What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– two of our everyday bowls, cracked

Some days I chose what to shed. Other days entropy does.

As I forked up the last bite of my salad at lunch, something seemed wrong. I looked closely at the bowl, and found two cracks, long, deep, and about to connect. Another bowl in the set was cracked as well, I found.

The cracks are hard to see, but they're there ... you could have bowled me over!

The cracks are hard to see, but they’re there.

We haven’t abused them, but we’ve used them well. I suppose they’ve been bumped together too often or gone through too many cycles of thermal expansion and contraction in the wash. I’m afraid they’ll have to go to the landfill; we don’t need knick-knack collectors. If a bowl can’t hold hot soup, it’s got to go. But we’re grateful for their service.

shedding style: throw away
destination: the landfill

Comments welcome … ever been bowled over by a crack-up?


– mostly-used, dried up cans of stains and paint

Today was not a good day for my mitigation of climate change.

As we renovate Casa de WIST, our policy is to purchase and use low-VOC (volatile organic compound) finishes as much as possible. But we have quite a few oil-based products around nevertheless. A handful have been allowed because I believe they actually will have less impact (better, for instance, to repaint and continue to use the tubs than replace them). Some I bought long ago before it was widely understood that even the “consumer” segment of the solvents market has a measurable impact on air quality and greenhouse gases. Many were acquired by my father over his decades of do-it-himselfing. Not a few we inherited from previous owners of our house, who kindly left them behind just in case we might need them.

I’ve been able to dispose of some of this unwanted wealth at municipal household hazardous waste collections. But that mostly just kicks the disposal problem down the road. The best recourse generally is to use them up, while committing to water-based products in the future.

So … Nimue and I have been rebuilding a bath sink cabinet we pulled from the upstairs bathroom into a sort of miniature sideboard we’ll use in the kitchen-dining room. For eventual ease of wiping down, we decided to apply sealant to the inside. We didn’t care much what it looked like—most of the time it will be dark in there—so we thought we might mix odd bits of stain-sealer and have enough to do the job.

But when she opened the first can, Nimue found that a thick skin had formed on top of what remained of “Antique Walnut” and the material under it was thick as sludge. “Colonial Pine” was a goner, too. The couple of pints left in the gallon of sanding sealer had turned the consistency of yogurt. And the sealing primer I used on the floor in the bathroom today looked and felt like large-curd cottage cheese. I suppose that too much time and exposure to air (just that inside the closed cans) made them useless.

I had to leave the cans open to the atmosphere so the remaining contents will dry to a hard, inert state. Then I can take them to the construction-and-demolition landfill. But I hate to do it.

Past choices frame present options. That’s much on my mind these days as I hear and ponder the news from Washington and the world and watch the grey squirrels chase one another in the strange summer the southeastern US is having in January. My hope lies in trusting that we can learn to make better choices today, so what used to be called the “common weal” shall thrive in the future.

shedding style: throw away
destination: C&D landfill

Comments welcome … with appreciation for the sly wit and social commentary of Mick and Keith … shall we agree to not “Paint It Black” after all?

Leave a comment »

– my old wallet

The conversation with KonMari I promised for today’s post must be rescheduled; sorry! But here’s today’s shed. It’s another item I’ve kept out of the wastebasket awhile so I could write about it on WIST.

Though we all hardly look a day older (ha!), some time ago my good friends Larry and Debbie wed. I had a part in their ceremony, and they gave me a nice leather wallet as a thank-you gift. I didn’t start using it right away, but when my cheap nylon wallet began to part at its folds, I moved cards and cash into the new one, whereupon it and my hip pocket formed a relationship that lasted about 25 years.

The wallet traveled many miles, soaked up a lot of sweat, and survived a two-hour sluicing of salt water we received when a high surf got up and a fishing boat I was on had to dash for harbor. I hardly look a day older (ha!), but the wallet … it became my portrait of Dorian Gray. First its complexion darkened and grew course. Then creases turned into cracks. Finally, it seemed to lose any sense of structure. I loathed giving up on it, but my stuff was spilling out whenever I opened it.


I like my new, cotton duck wallet manufactured by Jandd, a company I trust. (We use their bicycle panniers for our touring.) But it’s not the good old familiar lump in my pocket. Nevertheless, for everything there is a season. As KonMari would recommend, I will hold my old wallet to my heart, thank it for its faithful service on thousands of ordinary days and not a few adventures … then let it go.

shedding style: throw away
destination: landfill

Comments welcome … actually, I wish I could compost the wallet; it’s mostly leather and therefore organic in origin. I tried that with a pair of shoes, however, and after two years, they still turned up in the pile looking like shoes. Suggestions for accelerating the process? Or extending my patience?

Leave a comment »

– orphaned convertible pants legs

I took a long break from What I shed today, from sometime in 2015 till now. I thought I had good reasons for allocating the time and attention that blogging takes to other priorities, but I frequently revisited the decision, especially when I happened on something I obviously needed to let go of that would have made a good subject for a shed and post. Occasionally I did write up an entry. More often I just disposed of the item unremarked. But sometimes I saved it against the day I would recommit to this project.

REI Sahara convertible pants legs ... just the legs

REI Sahara convertible pants legs … just the legs

Like these scraps of cloth, which I found in the bottom of a drawer sometime last summer. They belonged to my latest beloved pair of REI Sahara convertible pants. Convertible pants are a boon to those of us who love outdoors pursuits and like to travel light. The legs zip off so they can be turned into shorts as the day or one’s exertions warms the wearer. The Saharas are a lightweight nylon that pack down to a small wad, can be hand-washed in a sink and hung to dry overnight, and have more pockets than perhaps should be allowed. I’ve worn them on rambles, to pubs, on trains, and in cathedrals without feeling too self-conscious.

And, in 20 years of buying them, I’ve worn three pairs out. The nylon in their seats eventually kind of evaporates. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. I’m not complaining, understand. They don’t turn transparent until I’ve donned them hundreds of times.

It was the end of summer and the last pair of convertible pants was in “shorts” mode when I had to give up on them. I completely forgot about the legs. But when I found them, I moved them to a shelf in plain sight, where I’ve looked at them almost every day and said, “I should fire up the blog again—there’s my first shed.”

It was silly, really, for someone who’s trying to have in his house only what he believes to be beautiful or knows to be useful. And KonMari (she of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) has something to say to that. I have something to say in return. I’ll take up that conversation tomorrow.

shedding style: throw away
destination: landfill

Comments welcome … have you ever saved something so you could throw it away? (Surely not … surely you’re too wise for that!)

(The duck returned tonight with homemade noodles in a soup. I think it’s getting better and better.…)


– worn-out clothes

Last November, Nimue and I met KonMari (not in person, but through her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering). We found much in it to complement what we’ve learned over years of pursuing what we used to call “organization” and now think of as living in spaces that are beautiful and useful.

Favorably impressed as we are with KonMari’s method, we haven’t bought entirely into it, though we see she has good reasons for her recommendations. For our own reasons, and contrary to her advice, we’re working through the categories a little at a time rather in single-session marathons. But we’re still getting some good results, like this pile:

The lilies of the field would be ashamed to be arrayed in such as these!

The lilies of the field would be ashamed to be arrayed in such as these!

On top are work clothes that were wearing thin or getting stiff with paint. They were easy to shed. Below them, however, are black silk shirts that were such favorites they have been our second skins for years. Even with good care, however, warp and woof begin to part after a decade of constant use. We hadn’t yet admitted it was time to let them go. KonMari’s ritual of embracing an item while thanking it for the service it’s given, funny as it may sound, helped us act on the decisions we realized we’d already reached.

I’ll probably have more to say about KonMari’s principles and techniques in future posts. For tonight, however, I’ll conclude with a grateful bow in her direction.

shedding style: throw away (we have enough rags already)
destination: landfill

Comments welcome … have you ever hugged your clothes?


– 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 …


– my favorite paintbrush

I’ve had my Porter Paints 2” wide paintbrush for some 30 years. Not to brag, but it’s lasted this long because I’ve taken exquisite care of it. I always rinsed it out promptly, used a brush comb to keep its bristles aligned, hung it to dry, and stored it in its cardboard brush-keeper till that finally fell apart. The brush was worth that investment of effort because it feathered better than any other I’ve ever worked with.


But late last year it suffered a solvent incompatibility accident, and it’s never been the same since. Material has hardened to something like stone in its heel, and Nimue strongly suspects it of leaving contaminating particles behind in what are supposed to be satin-smooth finishes.

It’s not working anymore. And we don’t keep what isn’t useful.

But I’m going to let myself stop by a “pro” paint store and try to buy its genetic clone.

shedding style: throw away
destination: landfill (sob)

Comments welcome … do you have tools the loss of which you couldn’t just “brush off”?

Leave a comment »

– styrofoam peanuts in the treehouse

Casa de WIST came with a treehouse out back, which was really cool.


Except the 3/4”-plywood floor had rotted before we took posession, which was a sore trial to my inner child’s spirit. Making the treehouse safe will require demolishing the superstructure and building back something more resilient and useful. My superego keeps saying, “Other projects have higher priorities.”

(Inner child heaves long-suffering sigh.)

You’d think at least that I would have, after all these years, removed the styrofoam peanuts that, inexplicably, covered the still-semi-solid parts of the treehouse’s floor to a depth of about two inches. I recently made a list of “ten itches to scratch,” and peanut extraction was at the top. But that was going to require hauling the shop-vac out there, lifting it into the treehouse, snaking an extension cord out to it, and sucking up styrofoam while balancing precariously on the joists. One of my earliest childhood memories is of the two holes in the ceiling my father’s legs made when he fell through while working in the attic. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps.

But a couple days ago I finally said, “Okay, I’ll at least start by grubbing out a bag to put the peanuts into.” And the rest followed, step by step.


Ah, (skritch skrich), that feels good.

shedding style: remove and throw away
destination: landfill (unfortunately)

Comments welcome … have you a list of itches to scratch? What might go on it?

1 Comment »

– cheaply-made tower fan

Two years ago we had a very wet spring and summer. I’ve lost touch with the climatological numbers, but it rained so often and much that it ended our state-wide drought that began in 2010. “Better damp than drought!” we said.


A price we paid, however, was that, in the high humidity, every surface of organic origin in our home and anything synthetic that we’d touched grew a grey-green film of mold.

It drove Nimue a little crazy. She learned to pronounce the medical names of horrible diseases, washed clothes for days, carried a spray bottle of bleach solution around with her like a sidearm, and bought four new fans. “Air movement,” she said grimly, “discourages it.”

The tower fan went in our clothes closet, where, indeed, it discouraged a return of the mold till the winter heating season began.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of fans? Blue's shadow knows.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of fans? Blue’s shadow knows.

The next summer, when we wanted to use the tower fan again, it seemed a bit sleepy. And it didn’t wake up. It got slower … and slower … and s-l-o-w-e-r…. “Maybe it would run better if we took it apart and cleaned it,” Nimue suggested. “Sure,” I said, and fetched a different fan to cool us off.

In the way things work around here, a project deferred is often a project delayed. But recently we got around to attempting fan surgery. The case came apart easily enough by backing out some screws. We wiped all the dust off the fins, but the little motor (labeled “no user-serviceable parts inside”) wasn’t encouraged much. Now it won’t turn at all.

I hate cheap junk that barely outlasts its warranty. (Hear that, Big Blue Box Home Improvement Warehouse?) We’d buy better if better were available. Sometimes it’s not.


shedding style: throw away
destination: the landfill

Comments welcome … aren’t goods that last fan-tastic?

Leave a comment »