2008.02.20 Embrace the chaos...and the cuttle fish

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Of all the books I’ve ever read on corralling clutter, by far the finest is the one I read most recently, “Eliminate Chaos” by Laura Leist.

The best thing about the book is the abundant use of “before” photos. Just looking at other people’s messes was enough to motivate me to rip through a free-standing 10-shelf cupboard in our kitchen and whip that chaos into control.

I matched like items with like and pitched every old thing: tea bags went flying, the dregs of cereal bags were ditched, packages of instant cocoa perished. Anything past a visible expiration date expired in the great exodus.

I set aside seven unique items, but couldn’t bring myself to toss them. I will, soon enough, but for some, I need permission from family members, and even then, it’s going to be hard.

Here’s the list:

• Bumble Bee premium pink salmon in a new-fangled aseptic sort of foil pouch.

• Cica jurema feijao branco. The picture tells me the contents are white beans.

• Mococa doce de leite. I think that translates to dulce de leche which translates to caramel, maybe? “Industria Brasileira” it reads on this and the bean can which makes me think Ben brought them back from Brazil when he visited exchange student Sergio Filho.

Or maybe Sergio brought them when he returned for a visit with his mom. Either way, these cans are old—they’re from Ben’s high school days. He’s been out of college nearly two years and he was in a five-year program. Don’t even bother doing the math—they’re too old to eat.

• A package of Devon lemon cream biscuits (galleta rellena con crema de limon) Rozee brought back from her trip to Belize nearly four years ago.

I hate to throw these things away, partly because the packaging is so interesting, so decidedly not of this country, but also because they remind me of the trips Ben and Rozee have taken.

And then there is some just plain disgusting stuff that was given to us, stuff that is kind of funny, stuff that we really ought to pass on as gag gifts at next year’s Green family Christmas exchange. It’s the kind of stuff we’ve been known to give away as door prizes at birthday parties we’ve hosted.

• A tiny three-ounce can of Armour “potted meat food product.” It’s kind of Spammy looking, and Spam always makes me kind of gag to look at it.

• A package of instant cuttle fish from I don’t even know where. There are six different languages on the package in addition to English. Ah, I finally spy that it comes from Viet Nam, so it must be a present from David’s well-traveled brother Thom.

• A can of Road-Hit Possum, “fresh from the roads of Hendersonville, North Carolina.”

The most embarrassing of this collection is the Bumble Bee premium pink salmon I purchased and then could never open because the flat shiny red foil packaging was just too new-fangled for me—I began to doubt the quality of its contents and it just sat in the cupboard getting old and older.

I have this thing about consuming old food...I just can’t do it. I could never find an expiration date anywhere on the package, and then I could never find it within me to just throw it out.

The salmon labels me a wastrel, a wanton reckless consumer. It’s not like the tea that just got old before we used it. The salmon was purchased and then actively ignored.

We have a lot of stuff at our house like this—stuff purchased and never used, stuff fraught with meaning and memories, stuff past its prime, stuff David labels “cultural artifacts,” stuff that needs another home.

I could do like one friend—open my arms wide and proclaim, “I embrace the chaos!” or like another and pray for a natural disaster to level my house, but I think I’ll be happiest if I can find new homes for my clutter.

Maybe we could wrap up the lot and give it away as party favors at Rozee’s wedding this July.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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