What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– the repair project and ethical responsibility of the birdfeeder

I have finally decided, after much vacillation: our bird feeder shall be shed. I haven’t used it in well over a decade maybe two since one of the panels that holds and distributes the feed broke. But all this time I’ve kept it, thinking, “I could get and cut a piece of clear plastic to fix it. Hang it in the dogwood off the deck. Get some seed and cracked corn and start watching birds. I loved that when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure that feeder was a present from my parents while we lived in Illinois, probably because they remembered that. And Mom hates to look on WIST and see me shedding something she’s given me.”

the feeder in the Camellia out front

the feeder in the Camellia out front

I could do all that. Another problem, though, is that to start feeding birds in a neighborhood is to covenant with them not to stop. They quickly learn to depend upon it. I don’t know why I don’t trust myself to hold up my end; eleven cat-panions, past and present, would purr that I do. But felines have ways to reinforce good behavior that avians lack.

Oh, darn it—I am the son of an engineer—tomorrow I will cut a piece of something to replace the broken panel before I leave it at the ReStore. Glass or plywood would work. I may even have some acrylic out in the garage, I don’t know. Then someone who wants the joy of sustaining feathered friends can take it home and start using it without adopting a repair project, perhaps without the resources I’ve got.

shedding style: repair then give away
destination: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Comments welcome … do you ever furrow your brow sorting out can, should, would if, and want to?

(Ummm … sorry, Mom!)


– the upstairs bathroom’s sink

Our upstairs bathroom’s integral countertop-sink was cast of a decent composite material and would still be perfectly serviceable … in, we judge, a somewhat larger “little room” than ours. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is our favorite place to donate and acquire used building materials. The only downside to shedding there is that I eye all the other great stuff and have to master the temptation to take another project away when I leave!

the sink and faucet at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore's unloading zone

our old sink, faucet, and side-splash left at the ReStore’s unloading zone

shedding style: give away
destination: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Comments welcome … is there such a thing as a “sink cost fallacy”?

(The duck didn’t appear on today’s menus, though I sauteed its liver with onions and made a pâté for tomorrow’s snacks.)

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– my little brother’s big old speakers

What’s been cooking today at Casa de WIST? The duck made its second appearance, this time as Peking Duck (with guidance from the infallible Jamie Oliver). For the pancakes, I used Mexican flour tortillas … thicker, but available even at gas station convenience stores in the southeastern US. I thought they were an acceptable substitute, but necessity is the mother of invention.

Earlier today, I applied drywall compound to the many defects in the bathroom’s walls. Once it dried, Nimue hit it with a sanding screen. At least one more round of patching and sanding is in order. Maybe tomorrow we’ll finish that and start rolling on primer. The epoxy for renewing the finish on the fiberglass tub-and-shower is no longer stocked at the home improvement warehouse; we had to special-order it and await its arrival this coming Saturday. Oh well, that gives us time to get our ducks in a row (heh-heh).

I knocked the cabinet down to panels so I can trim a few inches off them with the table saw. I love the idea of taking something that wasn’t working very well from one part of the house and re-making it so it can serve in another.


The next time you see this, I hope there will be both more and less of it to see!

All this is ancillary, however, to today’s shed: my brother’s big old speakers. He gave them to us some years ago when he made the shift to something more modest. We used them till they started to rattle and hum. (My attempt to employ them to reach an altered state of consciousness by playing the Who at 1970s volumes might have had something to do with that.)

It’s not just that they buzz. I could remedy that. The weak link in an audio speaker is the foam ring that connects the cone to the frame. They’re available in repair kits. They aren’t cheap, but cost a lot less than new speakers.

But we’ve moved on, too. Nimue listens to her podcasts through earbuds. I use them, too, on long solo car trips. Most of the time, I’d still rather that music arrived at my ears from at least a couple feet away, but a pair of computer speakers pushes it well enough. When I still need to really rock out, I’ve got an amp-and-speaker thingy (I don’t know what else to call it!) that turns any mp3 source into thumping thunder.

So here’s the plan. There are makers out there, I know, who love a little hands-on and, not incidentally, have a fascination with vinyl LPs [upcoming WIST post!] and vintage stereo equipment. Despite my discouraging results in the past with the medium, I’m going to try to use the “free” category on craigslist to connect with someone who’d like to take on the project.

from "back in the day" ... yet perhaps their day has come again

from “back in the day” … yet perhaps their day shall come again

shedding style: give away
destination: someone’s rock’n’roll dream

Comments welcome … remember when music took up several square feet of space? Were we wrong?

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– upstairs bathroom 1.0

Today we turned our upstairs bathroom into a shell of its former self.


the bathroom after the application of wrenches, hammers, pry bars, and scrapers

I thought I had a “before” photo on my hard drive, but it appears to be archived off somewhere. You’re spared that image of a cramped room, painted brown and furnished with builder’s-grade fixtures in “almond” shades. Nothing in it had been changed in the 28 years since the house was built.

Ah, but today, we took up the curling and yellowing sheet-vinyl flooring. (I regard every trip to the construction-and-demolition landfill as a capitulation, but that’s where it will have to go.) We’ll lay ceramic hex tiles in its place; with good care by subsequent owners, they might last the next hundred years.

The cabinet and sink top were too large for the space, so we pulled them out and will replace them with a pedestal sink. (Since the cabinet matches those in the kitchen, we’ll rebuild it and relocate it there to serve as a stand for our microwave, which currently teeters on a folding tray table. The sink top will go to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.)

We’ll try to give the tub and shower surround an update (and color change to white) by applying an epoxy coating. It’s an experiment, but we had good luck refinishing the laminate countertops in the kitchen with a product from the same manufacturer.

Tomorrow, renovating continues! With it we release the weight of what what doesn’t “spark joy” and, thus, lighten up!

shedding style: demolish

Comments welcome … does it seem that, more often than not, we must destroy in order to build?


– shower curtain rings

While we’ve been silent on this blog in recent months, Casa de WIST has echoed with the chatter of a reciprocating saw, the percussion of hammers, and the soft swish of paintbrushes applying new finishes. Nimue and revdarkwater have been busy renovating, inside and out.

But happiness often arises in balance and is at risk without it. So we’re feeling drawn, if not compelled, to attend again to cutting our clutter, and have embraced a goal this month to shed something every day and post to WIST about it.

This morning I was digging down through our box of plastic sheets (in search of one I could use underneath our Eureka Timberline as I attempt to renew its polyurethane waterproofing) when I uncovered this:

2016-07-01 12.13.15-e

It’s a shower curtain, yellowed and stained past my point of dismay, but sound enough to be re-purposed as a drop cloth. But why, I wondered, didn’t I remove the curtain rings back when I put it in the box? No matter; I did today, and we’ll give them to Goodwill or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Bonus shed: also in the box was my old homemade plastic camping tarp. It was my first backpacking shelter, carried on the Appalachian Trail before I could afford my first tent—which I saved up for and purchased, let’s see, some 35 years ago.

2016-07-01 12.10.52-e

Today the tarp smelled like acetic acid (a sign that plasticizers are breaking down) and cracked when I unfolded it. It must go to the landfill, I regretfully judge.

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome …


– Grandpa’s frames with still-life prints

Grandpa Elmer and Grandma Trudy, my father’s parents, lived north of Columbus, Indiana, on R.R. #1 (the post office’s abbreviation for “rural route one”). We lived east, on R.R. #4. Only a few miles lay between … indeed, when I got a little older, I once rode to Grandma and Grandpa’s on my bike, and not by the shortest route. I realize now how fortunate I was to grow up so close to them and to visit so frequently—nearly every weekend and holiday of the year. Their house was almost like a second home to me. I still remember every room, its decoration and many of the furnishings.


The cypress knee and piece of petrified wood on the display shelf close to the front door were special and needed to be touched like totems every time I was there. I didn’t ask to handle Grandma’s collection of souvenir shot glasses, but I liked to look at them. Other items were just “there.” They didn’t have anything to do with me or, it seemed, with Grandma and Grandpa. They were just ordinary accessories to a house. Like the framed set of still life prints in their front room.

Not everything that’s passed down in one’s family is an heirloom.

But those, it turned out, meant a little more to my father. Some years later, when Grandma and Grandma’s health declined and they had to move to a retirement home, he took the pictures. “Dad made these frames,” he told me. I looked at them with fresh and appreciative eyes. I’d worked in “the trades” on and off at that point, and I knew a well-executed mitre cut when I saw one. “Do you know anything about the prints?” I asked. “No, I think they were just something he liked,” Dad said.


But they never found a place on a wall of my parents’ homes. Mom is a gifted water-colorist; one of my brothers makes exceptional photographs. Gallery space is scarce. Somehow, somewhen, Grandpa’s frames and prints came to me. The prints don’t please me (they recall the interior decoration of “home cookin’” restaurants), but I always thought I’d mount something else in the frames.

But a truth I’m having to face is that we don’t have anything that quite fits, in size or style. Another is that not everything that’s passed down in one’s family is an heirloom. I’ve repeatedly offered Grandpa’s frames and prints to my brothers and sisters, and they don’t want them either. Maybe a cousin would … but probably not.


I’ve got Grandpa’s big screwdriver, his brace and bit, and his 65-year-old Craftsman ¼-inch electric drill; every time I use them his spirit is with me. I don’t get that spark off the frames. So they’re a hook I’m finally going to let myself off of. If I need forgiveness for that, well, I ask it. He was a good man. I can accept it as given.

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … are you hung on the hook of any un-heirlooms?


– (not very) light fixture

What I shed today is about lightening up … today we took our mission in a slightly different sense. Let me illumine you.…

Our home’s stairwell and small landing at its top have been only faintly lit by a rather puzzling choice of fixture that uses US E12 bulbs—the same as those in nightlights.


No “sink cost fallacy” is going to keep us from shedding this lamp.

Not only were we underwhelmed by its performance, we couldn’t muster any appreciation for its carriage-lamp style. So today we stopped cursing the dark and installed aircraft landing strip lights in its place.

Please forgive the odd stacks of building materials; we're re-modeling. At least now you won't trip over them in the dark!

Hiya! Please forgive the odd stacks of building materials; we’re re-modeling. At least now we won’t trip over them in the dark!

I feel badly giving away something so lame, but perhaps someone renovating a haunted house will think the old light is a great find. To the used-building-materials thrift store it goes.

shedding style: give away
destination: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Comments welcome … might some different lighting, er, fixture you up, too?

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– pair of license plates

Yanking and shoving tools and supplies on my garage shelves into (slightly) better order, a box corner caught on something flexible yet firm. What’s fallen down there? I wondered, reaching bravely into the dim, cob-webby corner. My hand brought out not spiders (most of which are harmless, right?), but two old license plates.


I don’t recall or recognize them as any of mine; they must’ve been lost by some previous owner of our house. They failed the test of the Morris Rule (neither useful nor beautiful), and ordinarily I would’ve tossed them in our nearest recycling bin, but one commemorated the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games (which were hosted by Atlanta with the help of the rest of the state). And, practiced as I’ve tried to become at refusing it, I fell again for one of my favorite rationalizations to fail to shed: “I don’t want this, but someone surely would.”

How to find that interested collector, though? I tried posting an ad to the “free stuff” category on craiglist and had an inquiry within minutes. Success! I thought, smugly dismissing the reservations I’d felt.

… I fell again for one of my favorite rationalizations to fail to shed: “I don’t want this, but someone surely would.”

But Kenny never came to collect the plates, though I left them leaning on the mailbox post for two days. A second caller’s passionate promise of interest also evaporated overnight. Apparently a challenge of giving something away for nothing is that nothing is the value that may be put on it in our consumer culture.

John, however, was a craigslister of his e-mailed and telephoned word, and he now possesses the plates. I doubt it makes the world a better place … but maybe there’s a slight net increase of happiness. I am, at least, a few ounces lighter.

shedding style: give away
destination: John’s collection

Comments welcome … shall we call a moratorium on collecting other people’s collections?

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– someone else’s books

These books weren’t mine, in neither sense of “ownership” … I didn’t buy or receive them, and they had no claim on me, to urge me to read them. (Mostly they were an incomplete set of a religious denomination’s periodical from 50 years ago.) But they were filling a bottom file drawer in an office I’m responsible for.


To the book recycler they go. I imagine they’ll get ground up into post-consumer pulp. But better that than remaining ballast.

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– little red bowl

I bought this little red bowl for a quarter at a yard sale in Chicago during my first year in grad school there. It appears to have been hand-thrown and somewhat crudely finished. A name is scratched in stilted letters on the bottom, but I can’t make it out. I guessed then, and now, that it was someone’s school art project.


It’s no bigger than a small grapefruit.

I recall I hoped to use it as a planter in my windowsill … I longed for something green to cheer my dorm room. But that wasn’t practical, since the bowl had no drain holes. It found another purpose, though. I’d been emptying my pockets into the top drawer of my dresser, and coins slid around and got lost under my neckties. The bowl received and held them handily.

I’m not sure when I stopped using it for that … after one or another change of address, I guess. For the last few years it’s been in our home office. When we’ve found ourselves holding an odd bit that we wanted to put down, often we’ve dropped it into the bowl. So it’s collected rubber bands, binder and paper clips, pennies, small parts that fall off of things, and astounding amounts of cat hair and dust. But none of that really belongs there. Office supplies are supposed to be in the office supply box. Pennies, in the coin collector. Parts, back on what they fell off of. And so on.

We’ve realized that any container that doesn’t have a decided-upon and declared purpose (best reinforced with a label) will collect junk. We’re shedding our collection of such attractive nuisances. Since the bowl doesn’t particularly please us as domestic art, we’ll pass it on, in hope that someone else will see it and say, “That little red bowl is just the thing!”

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … do you have containers that collect chaos?