the abundance project, pt. 2

Because we have so very much stuff and because so much of it goes sadly to waste, I pledged to use, give away, or dispose of at least one household object for every day in September. I covered the first baker’s dozen here, and here are the rest.

14. A royal purple cardigan that I sewed and hand-beaded from a little-worn turtleneck sometime last year. An object lesson for me: clothing is only worth refashioning if I love the fabric to begin with. And a second note to self: don’t buy poly-cotton knit; you never, ever wear it. I made a headband from the hand-beaded cuffs. The rest: TRASH.

15. A puffy down comforter crammed in a closet. We’ve used it maybe twice in the past few years, always for a couch-crashing guest. I aired it out and put it on the couch for myself, which makes these cold rainy autumn evenings a lot cozier. USE.

16. The lovely (and loving) quilt that The Fella’s mother made for us. It had migrated to a pile of clothing in the bedroom; we’ve now got it back on the bed atop our mismatched old comforters. (Here’s a free tip for a happy partnership: if either of you is a blanket-snatcher, invest in separate duvets, y’all.) USE.

17. A wooden box full of beautiful cards and a glass jar full of mismatched old stamps. Before email, I used to send out several notecards, letters, and postcards every week, so I stocked up on good cards whenever I found them. I moved the card box and stamp jar closer to my “desk” (the rolling table where my laptop lives) so I reach for it whenever it’s time to send someone birthday wishes or just a random paper note. USE. (If you’d like a postcard, drop me a line with your mailing address.)

18. A lilac woolen scarf, a gift from sister N. I wore it every day for months, then it disappeared. Last spring, my MIL found it in a pile of coats and returned it to me. As soon as the weather turned, I tied it around the strap of my messenger bag so it’s always to the ready. USE.

19. A once-favorite chiffon scarf: lily pads in deep rich colors. It perfectly ties together the purple of a new-favorite dress and the blue of the drapey cardigan mentioned in a previous Abundance entry, allowing me to wear the sleeveless dress into cooler weather. USE.

20. An entire dinner! USE. One chilly, rainy night when the cupboard seemed bare, I cobbled together a good nourishing dinner almost entirely from odds & ends in the freezer or pantry:
– pasta & vegetable gratin made with the spare ends of two boxes of penne (some whole wheat, some tri-colored vegetable pasta), the nub-ends of some cheddar, some parmesan, and a little dab of goat cheese, and — all from the freezer — a jar of leftover bechamel thinned with homemade vegetable broth, some duxelles, and farmstand kale.
– tomato soup (a can from the pantry shelf) amped up with frozen tomato paste, more of that vegetable broth, and a splash of leftover wine.

21 and 22. Hey, I found* both of the winter hats I bought last winter, including the one I thought I lost the second day I wore it! USE. I chose these little fleece beanies because they’d stash so nicely in my bag, and that’s where they are now…

23… along with a pair of gloves I bought at the same time. USE. I chose very plain fleece hats and gloves so I could personalize them easily by adding…

24 … some antique mother-of-pearl buttons from my vintage button stash [USE]…

25… and some flat abalone beads. They’re from a bracelet I bought in Costa Rica; the elastic stretched out over the years, as it will, so I salvaged the beads, knowing I’d find a good use for them. USE.

26. For years now, there’s been a giant bottle of off-brand shampoo in the shower rack. When it fell over and spilled out a foul-smelling slick all over the bathtub, I finally asked The Fella if he still wanted to keep it. His response: “I’m pretty sure that’s yours, baby.” Huh. Well, whoever bought it, it’s gone now. TRASH.

27. The little brush I’ve been using to scrub-scrub-scrub my feet. Its stubby shape made it clumsy to use, the surfaces started peeling immediately, and, even when new, it was an ugly little thing to keep in the bath. After putting up with it for far too long, I promised myself I would spend a few dollars for something more suitable — or just plain do without. TRASH.

28. A big bundle of wrapping paper, tissue, and ribbon. I haven’t used them yet, but I did save them from obscurity in the back of a crammed closet, sort through them, toss out the unusable and irretrievably crumpled bits, and put the rest with other gift-wrapping supplies for future use. USE.

29. Hey, I found* that great white bamboo-rayon top I bought last year! And I wore it immediately. USE.

30. Hey, I found* my silver thong sandals under the couch! I hate slippers, so flipflops are my kicking-around-the-house shoes. I love the flash of silver, even when it’s just peeping out from my pajama pants. USE.

* That’s going to be a refrain in this process: “Hey, I found [ ]!” Examples: three cotton dresses in my once-favorite style, stashed away years ago when I put on weight, but they’ll all go perfectly with a cardigan Mom gave me last Christmas; a sweater I’d forgotten I owned and wore immediately; a piece of fabric art sister N. gave us which I never got around to hanging but which beautifully complements my MIL’s quilt (see #16 above); a pair of winter-weight black leggings (bought when leggings were last in style, over a decade ago) in next-to-new shape; all those tank tops I bought to replace my shabby old tank tops, then lost track of; a stash of woolen socks I bought in the off-season and tucked away.

In the second half of the month, I ended up using more than I disposed of. In fact, I have a stack of books ready to take to the local bookstore, dozens of jewel cases bagged and ready to donate to the local record store (or pop into the recycling bin if they don’t need ’em), a box for Goodwill, and a bag of rubbish ready to go in next week’s trash. But they aren’t out the door, so they don’t get counted! That’s all part of the process.

And it is a process. These thirty days didn’t make a dent in all this STUFF, but it helped a bit. More importantly, it reminded me of some deep truth: that I could give away a truckload of goodies before I started feeling deprived; that an object that doesn’t do its job is just clutter; that using treasured items and risking damage is better than letting them spoil silently on a shelf.

In short, this ongoing project is the great abundance in which we live, and reminding me that hoarding unneeded goods just makes it hard to see and enjoy that abundance.

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