay.  I did that once: we sold my husband’s charter collection of Fine Woodworking Magazines.  It was a pain to have to be available on-line to answer possible questions from potential buyers, and when we did get a buyer we had to find boxes, pack up the collection, schlep it all to the post office, etc. 

        So, think of Google and these on-line or local resources while you are de-stuffing your house and your life:
             Legal web sites - for retention schedules for personal records.  Many of us are overwhelmed with paper records we no longer need.  Be sure to shred the discards! 
             Manufacturers web sites - for owners’ manuals for your electronics, tools, and appliances. Who give house room to more unnecessary paper?               
             Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, National Furniture Bank - for organizations who will be happy to have your used furniture, clothing, appliances,  what-have-you?  Many Goodwill depots for your more portable discards are right nearby in Waxhaw and Fort Mill, to name two.  Many organizations will arrange pick-ups. 
             The Del Webb library or our own lending library at the Lake House - for books, CD’s, VCR tapes and DVD’s. 
       See that?  Don’t you feel better already, now that you’ve begun just by giving a bit of thought to paring down your stuff?  So, where will you start?  Don’t just sit there - go do it!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Heads up all you friggatriskaidekaphobics and paraskevidekatriaphobics: this year we’ll enjoy three Friday the 13ths.  Triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number 13.  It is from the Greek: tris means 3, kai means ‘and’, deka means 10, and phobia means ‘fear’. The word was coined 100 years ago in 1911.  Frigga was the Norse goddess for whom Friday was named, so add her name to the front and it becomes fear of Friday the Thirteenth. I won’t begin to decipher the meaning of that second word; it suffices to say it means the same thing. 

In western culture, the number 13 is widely associated with bad luck. No one wants to live on 13th Avenue, or have an apartment on the 13th floor.  Hotels also eliminate the 13th floor, but the floor is really there, isn’t it?  It’s just been renumbered.  Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. For ages the number thirteen was just one of many and had no special significance.

The superstition surrounding 13 seems to have arisen in in medieval times.  It is said that folks became aware that there were thirteen at the Last Supper, and thereafter tried to avoid thirteen - not only at a table but everywhere else.  Norsemen may tell you that when the mischievous Loki crashed the party at Valhalla to which Odin had invited eleven of his closest friends, all Niflheim (that’s Norse for hell) broke loose, resulting in the death of the beloved Baldur. Another case of thirteen at the table.

Fear of Friday the Thirteenth, that paraskevidekatriaphobia, is a newer, just as irrational fear.  Some point to the fact the Jacques de Molay and many of his fellow Knights Templar were arrested for heresy on Friday, October 13, 1307, but many other significant events, good or bad, could have taken place on other Fridays the Thirteenth.  It really seems to be a combination of fear of 13 and the fact that many people wouldn’t care to start anything on Friday.  Actually, neither would I. Not that it really matters, but starting a job on a Friday seems strange: Monday, with the whole work week ahead, seems more logical.  Folks don’t usually want to get married, start a business venture, move, start a trip, or even give birth on a Friday.  “Friday’s child is full of woe.” 

There are probably a baker’s dozen of reasons to admire the number thirteen: a baker’s dozen cookies, or loaves or biscuits, fits nicely on a baking tray.  Thirteen is a prime number, divisible only by 1 and itself.  It is also a Wilson prime and a Fibonacci number, but that’s more mathematics than we need to know right now.  There were thirteen original colonies in our United States, and thirteen stars and stripes on the flag. We’ve added a star as each state was admitted to the union, but we’d be down to pinstripes if we hadn’t kept just the original six white and seven red.

There are thirteen players on a rugby team and thirteen cards in a suit. At thirteen you become a teenager and can watch all those PG-13 movies.  Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dan Marino wore number 13. Alex Rodriguez wears it for the Yankees today. Well, that’s not quite a baker’s dozen reasons, but you get the idea.

And by the way, it might come in handy to know that for some obscure reason the first Friday the Thirteenth of the year is also observed as Blame Someone Else Day.
     Don’t look at me: I didn’t think of it.

P.S. In searching the net for pictures to go with my essay, I came upon this electronic version of and old American Express ad I cut from a magazine and stored in one of my scrap books years ago.  Something about it just struck a chord in me, and I thought I'd add it here for you to see too.

That's the jockey Willie Shoemaker, 4 feet 11.5 inches tall, leaning on our No.13, Wilt the Stilt, at 7 feet, 1 inch.