Nobody Wants Your Stuff

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A load of toxic waste.

I reached a low point, last week, in the sad task of emptying my mom’s house when I got bounced out of the Goodwill donation center like a drunk who had sidled up to the bar one too many times. The manager who, during my previous visits, viewed me with a mixture of crankiness and suspicion came out and said to me, “Unless it’s saleable, we don’t want it. We’re about to shut down donations.” From his furrowed brow and hard stare I knew that he was speaking, not generally, but to me personally. I had strained the good will of the Goodwill and now had to recognize that I had a tchotchke problem in need of the intervention of a higher power.

That higher power came in the form of an independent thrift store down the road that was happy to take my rejected Goodwill load. A local rock club took all the lapidary supplies. But, later in the week, the Salvation Army rejected a perfectly good couch and chair. Sadly, a lot of my mom’s belongings will be sent to the landfill. The reason? There’s just too much stuff in this world and nobody wants more.

I had intended to write about dealing with the loss of a loved one and what to do with their belongings but I was out-scooped by Richard Eisenberg’s blog post “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff.” Eisenberg says everything I was going to say. He notes that we live in an Ikea and Target era and nobody wants old stuff unless it’s mid-century modern. The antique market has cratered and in the words of the furniture dealer who is staging my mom’s house (with mid-century modern goods), “It’s never coming back.” It just so happens that my mom had a lot of mid-century modern furniture that will find a new home. But there’s still going to be a huge dumpster full of lesser furniture and other miscellaneous items heading to the landfill later this week.

Eisenberg’s blog post prompted a huge response and he did a followup post, “What You Said About ‘Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff’” that has some further suggestions and a bit of push-back. My experience with my mom’s belongings affirms what Eisenberg said in the first post. The only thing I’d add is that the experience has made my Marie Kondo fervency even stronger. The professional organizing mafia’s strategy, that would have us buy more storage boxes and closet gadgets, is misguided (read more about this in a New York Times article “Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff“). I think Kondo is right to say that we all need to downsize and buy fewer things in the first place.

In addition to Kondo’s war on stuff I think we need to revive a commitment to craftsmanship and beauty. I’ve spent many evenings in the past month reading Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Magazine, that documents the unsuccessful turn of the last century war on cheap industrial goods. My Kondo/Morris/Stickley mashup has inspired a few new house rules:

  • Think long and hard before bringing anything new into the house.
  • When you do get something make sure it’s of high quality and take care of it.
  • Should you find me or Kelly at an Ikea, know that we are on a bender and call the police.
  • Before buying something ask what will happen to this object when it’s no longer needed. Does it have long lasting value or is it just another landfill destined item?
  • Remember always the words of William Morris, “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

At least being bounced from the Goodwill and facing couch rejection at the hands of the Salvation Army puts me in esteemed company. When moving out of an apartment in New York, W.H. Auden had the Salvation Army drop by to pick up a couch. The workers first noted the sorry state of his couch: it was held up on one end with a brick and had a cigarette burn and a large stain. Auden explained that he had accidentally lit the couch on fire and the only thing he had to put out the fire was a shaker full of martinis.

You can bet that I won’t be “Kondoizing” my cocktail shaker. Especially now, when contemplating the sheer amount of stuff in this word, I’ve deemed it both beautiful and useful.

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Saturday Tweets: Weird News and Cats

What Tree Should I Plant? Cal Poly’s SelecTree Has the Answer

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 8.19.02 AMTree knowledge is not one of my stronger skills. Thankfully Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has us tree ignorant Californians covered with an extensive, searchable tree database called SelecTree that will help you find the right tree for your yard.

Or, let’s say, you’re bored with hours spent adding movies to your Netlix queue that you never plan to watch (one of my vices). How about searching for oddball trees instead? What about a California native tree with favorable fire resistance, low root damage potential that produces edible fruit? The database came up with two options, the hollyleaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) and the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea).

Let me also put in a plug for our favorite tree, the Fuerte avocado (Persea americana ‘Fuerte’).

106 Opposable Thumbs

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This week on the Root Simple Podcast we’re featuring the first half hour of another podcast we think you should subscribe to: Opposable Thumbs. Hosts Taylor Hokanson and Rob Ray interview a guest each week who issues a creative challenge to the next guest on the podcast. Think of it as kind of a maker game show. We’re simulcasting the first half hour of episode #10 on which Kelly and I tackle the challenge, “creating problems.” To find out what we did you’ll; have to listen to the podcast.

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Hint: it involves seed balls, payloads and explosives. To listen to the rest of the show head over to Opposable Thumbs #10 or subscribe to the show in iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher. The show is also the first time we’ve ever been involved in a conversation about alien autopsies and the Cisco hold music.  We also discuss:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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I Organized My Drill Bits and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

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For nearly twenty years I allowed my drill bits to rattle about in a drawer, disorganized and dullifying. When I needed one I’d root through the drawer wasting time better spent actually using the bit. Sometimes, if I couldn’t find a bit, I’d buy another one at the hardware store only to find out that I already had that particular size. Last week, as part of the sort of sweeping workshop reorganization that comes with middle age, I vowed to put an end to the madness that was my drill bit drawer.

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There is not one true path to drill bit storage but rather many paths leading up the organized workshop holy mountain. I am, however, partial to the 2 x 4 with a corresponding size gauge. To make one you simply drill holes for the bits (I found I had to use the next bit size up to make the holes big enough). Then, in she side of the 2 x 4, you drill a hole to use when figuring out which bit to use for a job.

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While I was at it I also organized my paltry collection of router bits as well as my overabundant collection of screw bits. I attached my now organized bit collection to my wall of tools. Now, when I need a bit, it takes mere seconds to find one, thus freeing up more time to concoct click bait headlines.