Gifts and Garbage Angst: November 23rd, 2014

When Mike and I first moved (back) here to Nova Scotia (for him there was no “back” – it was all new) we experienced a lot of garbage angst.  In Montreal, when one was finished with an item, into the trash it went.  Oh, sure, there was recycling for hippies, but for the most part anything went…into the garbage.

Suddenly we were expected to sort paper products into blue translucent bags, cans/bottles/plastic into a separate blue translucent bag, and then we had one black garbage bag and up to a maximum of 3 clear garbage bags.  Compost (well, items that would become compost, to be technical here) went into a large green bin.  If it was not done correctly, garbage could be rejected.  Rejected garbage is no joke when it’s only picked up every other week.  Some careless folk have even gotten TICKETS from the garbage police.

I remember peering anxiously out of our window, the first time the truck stopped in front of our house.  I called Mike at work to announce that we’d been triumphant: no shameful orange sticker for us, we were garbage geniuses.

Not everywhere in this province is exactly the same, however, and recently Halifax talked about transitioning to the “only one black garbage bag” system.  People freaked out.  And rightly so.  It’s not so much that I cheat (seriously – I can feel the garbage police watching me, day or night) but that it is much harder to sneak crap out from under your kids’ noses when the bag is clear.

Broken truck but the black bag is full?  Wailing, trailing toddler on garbage day.

Doll missing an eye but full black bag again?  Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

I’ve been known to give up and root out a toy from where I had tried to shield it between legitimate garbage.  Unfortunately, paper is best for hiding stuff but it’s over there in the blue translucent bag.

Which brings me to today’s topic.  Fascinatingly, however, it is not actually toys I am ridding us of.  No, not toys, but the other mountain of stuff children generate: gifts.  From yard-sale treasures for Christmas to gifts lovingly made from noodles and spray paint, 3 children equals a lot of gift-giving bulk.

Don’t think I’m harsh.  I’ve squirrelled away enough treasures from each of our lovelies to hold my own yard-sale.  In the abstract, they’d probably even agree to such a sale.  In the specific, however, their hearts would be broken.  And so, the items shall not be named.  I’m going to keep the love, the intentions, and the moments they gave their creations (or discoveries) to me.  I just can’t keep up with the volume!

Day 23 Scorecard: 115 down, 1715 to go

Clara is at a sleepover.  She wanted to make sure we knew she would miss us.

The See-if-you-even-remember-it Trick: November 22nd, 2014

Most days, I know what I’m going to write about long before I ever sit down at the computer.  Most days.  Today is not one of those days. Today is the day I slept in until noon (no judgement, please) and needed a nap after supper.  Needless to say, I did not spend a whole lot of time sifting through the heaps of flotsam the waves of my life have deposited throughout this house. Fortunately, I have a small bag of crap I gathered from my dresser that will “go 5Down” as we’ve begun to say in this house.

About a year ago, as I’ve previously mentioned in this blog, we had a small (but still devastating) flood in our basement.  It was a sump pump malfunction so insurance kicked in to gear.

The day of the flood, the clean-up crew camp to our house and mopped, wiped, and set up giant dehumidifiers that ran, steady, for several days.  Man, those things are loud.

Along with the interruption, the damage, and the destruction, the flood brought something else: embarrassment.  We mostly live on the upper floor of our bungalow, and the basement is where we store stuff (even this flood will never convince me to change this around.  Living in a basement is not my idea of fun).  The sheer amount of crap that had to be thrown out, dried out, or tossed out was absolutely insane.  I found myself apologizing to the insurance guy “I don’t know where it all came from!  We look like hoarders!”  the clean-up crew paused and gave each other, and then us, a look.  “You are not hoarders,” they said “trust us, you are not hoarders.  We go into basements that we can’t even walk into.  Sometimes the doors won’t even open there is so much stuff in there.”

Nonetheless, the flood certainly prompted us to purge some of our belongings.  And, in a very few cases, caused us to replace items (a new tent, for instance).  For the most part, however, nothing that we got rid of has been missed.

Which brings me to an anecdote about certain sisters I know.  One loved to have her room neat as a pin and nearly devoid of belongings.  If something was placed on a shelf in that room, you can be sure it had been carefully considered and had passed muster.  The other sister, however, never met a thing she couldn’t love and treasure.  Her room was full of fun and chaos.  Often she needed to make paths through the stuff just to make it to her bed.  The sisters grew up and one year the accumulator went away for a year.  The austere sister took on a project.  She went to her sister’s room and took out everything she thought her sister could easily live without.  She told her sister, before her return, that the project went like this: all of the accumulator’s treasures were in several garbage bags, neatly placed in the austere sister’s room.  The accumulator was not allowed to look into any of the bags, but if she could name anything that was missing from her room, the austere sister would return it to her.  The bags were never emptied, or even opened to my memory.

It sounds like an allegory, but it’s true (so far as I can recall…one or both of the sisters may correct me on this).  It’s an interesting proposition, too.  If someone were to remove all the “stuff” from your home, how much of it would you miss? Could you describe it?  Could you specifically ask for each piece of it back?

Day 22 Scorecard: 110 down, 1715 to go


Flinging out Footwear: November 21st, 2014

Footwear.  Before I started this blog, I did a footwear purge and therefore, I was concerned that I would not have enough pairs of footwear to fulfil the daily quota.

That was before I wore these shortie boots to work this week:

Shortie boots

The tell-tale heart of the footwear world. So much agony!

Even though that is a terrible photo, I think you’ll likely agree there is nothing overwhelmingly WRONG with these boots.

They are comfortable, not too ugly, and rather suitable for work.  But they squeak.  They squeak and they creak and they make me absolutely bonkers.  You know, in the movies, when someone hears a particular sound that terrifies/irritates/threatens them everything else fades away until that sound is the only sound left and the person just entirely loses it?  That is those boots.  And me.

Next up: my first “real” pair of running shoes.  The shoes that made me realize that running doesn’t have to hurt (your feet, at least). Dreamy, cushy, lovely shoes.  Until I ran the living daylights out of them and then they were just like running with wooden shoes on (I guess.  I haven’t tested this theory and I have no plans to).

You were fun, for a time.

Great for running and green stains attest to the lawn-mowing for which they worked very well after they were through being useful for running. So long, fine friends.


Next up: the “good deal” sneakers.  Yes, I got them on sale.  I don’t remember the price, but it was great.  I figured a shoe is a shoe is a shoe.  No.  If you’re planning to run more than to the fridge, good footwear is essential.  I limped through two months in these and now they are gonzo and I don’t even care (which doesn’t explain why I didn’t just immediately toss them).  I mean, they’re not worn out, they just hurt me…


Shoes of temptation: I will not fall for your low price again!

By the way, dear readers, this is neither an endorsement for Nike (top) or a condemnation of Asics (bottom).  I’m currently running in Brooks.  I don’t have loyalties, I have picky feet that are shaped like weird triangles.  Find your own best shoes.

Next up the boots-I-got-for-clearance-prices-that-don’t-actually-fit.  They’re too small.  Just barely, but they are too small.  But they’re so CUTE!  If I wore these for longer than 10 minutes I’d probably need to have them surgically removed.  Are your feet just shy of a size 8?  Wanna pair of boots?


Why can’t I magically shrink my feet? WHY!?!

And finally, the cunning little tan pumps.  I spent a lot of time, several months ago, trying to find a pair of tan shoes that would be “neutral” instead of my “neutral” golden shoes (no, they’re far from neutral, but they go with everything…).  These fit 2 of the 3 criteria: 1. They’re cute, 2. they fit…but 3. they hurt like heck.  I am not like my daughter from whom we needed to hide her pretty shoes as soon as she’d outgrown them to prevent her from wearing them in spite of bloody ankles.  Thankfully she’s old enough now  at least to coat her ankles in bandaids until we notice and confiscate them (the shoes, that is, not her ankles).

Just not cute enough to bleed over (in?)

Just not cute enough to bleed over (in?)

Day 21 Scorecard: 105 down, 1720 to go


November 20, 2014

Bedroom Transformation: November 20th, 2014

Long time readers of this blog (just kidding – I’m on day 20, there is no such thing as a long-time reader of this blog, except maybe Vicki who has been entirely dedicated from day 1 and is working hard on collecting points to redeem for..um…my undying gratitude) will remember that part of the entire point of this endeavour is to cut down on big jobs by doing little bits each day.  Like 5 things per day, say, instead of going hog-wild and needing to attack a room.

I’m not saying Mike is a bully, but I’m not NOT saying Mike is a bully.  He made me clean all the crap off my dresser tonight so he can take photos of our bedroom furniture so we can get rid of it.  He has no humanity.

Alas, I’m forced to admit that there is a method to his mean-guy madness.  We’ve bought a new bed with drawers.  I know what you’re thinking “gosh!  A bed with DRAWERS!!!  I’ve wanted one of those since I was a KID!”  And I am agreeing with you 100%.  It is kind of exciting, but preparing to transition from the furniture we have right now is a lot of effort and it really interferes with my daily after-work habit of mind-numbing laziness.  Thank goodness there is no chance of this becoming a daily routine.

It is very tough when one becomes so inspirational that one’s student (aka Mike) begins to outstrip the master herself (me – why, who were you thinking?) in dedication to the task of purging.  Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and with great power and all that.

Day 20 Scorecard: 100 down, 1725 to go


November 19th

What To Do With Old Pill Bottles: November 19th, 2014

Some of this crap is just really, really boring.  There are seriously just piles of stuff.  Why does this even happen?  Old keys, for instance.

Tonight we found 2 keys to a house Mike’s parents no longer own, a bike lock that was cut off a bike (hopefully not because I had the key and no one could find it) and a key to a non-existent safe.  Why did I keep these?  Sometimes things, I think, feel too closely connected to the function they once had.  There is so much a key represents (or not having a key, misplacing it, finding it, being given a key for the first time…) it can be hard to let go.  I know these 4 keys are not the only useless keys in this house, but tonight they are the only ones I can bear to part with.

In other news, tonight was a learning experience.  I am trying to do things the “right” way  (whatever that is) because I feel a certain responsibility to purge properly as long as I’m doing it so very publicly.  I had always thought there was no special reason to bring pill bottles back to the pharmacy once they’re empty.  I do know that old, expired medication or bottles of liquid meds that are not empty but have some leftovers are best disposed of at the pharmacy.  However, every time I’d peeled a label off an old pill bottle and toss it into plastics recycling, I felt a twinge of guilt.  I thought I was probably doing it wrong and ruining things for everyone.

Tonight I had to pick up some meds, so I took back 2 old pill bottles and presented them.  The pharmacist said “oh yes, we just peel off the labels and toss them into recycling.”

So lesson learned: as long as there is nothing remaining in the bottle, into recycling it goes.  Guilt free!

Now you know.  5Down: hard-hitting investigative journalism.

Day 19 Scorecard: 95 down, 1730 to go

November 18th, 2014

Need vs Want, Spend vs Save: November 18th, 2014

Sometimes this blog feels a little embarrassing: look at the stupid crap I bought!  Look at the idiotic decisions I’ve made!  Look how little thought I give to things!  Look how I let stuff accumulate!  Look how many exclamation marks I can put into one paragraph!

A daisy stencil?  Seriously? This is the type of stupid purchase I like to call the “with all the money you save, you can take a trip to Cuba!” impulse buy.  I bought the daisy stencil because it was at Frenchy’s and therefore cost about fifty cents, say, 1/10th of what it would usually cost.  Hooray.  However, in my apparent joy at scoring such a hot deal, I did not stop to consider the following things:

1. Did I need a daisy stencil?

2. Will I ever need a daisy stencil?

3. Would I ever buy a new daisy stencil?

4. To what use will I put a giant stencil that I do not now, or ever, have plans to use and that I only bought because it cost about 1/10th of the price of a new one?

If I’d taken a few moments to consider, I would have realized that I was not saving any money by buying something more cheaply than it could be purchased elsewhere because I did not have any need or use for it in the first place.

Therefore, I did not save $4.50, I SPENT  $0.50.

Much like “with all the money you save, you can take a trip to Cuba,” unless you have totally solid plans to purchase X and you find it for a far lower price than what you had intended to spend, you are not, in fact, saving any money.  And in any case, if you found such a great deal, why not enjoy finding such a great deal rather than hold yourself to the promise of spending such a huge amount of money?  Put that “extra” money back in your wallet, your bank account, your RRSP, or your mattress!  That is the ONLY way you will truly save money.

That’s it for this edition of “don’t be stupid like me!”

(you’re welcome).

Oh, and if you’re just desperate to take that trip to Cuba, at least spring for 2 tickets and invite me along, m’kay?

Day 18 Scorecard: 90 down, 1735 to go.


Tree-planting Tales: November 17th, 2014

Today I headed to the storage room for inspiration, and cracked open a box of “stuff” my mother had delivered from her attic.  By “stuff” I mean enormous boxes full of things I stashed in her attic over the years.  I looked through essays from elementary school and pictures from junior high. Then I came across a fanny pack and I died inside a little.

I had honestly forgotten that I had ever owned a fanny pack.  I had also forgotten I’d ever set foot in Chetwynd, British Columbia, until I opened up the secret back compartment and discovered a receipt from a store in Chetwynd. It was from the good old days of actual cash register receipts – the ones you could see an imprint on and just a name and then a bunch of numbers.  Unlike today’s receipts, it was only about 2 inches long and it contained two items.  Now every receipt contains a complete description of the purchased items.  I almost need to take a separate bag to contain my grocery receipts.

Also, of mild interest, I found a sticker from a box of trees.  Ah, the nostalgia.  The good old days of slogging through the interior of both British Columbia and Alberta.  Much like running, I was never anywhere near being a pro at tree-planting.  Unlike running, though, there were no real side benefits unless you count stoicism and a pile of great “I can’t believe I did that” stories.

One of my favourites wasn’t even my own, but I got to hear it about it mere seconds after it happened.  There was a certain young man from Williams Lake, BC, who just happened to be a star tree-planter*.  He’d plant with whatever crew he liked and quadruple the planting rate of the next fastest planter.  When I asked him, one day, what his secret was, he spoke out of the corner of his mouth while the other corner clenched a dirty hand-rolled cigarette (forbidden on the sites, but he was magic so he never got in trouble) “it’s all about economy of movement.”  Great words to live by.

In any case, one particular day we were planting at a site that was “a burn.”  After the place had been logged (many years earlier) a controlled burn was used to clear the remaining brush.  This “block” had obviously been burned years earlier, as significant regrowth had happened.  By regrowth I do *not* mean that trees were starting to regrow.  That takes ages and moves in very slowly from the edges to the centre.  In this case, what was growing was Fireweed.  If you’ve never seen Fireweed, you can take it from me (or wikipedia) that it is rather a lovely sight to behold.  Wikipedia also contains the crucial bit of info that it can grow to 8′.  I would argue that 8′ is not the uppermost limit.

The block, that fine summer’s day, was entirely covered in a gloriously dense field of beautiful purple Fireweed. It was gorgeous…and dreadful. If you have ever been tree-planting, you will know that economy of movement is not the only ‘economy’ in the forefront of everyone’s mind.  No one would subject themselves to volunteer tree-planting.  The idea, then, is to plant just enough trees to fit the required density.  Too many trees and you won’t make as much money, too few trees and you’ll have to go back and fill in**.  This is achieved by learning to eyeball the exact number of metres required between trees in a complete circle.  Therefore, it is extremely important to know where the other trees have been planted.

Remember the Fireweed is up there, swaying in the breeze (think: tall, thin stalks), 8′ high.  The baby trees are generally somewhere around 9-12″ tall.  This is where flagging comes in.  On this particular block, it was necessary to flag each tree (well, to flag the closest giant Fireweed stalk) so you could have a clue where your previous row was.  Even with all this added work, it was still frustrating and nearly impossible to keep even.  People would double back on their own previously-planted lines, or end up in the middle of someone else’s area.  It was a draining day.

The previously mentioned Star Planter did not come by his method by chance.  He had learned about his economy of movement strategy by his adherence to single-minded focus. That day he was a study in fierce concentration and he still planted at lightning speed.  He was like a man possessed.  I was planting next to him (well, on those rare moments when he’d pass me doing another 12 rows whilst I laboured through my first, but you get the idea).

So fierce was his focus, it was rather a shock to me when I was bagging up (ie: placing a new whack of trees into my tree-planting bags (here are some visuals if you really want to know)) and I looked up to see Star Planter running toward me with no shovel.

The interior of British Columbia and Alberta is not overly inhabited.  By humans, that is.  It is, however, happily and abundantly inhabited by all manner of wildlife.  Depending upon the organization with whom one planted, various means of protection were given to planters (I should note, however, that at least when I was planting, back in the late 90s, it wasn’t usually the wildlife that injured, maimed, or killed planters, it was usually the crazed driving on old, washed out logging roads and the multitude of ensuing bus/truck accidents).  I seem to recall that this crowd required bear spray (which is like mace on crack).

Star Planter had not had time to use any type of protection or deterrent, however.  He explained that he’d been manically crashing through the Fireweed, planting up a storm and flagging everything in sight when he suddenly, without any warning, ended up face-to-face with a bear.  “What did you DO?!?!”  I asked.  “I ran!” he said.  He ditched his shovel, spun on his heel, and took off toward the edge of the block, running as fast as his legs could take him.

There is an old joke about bears: you don’t need to be able to out-run a bear, you only need to be able to out-run your hiking companions. No one can outrun a bear.  Not even a superstar planter.  It seems the poor bear was simply minding his own business when a CRAZY GUY suddenly got all UP IN HIS FACE with noise and weird smells and flagging tape and the bear had the same thought.  Run. Interestingly, the bear chose exactly the same route as Star Planter (no doubt because it was the clearest path, having just been mashed into oblivion on super planter’s way into the block).

Star Planter said within seconds the bear nearly knocked him over, did not pause, and tore off into the woods, never to be seen again. Star Planter coasted to a walk and carried on to where he saw me bagging up.

And then he smoked a cigarette.  Later he planted more trees.  The end.

Who knew a ridiculous fanny-pack could generate such a (fond?) memory.

Day 17 Scorecard: 85 down, 1740 to go

* I forget his name.  Sorry.  I went out planting on my own so we had zero mutual friends and this was about 20 years ago.  What can you do?

** unless you’re being paid per tree, in which case you get absolutely the maximum amount of trees per square inch you possibly can cram in there.