Finding old friends on the back porch 2015.07.15


If you’ve traveled down North Summit Street lately you might have noticed we’re getting our house painted. If you traveled inside you’d notice that our kitchen is full of stuff—stuff cleared from the soon-to-be painted back porch. 

The back porch has served in recent years as a catch-all for two busy people, layered on top of castoffs from three now grown children. It’s not that big a space really, but it’s held a hefty amount of stuff within its walls.

David’s “By the Way” column this week details just one grocery bag of stuff from one drawer of one of two file cabinets exiled to the porch years ago. I suspect the filled-to-the-gills other file cabinet contains mostly papers I’ll need to sort through, not David. He actively saves cultural artifacts; I have difficulty parting with paper.

The Japanese cleaning method Marie Kondo promotes in her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing,” would have me toss it all, but I’m guessing when I reacquaint myself with the stuff in those drawers, it will be like visiting old friends I haven’t seen in years but can pick up with right where we left off. Just because I haven’t opened those drawers in decades doesn’t mean I won’t be thrilled when I examine the contents. Or, maybe I’ll find I don’t really need electric bills from 1988.

Either way, the file cabinets didn’t make it into the kitchen. They aren’t among the stuff that I wouldn’t want to lose to the black hole of the garage. The garage isn’t all that bad, really—we can park our car with room to spare—but it’s dark and dreary and I wouldn’t want my hiking boots from college days to get lost in there. 

So, the boots, along with a pair of leather shoes I used to wear in the garden, are temporarily hanging out in the kitchen. They currently sit atop a box of empty glass bottles that never made it back to the window ledge after the storm window was taken out and the screen put in or vice versa—a Jones Soda bottle with a customized label showing a photo of Taylor and Rosie, a bottle of olive oil Ben brought back from Italy, a jar of green marbles, little salt shakers, a blue-lidded sugar jar. 

The box also contains an armless, headless, one-legged Barbie which evokes memories of a birthday party we had for Ben when the booby prize idea backfired and one party-goer was upset to receive a limbless naked Barbie. (Yes, we had real treat bags for the party guests, too.)

The kitchen is burgeoning with lots of other porch stuff, including coolers and the clothespin basket, a dishpan of glass gems (used at the bottom of vases for Rosie’s wedding) and a bin of balls—but the real gem is “The Tear N’ Take Menu Planner” I apparently purchased from the Mt. Clemens La Leche League. 

It’s a pad of paper with a  “Daily Menu Planner” section on the left to record menus for Monday through Sunday and then columns headed ingredients, quantity, on hand, to buy, and coupon. That section could be torn off at the perforation and taken to the store as a shopping list.

I don’t seem to have done that because most of the pages are intact for the at least 10 weeks I used the menu planner. Whenever that time period was, we ate a lot of split pea soup and lentils: curried lentils, lentil rice salad, lentil soup, lentil stew. Finds like this are what make decluttering so fun.

I took a lot of photos of shoes and rollerblades and miscellaneous plastic stuff and trophy toppers and sent them to my children in a group text They didn’t want anything—not even the little aquarium. 

I put that in the Goodwill pile, but it did make me laugh because it reminded me of something my four-year-old granddaughter Caroline said recently. She and Rosie were talking about pets and Caroline said, “I want the kind of fish that make other fish laugh. 

“A clown fish?” Rosie asked.

Yup, that’s the one.