Thinning Out The Inventory

A year ago after Peggy died I got the urge to clear my house of unneeded stuff. My plan was to get the house ready for sale. That plan is still in place. Since another year went by I realized I hadn’t done a single thing to clear my life of clutter since the first and only garage sale I ever conducted.

Peggy’ s first anniversary death date has passed and Barb’s is in another week. Suddenly the urge to clear more clutter struck me hard. I learned of a community wide garage sale and went for it. I had two weeks to get ready.

The plan was to clear the basement as deeply as I could. I succeeded. I cleared things that I hadn’t seen or touched in years like a collection of boxes containing stuff I saved in case I might need it someday. The stuff is all valuable, but the somedays were too few and far between. Without thinking about it or looking into any of the boxes I carried them all up to the garage. Looking through the boxes would have renewed the primal urge to save, save, save. Once those boxes were out, and a nice bare spot was obvious, it became much easier to move more stuff. I went from corner to corner and anything I hadn’t touched in a long time was food for the garage sale. First my shop, then my storage area where I store office supplies pictures, and old stuff too valuable to throw out. Does that sound familiar? Next was the annex to the storage room where I store my Christmas tree and ornaments. My six year old tree became a victim. With four hundred lights burning for many hours from Thanksgiving through the Feast of Three Kings in January for six seasons I decided to not even wait for a string of lights to burn out and cause me hours of frustration trying to save it. I tossed the tree into the pile. No it didn’t sell, but I vowed that anything not sold will never return to the inside of the house, it will go somewhere.

In a few days, I had a substantial pile in the garage and every time I walked through the house I found something which I could live without, and calmly picked it up and walked it to the garage. I registered for the sale and that sealed the deal, I was totally committed. As the days went by the fever to clear the house became a frenzy. Why stop at the obvious? I began scouring closets, cabinets, drawers, and corners. I had numerous floral arrangements spread around the house of various tables all very old and somewhat worn out. Artificial flowers that were dropping their petals and dusty. All of this activity made me thirsty and I reached into a cabinet for a glass. Why do I have two dozen glasses for water? Another cabinet shelf was cleared to the sale pile. Then I realized I had gasses from my wife Barb’s home furnishings and also from Peggy’s. I went through all the dishes, glasses, and table ware. One morning as I reached into a lower cabinet for a fry pan I saw numerous fry pan handles sticking out. Why do I need so many pots and pans? Well I can use a couple for when I cook a large meal, but I ‘m not running a restaurant, I don’t need four of anything. The lower cabinets went to the garage. The week went on and there was little that went unexplored or unquestioned, like table-cloths, placemats, china serving dishes, etc. One cabinet had about a dozen jars of scented candles, some never used. These too fell to the grim reaper of the sale.

By Friday morning the day before the sale I had a garage full of stuff committed. I opened the door at eleven to begin organizing things then realized I hadn’t worked on a street sign to announce the sale. I hurried to make one and thought, what the hell, put it up now. Even though it was a full twenty four hours before the official community sale began what can it hurt? Within twenty minutes I had a steady stream of customers browsing, and things were leaving. I covered my ears to block the screams of the sold items as they left me forever. Their screams were soon disregarded as I found the sound of jingling coins in my pocket more pleasing. Another pleasant sensation was holding the soft roll of paper cash in my hand as I made change. In total, I estimate two hundred items of stuff left me over this week end.

One old man came up to me holding a pocketed sheet filled with silver dollars. I asked him if he got all those dollars in the community garage sale today. “No,” he said, “I just use this to show people what I’m looking for, do you have any silver dollars you want to sell.?”

“As a matter of fact I found one in my watch case prepping for this day, I have it on my dresser.” I went to retrieve it, and looked at the date on it. It was minted in 2004, not very old. I showed it to him and he said, “this is one of the special xxxxxy dollars, they actually contain more silver than the old ones do.”

“Really, how much is it worth?”

“I’ll give you twenty bucks for it, do you have any fraternity rings or wedding rings?

“I have my old high school class ring and a couple of wedding bands too.” I hurried into the house and found them. He whipped out a small electronic scale and after examining the rings for the gold content (14 k) he weighed them and told me he would give me $150 bucks for the rings. A memory popped into my mind. During the past week, I dreamt about my wedding rings. In the dream I saw myself having the two rings made into some kind of jewelry that I would hang around my neck. The old man convinced me to take the money instead. I know the guy will make money on this transaction, and that if I really wanted to I could make even more money but how often will the transaction happen in my home and take only ten minutes of my time? Another memory popped into mind, my wife Barbara often tried to convince me to wear a gold chain around my neck. She thought men who wore gold chains were sexy. I fought the suggestion. Now, I am thinking that perhaps this guy buying my gold was a sign from Barb to wear a gold chain.

All in all, I feel the garage sale was a huge success and now I will deal with disposing of the left overs by donating them to charitable organizations. I will try to sell them on Let Go and eBay. If they don’t sell quickly, I’ll donate them too.

I can sleep better now knowing that if my number comes up and an opening occurs to move into the apartment I want I’ll be more ready than I was before. It doesn’t really matter because what ever happens it will make life easier for my heirs. I had to dispose of entire households three times in my life and I vowed never to leave that kind of problem to my kids. As it is, I still have considerable stuff left that they will have to deal with someday. In the meantime, I will continue to simplify my life as time marches on.

GPS Gypsy

Ever since my first real job, I began to travel. As a kid, mom and dad took me from Chicago to Covert, Michigan to visit my grandfather. In college, I travelled to Rensselaer, Indiana, and then to Urbana, Illinois. The college travel was not hard to plan, buy a train ticket, get to the station in time, then board. My venture into planning trips began just before I married Barb. We went to Florida.  I bought a road atlas and layed out the route. We decided on each overnight stay near the end of the driving day. Usually, we found nice and clean places to stay. That trip taught me to make an itinerary, with driving mileages and destination towns. My driving routes were always major highways like U.S. 41, U.S. 66, or U.S. 30. Motels were always on the side of the road as we enetered a town.
Soon our kids came, and we began a new form of travel. Most of the planning involved keeping the kids happy. I planned the routes, and accommodations.  Barb did the rest.
In the last forty seven years, alot of miles have rolled by, and I still plan the trips. Except for the times that we visited Europe and the far east, we drove. After Barb died, I traveled alone.
A couple of years ago, my son showed me his latest toy. It was on the night before my new wife Peggy and I were to leave for Arizona. He demonstrated a Garmin Street Pilot G.P.S. Oh the wonders of this new tool! The technology is great.  How in the world the little lady inside the box knows all the routes and street names is beside me. I don’t really care, she does a great job, and I have come to trust her a great deal. I went out and bought a Street Pilot the very next day before we left.
Global Positioning Satalites are placed into orbit above the earth at a distance that maintains their relative position stationary. Unknown to most of us, the government has been spotting these satellites around the world for many years. A typical GPS unit will receive signals from as many as six satellites at one time. I don’t need to tell you anymore about the science of how they work. I do want to tell you that they do work well.
At this very moment I am on a trip, and I left the route planning to the GPS. I did decide ahead of time what my destination cities would be, but that’s where my planning ended. I pre-programmed the unit with the towns I would stop in. The machine did the rest. I just followed Lisa’s instructions after that. Lisa is the name of the girl inside the box. If I use her advice she is quiet. If I make an error and miss a turn, she gives me attitude and tells me that she is “recalculating.”
So far we have driven from our home in Frankfort, to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Van Couver, Victoria, Olympia, and now Portland. She has not missed a single city, or hotel.
In fact, while driving to our hotel in Van Couver, she took a route through the middle of town because I had programmed her for the “shortest distance.” Well we were on side streets through some really interesting neighborhoods. Eventually, we left town and were into the outskirts judging by the amount of farms we saw. I kept thinking that she finally lost her way. We were driving farther away from the city through corn fields. Suddenly, a large building appeared ahead of us. It was our hotel. She announced “arriving at Holiday Inn Express on the left,” in her finest computerese dialect.
Today, I spent about five minutes looking at an Inter-State highway map of the U.S. Just to get familiar with the states and the general route we will follow next. Tomorrow, I will program her with all the hotels we have reserved.
There have been other times, when Peggy and I have taken trips without hotel reservations. When we reach a point about thirty miles from a town we want to stop in, I ask Lisa for hotel info. She provides a list of hotels within the radius. I select a place, and hit go. She takes me to the front door. She even has the address and phone number for the hotel. I use my cell phone to call, and make a reservation from thrity miles out.
Need fuel, ask Lisa. Hit the button marked “fuel.” She will display every gas station within close range, display the name, miles to get there, and points an arrow in the direction.
I never worry about getting lost because all I have to do is hit “home,” and she will lead me to my front door.
In the three short years Peggy and I have travelled we have used Lisa to takes us to Arizona, California, Quebeck, and all the cities of this current trip. We also use her to take us into the city for plays and concerts. She is great for finding parking garages in downtown Chicago.
Between Map Quest and the GPS, my trip planning time has been reduced tremendously. I use the time to research what I will see and do when I get to my destination. If I’m not sure what there is to see at a destination, I ask Lisa for “attractions.”

Lions “Strides Walk For Diabetes Awareness”

Finally, I am coming down from an adrenaline high. The high is the result of helping to organize an event with my local Lions Club. It’s been years since I participated in an event that involved getting the public to come and have fun. Talk about baby steps and motivation. I committed by suggesting the event. Never suggest something unless you are willing to “walk the talk.” When I talk, I am ready to follow up with action too. This walk was no different from the many scouting events that I organized and participated in.

The weather was crappy, although none us who worked noticed. We were too busy having fun to care. The baby steps planned in advance were unfolding and moving forward by many people.  We had a good turn out of Lion members, local Boy Scouts, and the area hospital. We marked walking trails of three lengths, put up sponsor signs, erected a tent, set up tables for registration, had 200 goodie bags prepared, and ready to go. In the week prior to the event today, four area newspapers, and the local TV channel gave us publicity. All planning and organization was  done by  a three man team. Our objective was threefold:

 1. Make people aware of Diabetes and its complications,

 2. Promote walking as a healthful tool to manage diabetes, and

3. Raise money for the American Diabetes Association.

In spite of the weather we accomplished all three of our goals. A beautiful side benefit is that our Lions Club is considering the walk as an annual event. 

Our day was a drizzle, forty degrees, and windy. Amazingly, we registered 23 walkers. On a nice day, the same trail would have seen several hundred walkers from the town. We think the 23 should be honored as heroes for coming out to support us in such hypothermic conditions.

I can’t begin to count the baby steps that we took to get this event off the ground. It took constant communication, and brainstorming to identify the steps. After logging the steps, it took energy to take action to make the steps happen. With regular meetings, e-mail, and the phone, the planning made it come to fruition.

We started on March 4 with the idea, and excuted it on April 12th. We visioned a successfull turnout of two hundred walkers. When someone warned us about poor weather, we saw the day as being warm and sunny. 

The vison was realized!