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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on January 10th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 44

Clearing the decks

One woman's junk is two guys' treasure

BY ARIEL WATERMAN

Well, here we all are. It’s already the second week of January; the world didn’t end on Dec. 21; most people did not understand how the Mayan calendar really works. So much for the conspiracy theorists.

I’m dealing with conspiracies of my own here at Waterman Manor. My British husband and newly-turned-11-year-old grandson, the Britween, have been thwarting my concerted efforts to clear the house of clutter. Even our calico cat—Nellie—who is now 17 years old, has her share of old catnip toys, frayed collars, and tatty scratching posts.

You know you have too much stuff when your outside storage shed is full to bursting. We have a carport, not a garage, thank God. When a garage becomes filled with everything but the car, a bike or two, and garden tools, your stuff has become junk. And when you have to pay a monthly rent for a storage unit in an industrial park, your junk has officially become, pardon the expression, crap.

Right now I am dealing with clutter and stuff. I am determined not to own junk or crap. This means paring down personal property to daily and seasonal necessities, with a few sentimental pieces that fashion consultant Tim Gunn calls “soul-stirrers.” Time to roll up my sleeves and “make it work!”

I am an admitted junkophile. I used to keep every tangible piece of my existence in plastic tubs, copier paper boxes, and drawstring trash bags. Then I moved to L.A. from Phoenix, Ariz., carting my crap with me. Yes, crap, because I paid rent for storage. Then I moved to the Central Coast, with more crap I had accumulated. Finally, I met the Brit and we married, merging our belongings. It was time to let go of some things.

There is something about living by the sea that, over time, awakened something in me. Perhaps it is the fresh air, the wineries (and the wine), or the dolphins I’d spot frolicking in the surf at Avila Beach. Or maybe it’s just that I am getting older and realizing that things cannot cry for you. This was profoundly brought home when I married my Brit.

His home was still filled with items he and his late wife had shared for more than 20 years, from furniture, to dishes, to linens. She passed away only a year before we met, and I knew I had a responsibility to help him to move on, to make my own mark upon our home together, but to preserve special memories for his and her grandson, Britween, whom we have adopted.

A gentle acknowledgement of her presence—her spirit, if you will—is welcomed with a few small tokens, favorite knickknacks tucked here and there. The more valuable items have been put away for our Britween, to whom they now belong. The rest, however, needed to go to make room for something more important: us!

The Brit complains bitterly that he has no room for his clothes. Now that’s just silly. I have only three large drawers, the rest of the closet for my clothes, the top shelf for my hats, the floor shelves for purses, and the hanging shelves for shoes, plus dresser surfaces for jewelry boxes. He has one entire drawer for his shirts and two smaller ones for underwear and socks, plus a corner of our walk-in closet for his pants and a dress suit. What more does he want? How many shirts and pairs of casual pants does a retired British soccer buff need? Honestly, I’ve been generous!

The bathroom is a different story. This man is worse than a woman when it comes to fragrances. I have one small corner by my sink for cosmetics, lotions, and potions, whereas the Brit has all the rest of the space. Drawers, shelves, and counters are filled with every kind of eau de homme on the market. He has fancy colognes from all over the world, and he daily spritzes and splashes himself with Melee, Man Thong, and Fartano by Burrito Verde.

But the worst waste of space is on our bookshelves. The Brit is an avid reader and loves everything from crime books and military history to anything about football (Brit-speak for soccer), especially his favorite team, Arsenal. He has shelves devoted to paperbacks filled with annual statistics dating back to the 1970s.

He also has a collection of yearly date books, with every appointment, meeting, and various notes for the past decade, as well as financial ledgers. And then there are the manila file folders, each containing anything from vital information we need, like birth certificates, passports, and home and insurance documents to inane ephemera like a single receipt for two microwaves ago. This man has a mania for manila file folders like Imelda Marcos had for shoes.

   But wait, there’s more. Dante wrote of the Inferno and its nine circles of hell. I know of a 10th circle, a place more confusing than the Bermuda Triangle, a domain more horrifying than Freddy Kruger’s Elm Street. I call it Britween’s Bedroom—eeeeeeek!

    This room has no floor, only a constantly swirling mass of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon cards, game pieces, dice, crayons, markers, soccer gear, loose change, clothes, socks, and, oh dear God, underwear! Outgrown T-shirts fill his drawers, and when I dare to move some to a donation bag, he fretfully howls, “No! Not that one, it’s my favorite!”

I try to reason with him: “You haven’t worn it since you were 5. It’s too small for you. It has SpongeBob Squarepants on the front!”

This elicits an 11-year-old’s indignation: “Hey! Do not mock the Sponge! He’s cool!”

I will admit, however, that he’s better at clearing books he’s outgrown from his shelves and donating them than his granddad, which has caused me to woefully cry, “No! Not that one, it’s your favorite!”

“Really, Grandma?” Britween abjures. “It’s about three little pigs. I’m Jewish, remember?”

I guess I’m just as bad, but my clutter is smaller and far less visible. It’s comprised of old cards and letters, photos and their respective negatives, and even the small slip of paper in my wallet with the Brit’s (now our) phone number on it that he gave me on the day we met eight years ago. Come to think of it, that silly piece of paper is one of my most treasured soul-stirrers. Maybe I should put it somewhere safer, like in a manila file folder!

Ariel Waterman’s favorite women’s fragrance is Breath of Fresh Air. Send gift sets via her editor, Ryan Miller, at rmiller@santamariasun.com.