Sometimes I think WordPress has a surveillance camera on my life! How else would they know that my world is entirely chaos at the moment while I, in my natural state, am an extremely organized person? It so happens that I’ve just moved home and home business 35 miles away into a new rental. A normal move is somewhat chaotic. Add to that the fact that our home business is an online used book (and music and whatnot) store called Scholar and Poet Books. (Find us on Facebook or Ebay!) In our inventory and in our rental home, we have AT LEAST 25,000 books. Being quite the ambitious, self-sufficient types, we thought we could move those ourselves over a two-month period. We’re also over 50, both of us. And most of those books were in the attic, 3 flights of stairs up from the curb. Long story short, we had to hire professionals to help us pack up and move the last 285 boxes of books, each weighing roughly 50 lbs. Now all of that is in our new home, and we’re unpacking and organizing. Another yuuuuge task. *sigh* But our new place is gorgeous, a ranch-style house with only one flight of stairs (down to the basement), on land owned by the Conservation Foundation for which I work. I am not complaining! I’m just sharing what a bit of chaos is like — interesting, challenging, exhausting, stimulating. Here’s a gallery of our old place:
We are heading into the biggest retail season of the year, so I want to take this opportunity to invite you to consider mindfully and gracefully your relationship to….stuff. How do your buying habits impact the planet? Where do you shop? Where do the businesses you support get their resources? What do you do with stuff you don’t want anymore? How do you share what you have?
The resources that are expended on the manufacture, trade and transportation of goods on a global scale are staggering and crippling for our planet. It’s hard to imagine the impact that one shopper has in the whole of that web, but to make ethical and moral choices is the responsibility and joy of citizenry on Earth. You get to live out your values each day. That is the difference you make.
Now, I recognize that the urge to buy things can be deeply entrenched in complex psychological motivators, and I’m not about to claim any authoritative understanding of that. I just know that I don’t have a “shopper’s personality”. I don’t get excited about buying things or receiving material gifts. (This was an enigma to my husband, may he rest in peace, who really enjoyed giving me presents.) I do enjoy using something up completely and never replacing it if possible, finding new ways to use stuff that’s already around, and finding other people who can enjoy stuff that I no longer need.
With all the stuff that’s already been made and is overflowing junk yards and landfills, I think we can all do a better job at using what’s already here. My partner Steve feels the same way. He’s been running an online used book store out of our apartment for the last 10 years or so. He goes to estate sales, book sales and thrift stores and buys good books, unusual books, quality books and lists them on retail websites as a third-party seller so that people who are looking for a specific used book can find it easily at a fair price. He loves books. He’s got a B.A. in English, and his very first job was at the public library. There’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands or the smell of an old book from your grandmother’s attic!
Steve’s small business is called Scholar and Poet Books. If you value or collect books, music, vintage printed material or puzzles, check out our inventory. You can see our listings on eBay Here, or browse our book list on ABE Books Here. If you shop on Amazon, you may see our name on the list of sellers for a particular item, but we can’t direct you to our inventory exclusively. (Many of Amazon’s third-party sellers are actually large warehouses.) If you have friends who are bibliophiles, you can share our Facebook page with them. Thank you for reading this post and considering my invitation. May your decisions about Stuff bring you joy and peace!
My mother’s birthday is but 2 days away now. I’ve told you a bit about her specific talents in music, cooking and parenting, but she also possesses a general talent for being organized and efficient. She is a Domestic Engineer, by her own reckoning. She comes by it honestly, for her much-admired father was a professional electrical engineer. Her administrative skills are well-developed and have been applied to a multitude of volunteer positions, from Girl Scout leader to chamber concert coordinator to clerk of the Vestry to museum archivist. She has raised money, written newsletters, cataloged artifacts, designed living and office space, kept detailed financial records, chronicled events, communicated, consulted, collaborated, and carried on for so many organizations that I could never recall them all. To my knowledge, she has not received any remuneration since graduating from college. Nevertheless, she is highly professional and knows how to get a job done. Because of her, my awareness of basic functional habits goes back to my early childhood. Here are 10 of her specific instructions.
1) Write it down. Whatever it is, a shopping list or a line of poetry, if you want to remember and refer to it, write it down. My mother’s tiny notes could be found in any number of spiral bound flip pads in our house. She’s not so untidy as to leave them on single Post-Its or envelopes. I now carry Moleskine pads in my hiking backpack because even on the trail, my thoughts are harmonized with the echo of my mother’s admonition: write it down.
2) Use double-entry bookkeeping for your finances. With numbers, it’s better to write it down twice. (Sorry, Mom. I stopped doing this a long time ago, and I also don’t balance my checkbook anymore. Online debit records are all I’ve got now. Don’t worry; it’ll do.)
3) Label it. Remember those label-making guns that punched letters one by one onto a plastic strip? That was a bit much for Mom, but her laundry marking pen, white cotton bias tape and adhesive tape were always on hand. With four girls in the house and summer camp every year, you can bet she was keen to keep everything straight. Even our dolls were marked at the nape of the neck with our initials. Why else would my doll be called ‘P Baby’?
4) Never go upstairs empty-handed. (You’d laugh, Mom, at how many times I have said this to Steve as he’s moving books up and down from the attic.) I went so far as to purchase stair baskets when I had 4 kids and a big house. Making every effort efficient was my mother’s goal, within the house and in the broad world. So…
5) Plan your errands well in advance. For most of their marriage, my parents shared one car. On the one or two days in the week when she had a vehicle, her route was specifically engineered to save time and gas. There was no “running out to pick up something” at odd times of the day. Everything — bank, library, dry-cleaners, grocery store, filling station, school, church office — was expertly orchestrated in one trip. I have internalized this mode. I do not “shop” or browse or dilly-dally when going to procure something. Even a Christmas tree. (ask Susan) This trait drives Steve nuts sometimes. It’s not spontaneous; it’s not in the moment; it’s not an interesting way to travel. I have to turn off the “get the job done” mentality deliberately when our purpose is experience.
6) Clip coupons and keep them organized. This is part of planning your errands and shopping trips. Mom’s library scissors were always in the center drawer of her desk. When Dad was done with reading the paper, she’d get to work. It’s a habit that can get out of hand, though. I always kept a card file box full of coupons, most of which had expired long ago, in my kitchen. Finally, when I moved, I pitched it, but not without hesitation. I now keep just a handful under a magnet on my fridge.
7) Waste not. This is deep in Mom’s blood and deep in mine, Scottish heritage and all. Keep those bones for soup stock. Keep that packing material for your next mailing. Keep those worn jeans for shorts and patches. And you can bet that with 4 girls, the youngest (me) was always in hand-me-downs! I think most Americans have lost this value long ago, much to the disadvantage of the planet.
8) Recycle. Mom was doing this before it was convenient. There was no curb-side recycling in the 60s, but along with her other errands, she’d visit the recycling center with paper sacks of old newspapers, boxes of aluminum cans, and glass bottles separated by color. There was no plastic recycling then.
9) Load your appliances correctly. Dishwashers and washing machines and dryers take lots of energy…your own as well as the power company’s. Learn to pack them well. My mother was always able to get more into the dishwasher after I’d loaded it. I’ve gone back to washing dishes by hand, but I’m always trying to figure out how to use less water and fit more on the drying rack. It’s a good practice.
10) Put the kitchen to bed before you retire. A clean kitchen in the morning is a lot nicer to wake up to. A clean house is nicer to come home to after a vacation. I think of the ending scenes in PBS programs like “Upstairs, Downstairs” and The Boston Pops concerts: the char woman cleaning up before the lights go out, and the stage is ready for the next installment. It gives me a very settled feeling to follow this example. Of course, tidy endings aren’t always attainable. That’s life. I do my best.
How did people in the northern land of Wisconsin stay warm through those hard winters in the 19th century, without electric blankets, natural gas furnaces or radiators? Wood fires, wool, fur and the sauna…naturally.
Seems pretty simple to me.
(In response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.)