Friday, July 18, 2014

The Sweetest Light Of Summer


Photo courtesy Flickr

The softly raking light of post-solstice shadows has somehow come early to the block. Usually I become aware of the change the first or second week of August. Rampaging construction has radically altered immediate micro-climates and the growth patterns of established plants.

My favorite way to manage the garden is to spend a day in the hammock observing the interaction of plants and sun. Simply spending time outside generates insights about location and form that bring ease and harmony to the landscape. The plants like being tended. They visibly relax when crowding is relieved and a light spray with the hose washes the city off their leaves. That’s all they need at the moment.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Live With Inventory, Not For It


Photo courtesy Flickr

Waiting for a cab after a party, I could not resist kidding my hostess about her immaculate living room carpet. She mentioned having reconfigured the house for the crowd and how she inconveniences herself with dozens of beloved, fragile knick-knacks. Several of my fellow guests had been talking about downsizing and tiny houses. On the ride home, I visualized an alternative to life in a china shop that allows one to have one’s inventory, eat it as well, and enjoy flexible space that's easy to maintain. The usual middle-class house is a petty version of the Victorian pile that ran on cheap labor and itself copied the single-function rooms of the stately home.

Here’s the deal: buy dozens of medium-sized stationer’s stick-on green dots. Also buy dozens of medium-sized red and yellow dots. Wander around the house posting color-coded dots on discards, dead storage keepers, and rotating storage keepers. Acquire disposal cartons and flap-lid plastic bins and bubble wrap. Get a massive oversupply. Also buy stick-on labels and a bold marker.

Decide which room in the house is going to be the storage area. One on each floor is convenient. Acquire a Metropolitan high-tech wire storage rack on industrial castors. You may want two or three of these things. They’re a labor cost that will double the size of your usable space. Conceal a rack with a flyweight shoji screen (the double-sided model is good value) or by lashing a covering in place with zip ties. I use English rustic wicker garden fencing, but fabric with grommets from a cheap hardware store kit would be good.

Since making decisions about inventory is the hard work, enlist help. It would not be unreasonable to ask a moving company to send a crew. Pack inventory, sans dots, and stow it in its new location. Use archival packing material rather than cheap acidic paper and consider using one size of flap-lid storage bin. Post a bold sign on the wall directing the crew. One of the destinations may be the trunk of the car or the rear of a thrift chain’s truck. Put donations in transparent bags to prevent tragic errors. Label and date everything with stationer’s stickers and a bold marker. When the rooms are clear, dispose of surplus furniture, if any. Use the storage area for redundant furniture that may be wanted a few times a year. Furnish for the number of persons in residence.

Clean, or have someone clean. This kind of rearrangement is like turning over domestic rocks. Define one limited space for display, and set out current favorites. In Japan, the formal display space is called a tokonoma. A traditional Japanese paper house had a fireproof outbuilding called a kura that was used to secure domestic treasures from fire and theft. The kura had nail-studded doors and mud walls that were three feet thick.

The traditional Japanese house was essentially a theater. A Western house has been a museum. Neither theater nor museum exhibits everything all the time. Display behind glass reduces maintenance and the risk of breakage. A full wall of display shelves is one way to give knick-knacks their head-secure with earthquake sticky wax. Open shelves in a room with HEPA filtered air need dusting less often. One simple, elegant, and traditional way to display a small treasure is on the dining table.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Cheap Stuff Is More Expensive


Photo courtesy Flickr

One of the work rooms can use yet one more set of storage shelves on heavy castors. Some fast work with the mouse brought up a web site with a cut-rate version of the food industry powder-coated adjustable wire grid shelving that is the house standard. I could buy a set of shelves for half the price of the others, and they would cost me at least ten times the savings in complexity, confusion, in not being interchangeable, modular, or easily configured, and in lacking a secondary market.

Over the years I have bought, inherited, scrounged, and discarded every variant of utility shelving that the market has offered. Even the assembly time of a cheap unit costs more than the difference in price between it and the Metropolitan line. 

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Defrosting


Good start. Now about that dirty nail...photo courtesy Flickr

The recent discovery of what is feared to be live smallpox virus in an ill-tended biological refrigerator reminds me of the value of cruising the house ridge pole to sump, boundary to boundary once a year. Check inventory for pull dates, off odors, foxing (mildew spots), and other signs of neglect. Gently shake out and reconfigure linen and silk, that will otherwise break along fold lines. Annual inspection serves notice to pests and rodents that someone is indeed paying attention.

If all this seems too much, have less stuff so that you can do right by it. Dormant inventory can turn up lethal surprises, like rusty pesticide cans, ammunition, and black widow spiders.
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More after the jump.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Resurrection Filing System


Photo courtesy Flickr

A geek friend regularly wrestles with a back-risking plastic tub of technical files.  Several conversations down the road, we realized that he could organize and displace those bulky pounds of paper simply by putting them into dead storage or shredding them. All the print-outs came off the net, and though it will cost a few dollars here and there to download fresh versions, the fees will be the cheapest way to rationalize and maintain the storage system. The underlying concept is to use a virtual assistant, a la Timothy Ferris: earn in dollars, spend in a cheaper currency. Automated digital service is cheap indeed and infinitely faster than sorting and processing with highly skilled and educated biological digits. The time saved can be used to prepare healthy, inexpensive meals at home

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More after the jump.