Friday, October 14, 2016

Get In Your Own Way

Domestic humorist Peg Bracken suggests a strategy for housekeeping that is the foundation of my approach. The first few rounds can be trying. Choose a time when the family is away, life support is easy to come by, and you are free to devote more than a day to the process. In I Hate To Housekeep, Bracken suggests tossing the house first thing in the morning, stripping beds, emptying cupboards, and starting whatever else is hanging up easy production under the roof.

Putting things back together generates interesting decisions.

Bracken consciously recommends this strategy to compel finishing the work. I find when I'm literally knee deep in the house, it's easy to identify things that aren't doing a damned thing to earn their keep. The process is like initiating a personal tsunami. The more often it happens, the easier it is to manage. After thirty-six years in the same place, I can reconfigure two rooms single-handed in half an hour.

Secret weapons make it easy to sort live wood from dead. One is the thrift donation bag that lives on one side of the main exit. The other is the toy bank. I kept a collection of covered plastic buckets to house my child's surplus playthings. He was happy to have clear play space in his room knowing that favorite gifts and personal acquisitions waited in the basement. Every month or so he'd sort his collection, surplus things, and fetch old friends from the bank. After a year or two he was happy to share things he'd outgrown -30-

More after the jump.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Value Added

When the chill of autumn truly arrives, I routinely fiddle with the interior. Stagnant inventory interferes with air circulation and compromises energy efficiency, particularly the precious energies of home management. It is always a pleasant surprise to discover that an existing artifact can earn its keep in new ways. 

Over the week-end I adapted emergency evacuation kits to the change in weather, exchanged emergency foods for fresh stock, arranged lighting in response to the dark days to come, and fluffed bedding. Decades of this annual tune-up have produced an essentialist inventory that is as simple to manage as any can be. In spring, I reverse the process.

A generation ago, I realized how depressing it was to own things that were deteriorating on my watch. I shared excess with family and friends, sold a few things, and donated many others. What remains is healthy tissue. Some of it might be wearing out, but it is wearing gracefully. The rest is vintage and getting vintager.

A particular elegance accompanies an interior that is necessary and sufficient -30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Setting up for the cold, damp season gives me time to contemplate upgrading or sometimes downgrading the contents of the house. At times I feel caught in a bind between green and expedient.

Picking up the latest and greatest whatever is worth careful consideration. I weigh the environmental price of, say, a new rice cooker against the environmental price of my time and productive energies.

Great-grandmother's 1870 nickel steel frying pan is the hand's down champion of value. The smallest, lightest, and fastest digital gear comes in second. All the stuff in between is negotiable, particularly if it recycles or can be repaired -30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Every Inch Counts

I first became aware of the value of interior space in the cottage of a friend who was raising her family in downtown San Francisco. As we sat at her kitchen table, also the dining table, I noticed a dish rack hanging on cup hooks over the sink. Barbara observed that in her quarters every cubic inch counted. That's why the table was round.

Recently I realized that shifting furniture half an inch here and there will slash the time it takes to vacuum a space. The relatively minuscule changes will accommodate the floor attachment of my machine -30-
More after the jump.