Friday, November 30, 2012

Fitzrovians' first book review

Today I'm reviewing Simpler Living : a back to basics guide to cleaning, furnishing, storing, decluttering, streamlining, organizing, and more by Jeff Davidson.  It's one of the books I took out of the library the other day to give me some hints and inspiration for my tidy-up procedures.

I'll start out by saying I don't consider myself a minimalist by any means.  I like stuff.  "Simpler" living is my goal, but I can't live the Shaker lifestyle.  And don't get me started on feng shui.  I think feng shui, according to the popular wisdom of modern interior design,  is like the unicorns I used to draw when I was in fifth grade.  Some of them had wings, some had rainbow horns, some had beards and some had tiny, dainty feet like ballerinas.  There is no one feng shui.  It has become a magical concept variously interpreted by contemporary weenies that was adapted from actual ancient lore.

That said, I think that Simpler Living isn't bad, but it's kind of overwhelming.  It has simplifying ideas for everything!!!!!  The title alone should be a hint that simplifying isn't so simple.  There are a massive amount of bullet points for every idea.  On a side note, I was also disturbed by the inclusion of a (non-captioned) photo of a basket of toys that included three teddy bears and two Gollywog dolls.  WTF?

I want to keep reading about this subject, for the same reasons as before.  I said once in a previous blog entry that this subject has become my version of porn. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Post Vacation Slack

I'm getting back to my old pace before a week ago,  but it's been hard.  I've been recovering from losing my voice, which is still pretty bad.  I had a cold over a 1 1/2 weeks ago and I've been feeling fine but the voice started to go right before the holiday.  Last night after getting home my first order of business was to hurt my back so badly that I needed to lie down immediately, which also hurt.  It happened just as I was bending down to look into a storage box, so I barely had to do a thing to ruin myself.  My back hurt through most of today, so I decided to take it easy.

I did, however, do some critical cleaning work.  I'd been putting off cleaning off a shelving unit in my garage so I did that today.  None of the things on it were very heavy but I managed to get rid of a lot of stuff on it that had been collecting for a few months.  I still kept the box of bonsai supplies though.  Dylan and I started a bonsai hobby when we first moved in together in 1997 and we just held onto the rocks and fancy planter and other things.  I think I'll give it another go.  2013 will be my bonsai achievement year.

Finally heard from the college that's taking my donation of Dylan's books, they are coming Friday!  I am so glad that students will be learning from these books in a matter of weeks.  Speaking of which, there's already a wonderful collection that Caitlin McGurk is organizing at Ohio State University in Dylan's name.  Check out their blog about the Girl Scouts coming to visit and learn how to do their own comics!  I was a Scout once, I would have loved to have this kind of field trip.

I found this photo of me from my early years, cleanin' of course.  A Cinderella story, outta nowhere. 
La Vida Limpia

Thursday, November 22, 2012


It's Thanksgiving day and I'm waiting for my sister and her partner to come and get me so we can converge on other family members in a third location.  I wanted to check into my blog while I have a minute.

I only remembered a few days ago that I haven't really consulted any books about cleaning or organizing since I began this struggle.  I've looked at a few websites and recalled some common wisdom but haven't taken an academic approach to this thing yet.  I went to my library's website and put a couple books on hold to get started:
  1. Leeds, Regina.  The Complete Idiot's Guide to Decluttering. 
  2. Davidson, Jeff.  Simpler living : a back to basics guide to cleaning, furnishing, storing, decluttering, streamlining, organizing, and more. 
I already had 13 books on hold so I couldn't add any more after these two.

I don't think I'm going to learn a lot of surprises.  I really just want some inspiration.

Speaking of which, here's a show I really liked that I don't think is on anymore: How Clean Is Your House?  It originated in England, and then it became a program on American cable with the same two sassy ladies.  I know mine isn't even close to what they've seen, but right now it's in a state. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Every day in every way...

...things are getting better and better, said John Lennon to Sean.  Here's a corner I worked on for about two hours this afternoon.  Does it show?
I had to crop it, you can see in the lower right a portion of a porno-graphic novel that I culled from the Bad Apple's stock.  Whoopsie!

You can see some of the great art I've got downstairs.  The piece in the yellow frame is a painting by my friend Sean Christensen A.B.T.  I made it a note on my to-do list to start finding frames for prints and think about moving my art around again. 

I'm reading one of the latest novels by Juliet Marillier, Shadowfell.  She usually does fantasy fiction that takes place in more or less a real time and place in history, but this seems to be pure fantasy.  I like it but it's more on the juvenile side of her genre.  I've read all of her writing so far and I have another of her new works on hold at the library, where it's getting processed as a new book.  I'm in it to win it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just because

I don't have a lot to say today.  I just wanted to drop in, mainly.  I've been feeling great these last couple days.  I think it has something to do with the beautiful fall weather we've been having.

I did a little sorting out of the laundry room, where I've been keeping a lot of movies.  How do you reattach a label from a dvd box when it's fallen off?  I seem to have a lot of those to fix.  I made a box of stuff to take to Free Geek.  I feel like I'm making custom gift baskets for celebrity award show swag every time I go downstairs.

I decided that it's in my best interests to give things away to charity than to make huge efforts to sell them, unless they seem like a sure thing.  My time is too valuable to plan the future life of every object I have.  I decided a long time ago that unless it's beautiful, or of real sentimental value, or very useful, then it doesn't need to take up space in my home.  Function over form and all that.  I can't hold onto everything waiting for the perfect time to have a garage sale.  My sanity is most important right now, not making five bucks in my driveway or putting every little tchotchke on eBay.

Did I mention that I'm making my bed every morning now?  For most of my life I rarely bothered, but I do it now right after I get up.  It's a nice habit that came out of my new quest for neatness.  I read a book about changing habits recently: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.  It says that changes to one habit lead to other positive changes, and this is an example.  I'm also trying to keep my kitchen cleaner and my refrigerator stocked.  I also make a hot breakfast every morning.  By that I mean oatmeal and fruit.  Maybe the breakfast thing came before the bed making though.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What's behind the mask

Things have come a long way and I'm willing to give myself credit, but there's always another mountain to climb.  Here is a picture of that mountain.  The photos I had taken a few days ago concealed what's going on on the far wall of the room: all these books and magazines.  I think I'm going to get radical with this area.  I'm not going to reveal what I mean yet, but I promise I won't set any fires.

Someday, it would be nice to have a roommate.  I'm not ready for one, but even if I was he or she couldn't move in.  There's too much upstairs that might have to come down here, and there's not enough room still.

While cleaning tonight though, I cleaned up an item I found on the street a long time ago that should help me sort a few treasures:
It was filthy, but now it's on a shelf holding art supplies.  I came up with a new tip: If you can fit a container on a shelf that will hold things that you normally put in a unit that sits on the floor, go with the shelf thingy.  Freeing floor space will free your mind.  Every time I get something off the floor for good I feel ten times better.

I'm having another brainwave about having a garage sale or combining efforts with my mom in a couple weeks and bringing things up to Olympia to sell in her sale.  She has a better garage.  But, I would pay in time and gas traveling up to Oly, and I'd have to hold onto the things for longer.  Those Freakonomics guys should do a study on all the reasoning I am putting into where and when I disperse my possessions.

Black Snake Moan

Part of the problem of being married to someone who saved everything is that when it comes time to take inventory of what's around, I can't tell what parts belong to what.  Over the years we had a number of dvd & video devices, both for home use and portable, and there are a million cords and chargers and coaxial cables and carrying cases that are piling up.  I know some of them will go to Free Geek, but I'm making a big stack of whatever I find so I can be sure to have what I need "just in case".  I made a shelf in the laundry room just to collect all the technical stuff I don't know what to do with yet.  It's a big black snaky mess.  I found two old cameras I didn't know existed, and one case between them.  I guess I should take comfort in the fact that if the VCRs and such that I used currently are working properly then I don't need more cables to support them.  I did find a remote control for a laser disc player I had given to a friend months ago, I should see if she wants that.  It had a dried up spider sticking to it, ugh!

That brings me to another facet of this job that I dislike, and that's the fact that there are spiders, and occasionally centipedes, in the basement.  I can't stand them, I have a phobia.  It's one reason why I'm going so slowly, I anticipate ahead that there are going to be pests living in the boxes and shelves I need to empty.

Now I'm going to change the subject to something more pleasant - let's watch Eric Burdon of the Animals.  Introduced by the immortal Otis Redding!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

St. Crisp, or, I'm So Glad You Asked

Someone asked me today about the title of my blog and I never really thought to explain it before.  It started out as a different kind of blog, you see, and as I told my friend today I kept the name because I don't want anyone else to use it.

This is Quentin Crisp:
He wrote several books, among them was a memoir called The Naked Civil Servant.  It's about his life as an openly gay young man in London at a time when homosexuality was illegal in England.  The title of my blog is adapted from a line from this book.  Fitzrovia was a bohemian part of London, where notables like Virginia Woolf once lived, and where Quentin hobnobbed with his friends. 

Here's another photo of Quentin, a still from a great movie called Orlando (based on the novel by Ms. Woolf):
His career seemed to really take off in his old age, with writing and acting and spoken word performances galore.  He was working past his 90th birthday.  How amazing is that?

There were two movies made about him, and John Hurt played him in both, three decades apart: The Naked Civil Servant and An Englishman in New York.  You can borrow them both from the Multnomah County Library!

Friday, November 9, 2012


I'm so thrilled, you can really see the floor in my new photos!  And those piles of boxes?  Disappearing as we speak, because I'm finally using them up.  I still have a conundrum about getting rid of some furniture, as well as a number of lamps that I don't yet have a use for.  They're kind of heirlooms though, I don't want to say goodbye yet.
So far my blog experiment has been an unqualified success.  I'm really following through on the cleanup downstairs and up, and seeing a big change.  There's a long way to go yet but I'm not down about it anymore. I have a different perspective on the manageability of my stuff and the process.

Having this blog to get people to witness this project has got me thinking about other ways I could use blogging to change some of the things I do, or to accomplish goals that I want to achieve.  I don't need an audience for every single thing, but having one in this case really worked.

Here's another view:
Now you can pay attention to the art on the walls instead of the forest of clutter that was there!  I know it's not perfect, but baby steps and all.

I've been reading a book called 9 Highland Road, by Michael Winerip.  My therapist recommended it to me, because I'm interested in reading about mental illnesses.  It's about a group living home for mentally ill folks who are trying to acclimate to life outside psychiatric hospitals.  The actual house is located in a small town on Long Island.  It's about some of the individuals that lived there, as well as their counselors and their experiences getting along in the community.  There's nothing like reading this to let me know that my problems are small.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Another Beer Please

I finally caved and rented Game of Thrones from Movie Madness last night.  I have it on hold at the library but I'm about #350 of 500 holds, and that's for season one.  Everything people have been telling me about it has turned out to be absolutely true: massive amounts of female toplessness, sex and violence, plenty of gore.  And that's just in the first 15 minutes of episode one!  Peter Dinklage is great as ever.  I'm not sure why there isn't more male nudity.  If HBO has a nudity quota, there should be yin and yang.  Behinds almost don't count anymore, after everything we've had to view on NYPD Blue on network TV years ago.

I was away for a while over the weekend but I made up for it last night by assembling the wooden shelves I had repaired.  I put them in the laundry room.  I've already got a call in to Salvation Army to get some furniture I don't want.  I can't understand why you need to schedule pickups a couple weeks ahead, but it gives me time to add to the giveaway quantity.  I also can't understand why a simple do-it-yourself pine shelving set is so hard to get to fit together correctly.  I KNOW it's not because I hit it with my car, because I've had this problem before with another, identical shelf.

Things are looking pretty good in the basement, it's almost time for another update photo.  I've extended  my efforts to include the laundry room.  I had a bittersweet moment last night when moving a shelf and sweeping; I found some of Dylan's underwear and socks that had fallen behind the dryer long ago.  I washed them today, and put them in a collection of special things of his I'm keeping.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Getting to be a little much

I'm doing a few clean-y sort-y things tonight so that I can get them out of the way before I spend the day doing fun comic-y things tomorrow.  I repaired a pine storage shelf, the kind you can take apart that usually comes in a kit, which I had repeatedly rammed with my car in the garage until the slats started to splinter.  It was uncharacteristically lazy of me to leave it in the garage in the first place, and even worse when I realized that it was kind of in the way of the car.  I was waiting until there was more room elsewhere to move it, now I spent a bunch of time gluing and weighting down and such.  This is was a good lesson to learn.  Now it's almost as good as new. 

I've been going through those little white storage boxes on the shelves and figuring out which contents to keep.  As I said in a much earlier post, this is a process.  I want to keep a lot of my craft supplies, but I don't need quite so many of the same thing, say, a whole handful of chopsticks.  I'm glad that different people staff the donation stations at SCRAP because I think they must wonder where I'm coming from with all of these random office and art supplies.  I unearth something new every day.

Now I've decided to streamline the shelves in the basement, so I'm sticking to the white plastic boxes.  I'm addicted to containers, but too many sizes and colors add to the messy look.

I'm questioning even more my attachment to things as I handle them.

Here's a little tip: the shoebox size containers I have are great for photo storage!  I can't believe I havdn't thought of it before.  For years I had an orange and green box from Target that was made to hold pics, but I decided to retire it.  Orange and green?  What was I thinking?  I'm proud to be Irish American but the colors of the Irish Republican flag offend my eyes when it comes to decorating.