Monday, May 2, 2016

The End of the Rabbit Hole: the slow and winding conclusion to the hall bench saga

Hopefully this is the last time I will be writing the words “hall bench.”  I wish I could report that I perfectly executed all steps in the process and that everything has its own forever home after the almost three weeks I spent on the project.  I’m not sure this post will illuminate anything other than the actual minutiae that currently occupy my time, but I needed to tie up the ends of the fringed rug I started making when I posted Vexatious Concatenations.  Warning: this rug is a runner and it’s a very, very long hallway.

If you please, pretend we are at the Rest Home for Sufferers of Chronic Disorganization and you volunteer here.  You have come into the main lobby and a bunch of patients like me are waiting in high-backed chairs in bath robes.  I love visitor’s hour because I get to hold your hand and tell you about my possessions, because it helps me move past them.  Maybe my glassy eyes start to come into focus as yours slowly close.  You are lulled into a restful sleep by my murmuring. 

Or, if you prefer, I am a novice magician with a penchant for the city park and I am looking for someone to wander by so that I can practice my tricks for an audience.  You were out taking a walk and sit down on a nearby bench to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and kindly agree to watch me perform, even though it’s about to rain.  This trick is called “How I Failed the 100 Item Challenge.”  I slowly pull the following out of my hat:

  • I staged the stack of large paper grocery bags in my car, but have not yet been to the cat shelter.  I emailed them a month or so ago, before my initial post, and they said they could still use them, so eventually I will go during the day with my son in tow and drop them off. 
I have not been to visit the cats at the shelter in years at this point and our relationship with the two cats we adopted from the shelter has gone downhill, mainly because we resent still having to perform the pet-related cleaning required to have cats and would rather play with our little Bubbs without being interrupted.  Luckily, their presence has fascinated our son, so that helps.

I moved the ribbon cat toys that we never use from the top of the hall bench to a shelf in the same room that already contains other cat items, including a few cat brushes.  This is not the best place for them, but it creates a little gathering of like things and that has to count as progress for now.  I used to count brushing the cats as part of my daily cleaning time, as a sort of preventative maintenance, so that their hair does not wind up ground into the carpet.  I may consider resuming the practice.

Ultimately, I will be glad if the shelter can use the bags, but I realized that the potential use of these bags probably does not justify collecting them and literally tripping over them and shuffling them around for years.  I would probably do a lot more good if I just visited the shelter regularly to play with the cats or if I took the time spent on these paper bags and applied it to playing with my own attention-starved adopted cats.
Angel Baby enjoying the cleared off hall bench.  She enjoyed the stack of paper bags as well, so we can’t trust her opinion.

  • I took the CFL bulb and plastic bags to the chain hardware store where I work and recycled them.  It took a slight burst of effort, but I got it done.  To be fair, I do have a lot to carry into work with me these days (at least my purse, lunch bag and breast pump), but it was not as hard to carry a few extra items by planning ahead.
The bigger problem was probably taking my car to work, as it is full of plastic bags and random items, making it harder to remember what needs to happen.  Now that I work part time and stay home with the baby during the day, I drive the truck to work evenings and weekends and leave my car with Hubbs in case he needs to take the baby somewhere.  Because he recently cleaned out the truck, the bags and bulb came with me inside the building and into the recycling center more easily.

I am also now storing the excess plastic bags inside the bench part of the hall bench so that I don’t have to look at them.  Likewise, my husband’s work supplies, which include various chargers and an iPod are in a plastic bag behind his coat so I don’t have to see the bag itself.  I need to wash a few reusable shopping bags so that he can use something sturdier and better looking.  He agreed to use one of the many we have, provided it is not pink.

  • The leak inspection notice and brush cutting notice went into a box under my desk that contains a pile of papers to file.  I should probably have just filed them or recycled them, but I need to reevaluate my filing system.  I am okay with leaving this task to another day when I am more in the mood for filing.  It sounds like something that will never happen, but I have indeed gotten in the mood to file before.  Having previously accomplished a great deal of filing all it once, I think it made it easier.  When I start in on organizing the sun room, I will tackle them again.
  • I also moved the templates from the family business to my desk.  They smelled a little like machine oil, so I wiped them down before storing them.

These are probably the most important things from the hall bench.  Coats and shoes are very practical, but can easily be replaced.  The templates are an example of things that bring joy to my life and I am happy to have found them a better home. 

My husband wanted to name our son after his great-grandfather (or our son's great-great-grandfather, whose first name he does indeed share) and our trip a few months before our son was born to the business he started was a prerequisite.  We visited his uncle, who works making templates there now, and took a little tour and verified the spelling of the name in question by looking at various official documents.  Hubbs’s uncle let me take a number of templates with me.  Now that they are in my desk, I will be able to look at them more often and could even use them for art projects.  I have recently started coloring and have more art supplies within reach.

  • The grey child carrier will be located in my car in the backseat.  I don’t really go on walks with Bubbs in the carrier anymore, but might use it if it is at hand and I spontaneously decide I don’t want to fool around with the umbrella stroller.  We recently moved our larger stroller to the garage because it was taking up too much space in the front room and it was not practical to keep folding it up or to leave it on the porch.
As a way to further reduce the amount of things taking up floor or couch space in the front room, we will be leaving the car seat in the car from now on.  I thought we could now balance it on top of the hall bench to solve the problem, but it just ended up looking cluttered, like all of the stuff I just moved was still there.  I am hoping to put a framed picture of some sort on the wall above the hall bench instead.

Anyway, now that Bubbs is over 17 pounds, I find it hard to carry the car seat while he is in it.  Hubbs finds it easier to carry the seat but harder to wrangle Bubbs into it while it is in the car.  We agreed that we would try out the new arrangement regardless.  He may not have much longer in the infant seat anyway and now that it is warm, it won’t be mean to leave it out there.

  • The insulated Whole Foods bag, which used to be located in my car, is now back out there.  I left the red bag with a random woman’s name and the farmer’s market lettuce bag and the one I got from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) inside of it. 
I can’t really say any of these will really be that useful, however, especially since our closest food co-op closed in October and that was their main destination.  Maybe I will need to make an effort to use these.  Most of the time, I use the self-checkout at the grocery store and bringing your own bags seems to maximize the hassle.  Perhaps I’ll give it a go again in order to reduce the deluge of plastic bags entering the house.  The insulated bag is especially nice.

  • The folding picnic blanket, which was not folded or zipped, needed a wash, so I washed and dried it and then folded it up.  It went to my car, in case I spontaneously decide to go on a picnic.  I think we used it to watch the fireworks last year, when I was pregnant, and I probably won’t be using it until July 4th this year.  I think it would probably make more sense to store it in the garage, but the garage needs sorted out before I try to stage items there.
  • My husband’s winter coat and the lightweight baby jacket have remained on the hall tree.  It was a little chilly one morning, but I was surprised to see Hubbs wear his winter coat to work, especially since he is usually hot and I am usually cold.  I was getting ready to put it away, but apparently, that was premature.  I put Bubbs in his jacket when we went to the comic shop and library.  Since both coats count as currently in use, they stay.
My winter coat, the heavy baby coats and the insulated car seat cover went into the basement, because I don’t anticipate the weather getting that cold anymore.  If I have to bring a baby coat back up due to inclement weather, I will know where to get them.  I wish I could say I put them in storage, but I don’t have a specific or official place for them.  I will still need to figure this out, so they don’t get dusty or dirty in the off season.  At least they are in a place the cats cannot access, so that I don’t find my coat turned into a hairy cat nest.

I used a lint roller to get all of the light Sassy cat hair off of my black lightweight soccer jacket.  I was going to hang it back up when I realized that I never wear the jacket; I prefer to wear sweaters in the fall and spring or to just be cold, especially if I am not going very far and will not need a coat “just in case” the car breaks down, which was a lesson from my parents. 

I’ve kept the jacket because it is a quasi-sentimental reminder of soccer and it is “perfectly good,” meaning it fits and is not torn up, etc.  I have long since donated the pants, because they tapered at the bottom and did not appreciate that as a teenager.  Since then, I think I would rather have kept the pants, meaning the jacket should probably be donated too. 

I put it the jacket it the basement with the other coats for now, though, because I was too afraid to make a decision.  When I come to cleaning the basement in a little while and confirm that I have not looked for it, I will definitely be more ready to part with it.  Maybe I can keep it at work to wear in case it is raining and I need to bring in shopping carts?

  • My husband’s flannel shirt with a hole in it mysteriously disappeared from the hall bench and I did not ask him about it, because it solved my problem.  I would like to finally bust out the sewing machine I got for Christmas in 2014, however, and attempt to mend it.  Doing so would also help get rid of the things lying on the floor of my closet that need to be mended.  Maybe later?
  • The yellow and brown carrier given to us by neighbor is now firmly my husband’s responsibility, because he accepted it.  We will see if it can be calibrated to work with his large size, because the other carrier is adjusted to fit me and we decided long ago that the grey one was for me, because it was too much of a hassle to try to continuously adjust it. 
  • Hubbs’s help proved invaluable again, because he independently moved a bunch of games to his closet for safekeeping.  Scrabble joined the others until we got it out one night and started a game.  I was looking to enjoy some non-screen time with Hubbs and Scrabble was fresh in my mind.  It was pretty fun, even though our vocabulary clearly suffered due to being tired.  Unfortunately, the game is now in the baby’s crib because we did not manage to finish playing.  Bubbs does not sleep in the crib anymore anyway and I am confident this location is temporary.  At least it has a home now once we wrap up that game!
  • I have put the extra breast pump equipment in a box in the basement and will soon be adding to it the size 1 diapers into which Bubbs no longer fits.  Have you noticed the great exodus of things into the basement?  I can justify this one, though, because I am planning on having more children and may need these items.  Plus, they would be expensive to replace.  I’ve made peace with it for now, but feel free to confront me about it in six or seven years.
  • The Poetry on Record CDs went into their sleeve, which was located in the basement bedroom.  We had been wondering where the discs were and the mystery is now solved.  Their home location is with an appropriate selection of DVDs and other media on a rack of their own. 
  • With permission, I put the eye patch into my husband’s desk.  We bought the eye patch for him as a jaunty way to make difficult discussions between us easier.  It is a compromise between his desire to leave the room, delay the discussion and not make eye contact in heated moments and my desire for close personal contact and an immediate resolution to the problem at hand.  We have since gotten better at communicating, but I still regard it fondly and think its continued availability may be helpful in future.
  • I put the gift bags in the basement with our wrapping paper and Christmas decorations.  I have used gift bags from our stash before and they are especially handy in a pinch when we buy a last minute gift and are too lazy to wrap it.  There is probably a thin line between pragmatic storage of these items and excess, so at some point, I plan on going through them and selecting the best.  I’m sure we will acquire more of these.  At least there is a spot for them now.
  • The umbrella and the cane from Circleville Pumpkin Festival are still leaning to the left.  I very infrequently use the umbrella, because I prefer to get rained on if I am just walking to my car, because the umbrella does not fold up into a neat little package like the one I used to have.  It is, however, more durable as a result, so if I am going to be walking somewhere in the rain, it’s where it should be.  It’s rainbow color makes it easy on the eyes. 
The cane feels like a companion to the umbrella.  I like looking at it and wouldn’t mind getting an antique umbrella stand and a few more canes at the next festival.  I would of course have to win them first.

  • The other cat toys (besides the ribbon toys that you cannot trust them to use on their own) are going to stay to the right of the bench.  It hasn’t been too hard to collect them every day or so and keep them neat and contained.  I have a table saw and would love to make a little toy box for these without a lid, so that the cats still have access to them and they are even more deliberately contained. 
There is nothing under the hall bench, because I moved it out and vacuumed under it and removed the cobwebs from the wall behind it as well.  It was a lot lighter than I thought, despite its being real wood, and I could easily do it again for maintenance cleaning, which is a good example of something that was harder to do in my head than in reality. 

I left it a little further out from the wall so that we could store the frame for the baby’s Jolly Jumper behind it out of sight, which means another wall in the house is not occupied by it.  The gloves I found behind there are now reunited with the other winter gloves and hats in the basement.

  • The plastic tarp is an integral part of the hall bench, as it is spread out inside the bench to catch any dirt or residual moisture from the shoes (which we try to dry out first anyway).  The pair of leather thong sandals are still in there, because I will use them shortly, once its warmer.  My purple shoes and old tennis shoes are still frequently used and Hubbs’s and my work shoes have the right to be there as well.  Hubbs’s old shoes may stay by the back door for use in taking out the trash and similar.  My new sandals are in use and I prefer to keep them in the bedroom.


I think it took me longer to write this post than it did to actively take care of the items themselves.  No wonder no one blogs like this!  I wanted to do something differently, to show my inevitable struggle with what I’m doing, not just the glorious end result complete with a set of tips for replicating my success.  I wanted to show the practical considerations of what it would mean to literally process every single item on or around the hall bench and was not able to anticipate the sheer volume of stuff I would have to deal with. 

Reading it over, I think I more or less fail in practice as a minimalist.  I kept a lot and shifted it around and postponed a number of decisions, and you can be certain I will never win a minimalist competition of who owns the fewest things.  Maybe I could be called a minimalist in training.  I feel like I am doing warm-up exercises for a marathon.

That said, a friend recently mentioned how good the area looked when I mentioned I was posting about the hall bench.  When I was taking a final picture of it, before the sun went down, I felt relieved.  I’m not used to the feel of the space yet, though.  Once the sun went down, the hall bench looked a little bare, especially after being used to a mountain of unrelated things.  In some ways, the pile of stuff was comforting: it represented not having to think about it, not having to maintain it at all.  After a few days, the streamlined appearance seems normal.  I have even started to sit on the bench to put on my shoes.

The unintentional consequence of all of this (this…nonsense? analysis? torture? progress?) is that my plans for the room have come to life.  I notice more about the room because it is emptier and closer to where I want it to be.  More space visually has provided me with more space to think, but it also means that there are very literally fewer things in my way.  My goals for the room are within reach, and that's a much more interesting place to be.  I can’t wait to share more of my plans next post!

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