Friday, February 20, 2015

Everything Counts

Photo courtesy Flickr user Twinkelmans
Recent reading in the fine art of trail running reminded me of the value of stocking basics that have several if not many uses. I used to worry that I might be carrying this line of thinking too far, until a trainer of high-level military for the Rand Corporation reminded me that “there are no small problems”.

I set a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the windowsill over the kitchen sink after I learned that Italian housekeepers use it as a degreaser. It does double duty as a disinfecting agent, replacing commercial products with blood-curdling Material Safety Data Sheets. Vodka or everclear add another function.

Futurist Buckminster Fuller’s first question about an object, including a building, was “How much does it weigh?” Ultra-light backpacker Mike Clelland points out that the thing you don’t carry weighs nothing.


More after the jump.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Air Circulation

Photo courtesy Flickr user ricko2o200
A summer spent without air conditioning in Puerto Rico’s 96 degree heat and 96 percent humidity taught me the value of simple placement to prevent housekeeping problems. Mildew was the enemy at the time. Reasonable air circulation also keeps a room sweet, dignified, and easy to clean. The only difference between a Seattle winter and a San Juan summer is fifty degrees. Careful staging of amenities allows one to conserve heat without endangering inventory.

It has long been good practice to leave an inch or two between clothes hangers, so that things don’t wrinkle in storage. If damp and stagnant air is a factor under the roof, it is doubly important to let textiles hang free to protect them from rotting in place. If it necessary to hang works of art on an exterior wall, set push pins under the bottom corners of the frame so that cool air does not puddle and cause “foxing”, the spots of mildew that all too often disfigure valuable images. Make sure that upholstered furniture stands a few inches free of a wall and of other pieces and that air can circulate at floor level as well.

Crowding an interior crowds life itself. 

More after the jump.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cabin Fever

Photo courtesy Flickr user edrabbit
February is a good time to amp up the infra-red, get some music going, and fine-tune life support systems. It took a mere ten months of gazing at the television to realize that I could clear the top of the cabinet that supports it. Digital broadcast antenna and computer links were cluttering the surface. Electrical cords are the jungle vines of an interior. I was in machete mode after a morning sipping coffee and viewing a broadcast thriller.

One of the secrets of guerilla housekeeping is mounting tape. I just dusted the parts of the system I didn’t want to look at and taped them out of view to the back and side of the cabinet.

A sophisticated extension cord serves that corner of the room. It’s the kind of thing that has surge protection, multiple outlets, and a fancy warranty. I mounted it on the wall behind the cabinet to get the cords out of sight and out of the way of the vacuum cleaner. It’s hard to justify spending the time to tweak a set-up in such a particular way, but long experience has taught me that the gain in elegance is well worth the trouble.

Electronic arrangements are reservoirs of dusty allergens that assault cognition.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Photo courtesy Flickr user swh
Consumer culture makes hunter/gatherers of us all. I have noticed that many people who are troubled by clutter are quick with their hands, an excellent quality that can, to put it mildly, be counter-productive. Here are some suggestions for thinking things through while managing inventory.

Try a scribe’s trick to circumvent the grasping reflex: pick something up with the non-dominant hand. It’s a way to be mindful of acquisition. Understand that to touch an item on offer is the first step in a chain of reflexes that are reinforced all the way to the check-out counter.

I find it helpful to shop once every month or two or twelve for things that won’t decay. The practice allows me to manage money so that I can buy the intelligent goods* that protect cognition and reduce the costs of acquisition: time, travel (one of Mr. Toyota’s “seven wastes”), and lost income from the money spent.

*See Paul Hawken, The Next Economy.

More after the jump.