Dark Passages


We know we are going to get in serious trouble for even suggesting that journals qualify as CRUD. If you have de-cluttered as many homes as we have then you would know why we include these iconic digests of personal misery in the category. When we were growing up the practice was referred to as “keeping a diary”.  No doubt there are many fine authors who, as children, honed their skills compulsively scribbling away in those little lockable private books.   In your formative years as  diarist, perhaps your diary served as the repository for confidences meant for your eyes only: junior high crushes; fantasizing about a disfiguring accident befalling a   competitor for a spot on the JV cheerleading squad; anxiety over math tests or acne: or the sheer dread being seen anywhere in public with your parents.  Life in one’s early teens is an emotional minefield.  Is there a benefit to reliving the humiliation in print a few more stable decades later?

Puzzlingly, journaling persists in a world dominated by the tyranny of social media. With virtually no barriers to entry, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms serve up an audience of countless millions for sharing one’s musings. With the potential for power and fame available at one’s fingertips, what explains the attraction of unburdening to a lined paper volume with a probable readership of one?

We understand that many people derive immense satisfaction recording the minutia of daily life in journals and, but at what price?  How much space in your home are you willing to squander in order to accommodate so much of the past? Our clients insist that they will go back and re-read the entries, when they have the time. Somehow, that day never arrives. It is often journals that are contained in the boxes that remain unopened from previous moves. 

CRUD Challenge

It may not be now, but some day you may want to downsize from your current living quarters to something smaller and more manageable. When you get to that point there will be drastic possession reductions required for a successful transition. You will have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions regarding everything you own. The merits of keeping journals must we weighed against the importance of your other treasured things.

If a small bonfire is not a suitable option, here are some suggestions for how to deal with your journal collection. The first is to stop buying them. Inoculate yourself by staying out of the kind of store that specializes in incredibly beautiful high-end stationery and paper goods, so you won’t be tempted. Check through your current inventory. You may be surprised to find that you have brand new journals that you bought and put away without writing a single word. They can be donated. Re-purpose a small journal to keep in your purse to help you remember to do things, like calling people and making shopping lists. That covers the blank ones. You may be wondering about the box full of journals that contain your writings. What you decide to do is dependent upon your comfort level with the content. Do you want a future biographer to have access to your pet peeves? Shredding may prove prudent.

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Sole Survivors

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Consider yourself blessed if you reside in a zip code where the climate is so pleasant that your pedicure need never be concealed.  However, if sandals do not constitute at least 85% of your footwear, then you are very likely to be the devoting a large percentage of your precious storage to shoe care products. Take a moment to contemplate what your shoes and boots are expected to regularly endure. Unlike their counterparts in southern climes who live out their existences cushioned by warm white sand, your shoes make daily contact with puddles, snow, ice, mud,  and even the occasional dog pile. Such denizens require you to maintain an arsenal of shoe protection products to keep them in active service.

These come in many forms including the polishes, water proofers, shines, oils, stain removers and the requisite brushes and cloths used for application. But that’s not all.  What about the inner soles, orthotics and other items designed for comfort, as well as special products to eliminate the disagreeable odors emanating from sweaty feet when you forego wearing socks? There is another category for maintaining the shape of shoes, like shoe trees, shaper and stretchers. 

It is not that the countless numbers of shoe products are not useful. Like everything else in your house, they occasionally need editing.  Here are some ideas.

CRUD Challenge

This is an easy de-cluttering project for a day you want instant results when you don’t really have a lot of time to devote. Shoe care products can typically be found in several locations.  Men often keep theirs in wooden boxes designed to both clean shoes and store the various components. Women will re-purpose shoe boxes and store their shoe care goods in a closet or cabinet. Aged, cracked and dried up residue vaguely resembling polish is a good place to start for pitching. Liquid shoe polishes are considered to be hazardous household waste and need to be treated as such. You may have polishes hanging around that were purchased for shoes you long ago discarded. The same goes for gel soles. Check the labels on aerosols to see what chemicals they may contain. These may need special disposal that does not harm the environment.  Now that you are finished cleaning out the stained rags and free amenity shoe kits that you dragged home from hotels, use the remaining products to give your shoes a refresh. They deserve the attention.

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Graters, slotted spoons, melon ballers, apple corers, peelers, tongs, knives, canning supplies, can openers, corkscrews, blades from mixers, spatulas, cake servers, cheese slicers, egg timers, whisks, strainers, steamers, squeezers, zesters, beaters, choppers, serving forks, thermometers, mashers, and ladles. What do they all have common? They all need somewhere to live.

Kitchen drawers? Can there ever be enough? We find ourselves returning to this problem area again and again. Unless you are among the extremely fortunate who either don’t cook or have moved into a newly renovated kitchen equipped with cabinets and drawers designed to house enough gear to open a restaurant, your tolerance for cramming may be stretched to the limit. Your cutlery drawer may be overflowing with a few too many mismatched soup spoons. But, forks, spoons and knives are child’s play to organize. They fit into their allotted spaces in their plastic trays. The utensil drawer is another story. Imagine a 10 car pile-up on the freeway in the middle of rush hour. Nothing is moving. You need to call a tow truck just to get the drawer opened.

Utensils, like pots and pans, are your tools for food preparation. But, what can you do if the volume outstrips the supply of available storage? If you have any wall space available you could hang some on a rack. If you have room on your counters, you can use a receptacle like an open canister to handle the excess. Keep in mind that you will be encroaching on your work area by adding to the load already dedicated to toasters and seltzer makers.

CRUD Challenge

Paring down your utensils is not a major undertaking. You can do it in less time than it takes to find a pair of sandal foot pantyhose with any runs in your hosiery drawer or search for the receipt for a lip balm you need to return. Simply take everything out of the drawer and apply the following tests:

1. How many poultry shears (or anything else) do you have? Compare them. Keep the best for yourself and donate the runners-up.

2. How many utensils perform identical or similar functions? Can you reduce using these criteria?

3. Can you remember the last time you actually used something like an egg-slicer? Would your life be diminished in any way if you no longer had it?

4. Do any of the utensils appear worse for wear? Are they missing parts? Are they so decrepit as to be no longer capable of performing the functions for which they were purchased?

5. Do you have any utensils whose uses are a total mystery?

Once you have performed this mini- evaluation, clearing your drawers of relics from a long-ago passion for gourmet cooking, enjoy opening and closing your streamlined utensil drawer that slides with ease.

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What Lies Beneath


For some it is an endless quest: finding space to store everything they want to keep. Consequently, we frequently run across overwhelmed clients that will use any area or anything that resembles a container to stockpile surplus belongings.  Banana boxes and opaque plastic bags top the list of the impromptu storage vessels. As neither is designed for stacking, the floor itself resembles the aftermath of a Black Friday sale, before the sales personnel can return the premises to selling condition, in preparation for the next shockwave of shoppers.

If your floor is merely is merely a holding pen for any possessions that lack permanent homes, then you need to adapt to a storage regimen that allows you to take advantage of four times the space than your floor is currently offering. We are big advocates of the virtues of vertical space. Nearly everyone has walls and walls are not just for hanging pictures and mirrors.  Walls also support shelves and shelves possess untold possibilities for storing books, photos, knick-knacks, tools supplies etc. Visibility is the key to remembering where things are.  If you can’t see it, you don’t have it.

Just remember, the floor is not a storage area. Floors are bases designed to hold furniture, appliances, plants, magazine racks, floor lamps and large musical instruments.  You should be able to walk on them without having to wear protective shin guards or use sonar to  detect unseen objects that if accidently encountered can land you in the ER. Too much stuff limits the opportunity for proper cleaning.  Floor coverings themselves can constitute indoor health hazards. Carpets are havens for allergens. Unsecured area rugs are a major cause of falls.

CRUD Challenge

Floor clearing is a highly worthwhile endeavor, although it may prove time consuming.   You are apt to find any of the following monopolizing the lower regions of your rooms: piles of newspapers, magazines or books (mostly unread); dirty dishes, glasses and pizza boxes; discarded clothing; unfinished craft projects; oversized children’s’ toys like kitchens and doll carriages; athletic gear and giant pet transporters, large enough for a St. Bernard. You can throw in vacuum cleaners that never get put away and footwear representative of every season. If you merely either toss or stow the above, you might find that your living room has magically grown in size by leaps and bounds, or at least it will seem that way. You could be in a position to install hardwood.

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Ghost of a Chance


What to wear? It’s a persistent dilemma that recurs on a daily basis. Yet, there are some high-stakes events where wardrobe decision making takes on the quality of obsession. These include: what to wear to your wedding or prom (obviously); what effect you are looking to create at your company’s holiday party; which new outfits are you going to debut on the High Holy Days at the synagogue; and how you will be dressed for your 40th high school reunion.  But the pressure is not limited to the above.

Have you received an Evite to a costume party this season?  If you did, you will have reacted in one of two ways.  If themed events, especially ones where you are required to dress up as your worst nightmare or favorite forties film goddess, then Halloween invitations are about as welcome as process servers. If you find yourself in the other camp (costume party aficionados), then you are brimming with anticipation. Some people are at their best when wearing a disguise. Others just want to inhabit their own skin at all times.

We have been brought into many homes absolutely loaded with costumes.  The collections range from children’s’ dress up trunks filled with cast-off grown-up clothing,  no longer considered stylish by the original wearer, to full-on ensembles worthy of a legendary Hollywood studio. Apparently, Halloween is the second most popular night of the year to go out.  There are parties everywhere. The malls open their doors to families not entirely comfortable with the custom of trick or treating. Bars and clubs offer big bucks for the winners of their costume competitions. Even companies buy in. It is not unusual to have your check cashed by mermaid behind a teller’s window or be served you eggs and hash browns by zombie on October 31st. There is a great deal of pressure, year after year, to come up with something original and different in the dress up department. Even if sewing is your passion, there is a big investment in time and money to indulge your creative juices.

Closet space is premium space. Many homes and apartments have such limited storage that the resident is forced to choose between storing a vacuum and hanging a quilted jacket.  Costumes contain multiple components- for the head, body and extremities- as well as accessories like replica scythes, meat cleavers and other blood-stained paraphernalia. Do you honestly have the capacity to store years’ worth of get-ups that have no future?

CRUD Challenge

Needless today, you will have to set aside at least an hour for costume evaluation and purging. Costumes are not that different from the rest of wardrobe, if you don’t count masks and ears. You and your children will have outgrown a number of them. You can always take children’s costumes to swap meets or consignment stores, or donate them to day-care centers and nursery schools.

Other costumes are so uncomfortable and unwieldy you can’t sit down in them, dance with someone or even manage a drink.  If a costume is tight, itchy, or so hot that perspiration threatens to drown you, these are bona fide criteria for elimination. And, if you are still contemplating wearing that French maid’s outfit at your age, expect a citation from the cougar squad.

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Here is a CRUD-clearing project that can be accomplished in less time than it takes to complete the Monday New York Times crossword. Can you recall the last time you explored your belt collection? Everyone seems to eternally hold on to belts for a variety of reasons. Unlike some other fashion accessories, belts are both practical and decorative. An attractive belt can divert the eye from lodging on a triple chin or the bulges way beyond what a thigh master can ever hope to correct. Fashionistas are forever changing the rules regarding which belts are “in” and which ones are “out” this season. One year dictates belts as wide as a six lane freeway while the next reverts to ties no broader than dental floss to achieve the current look. It is no wonder everyone neglects to cull their belts. Wait a couple of years and an old belt will be chic again. Right? Well, to a degree.

Belts are not necessarily the easiest accessories to store. If you put them in a drawer they are likely to uncoil and resemble a seething nest of vipers getting tangled up with one another and other seldom remembered change purses, eye glass cases and key chains. And you thought your only junk drawer lived in the kitchen. Have you attempted to hang your belts on a hook in your closet? That may work for the fifty percent or so whose buckles conform to hanging. What is your solution for the remainder? Draping them over a hanger is a surefire formula for a drop zone on the closet floor no doubt already littered with flip-flops and gym socks.

CRUD Challenge

Like everything else we bring to your attention, some of these will stay and some will need to go. Do go about this seriously, you have to go full circle. Do you have any belts that qualify as nostalgia pieces? These are the belts that you have been dragging around since high school when your waistline rivalled the size of Scarlet O’Hara’s. If your dress size is in the double digits, your chances of wearing those belts again are slim to none. Still haven’t located any other candidates worthy of purging? Keep looking. We think you will come across more belts that were attached at one time to dresses or jumpsuits you long ago gave away. There should be a few more where the leather is cracked or the buckle is missing or the elastic on a cummerbund no longer stretches. Once you have completed this phase, you may want to look into improving your storage methods for the remaining pieces. An old tie rack can be re-purposed.

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Dick, Jane and Dally

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Book collectors are special breed, unwilling to surrender any volume filled with words between two covers. We have addressed the topic of book inundation in previous blogs. Today we turn our sites to a particular book category that for some holds a status higher than either the Bible or encyclopaedias. By this, we mean books that belong or belonged to your children.

No one in her right mind would question the profound importance of exposing children to the pleasures and benefits of reading. New parents get showered with gift books that form cherished memories for their youngsters of being read to or learning to read. Compared with life-sized stuffed animal replicas, video games and noisy battery-operated toys, kids’ books seem positively benign. But from a CRUD fighting standpoint, those Nancy Drews and Curious Georges can be formidable adversaries. We elaborate.

While some children do become attached to their childhood libraries, it is invariably the parents who insist that the storybooks stay on way beyond the early years. Many mothers we have worked with claim to be saving not only their children’s but their own beloved children’s books for future grandchildren. It makes sense to us to preserve a few classics or favorites for posterity, but not in the quantities that we witness. Children’s books encompass a prodigious range of subjects and formats containing coloring books, puzzle and game books, comics, reference books, anthologies, picture books, and illustrated stories. The very same parents who refuse to relinquish even a single volume are the ones who most likely to complain that they are space challenged. The books remain unread on their bookshelves long after the children have moved on to university and beyond, happily starting their adult lives minus the excess baggage.

CRUD Challenge

If even the mere suggestion of turfing childhood possessions is enough to bring on a case of hives, then it may be prudent to whip out your EpiPen before embarking on this exercise. You will have to judge each volume on its merits. Condition matters. Are the pages covered with food stains and grimy finger marks? If your children are still at home is the reading level and subject matter still appropriate for their age and interests? It is a good idea to have them participate in the selection process allowing them to decide which volumes in their collections should be donated to charities or younger relatives. If they have already moved out, the decisions are likely to be all yours. Like so many other souvenirs from growing up, once they are gone, they will be forgotten. If you have raised a reader in the process, rejoice.

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