May 21, 2005

Glancing up, noticing piles of things everywhere.

A pile of exams, needing grading.

A pile of things brought in from the car after the Ithaca trip, not yet put away.

A pile of bills to pay.

Piles of papers on my desk, some of which need to be put in some permanent place and some thrown away. If I wait longer to deal with this, will that enable me to put more of the things in the trash?

Piles of books I've started to read. If I delay longer trying to finish them, won't it become easier to toss more of them aside as never deserving to be read through?

Piles of magazines I've subscribed to, received, and not even opened. And this includes The New Yorker, which you'd think would at least get paged through to read the cartoons.

Piles of books to sell off at Half-Price Books. Is it even worth the trip dragging them over there and waiting while they determine the price? The task will take an hour, and I'll be lucky to get $25 out of it. But I need a way to rid the house of accumulated rectangular objects.

A pile of dry cleanables. What is more boring and more irritatingly expensive than getting dry-clean-only things cleaned?

A pile of beautiful archival gallery frames for photographs, still wrapped, bought years ago, back before I even had a digital camera. And did you know I've never printed out a single one of the thousands of photographs I've taken with my digital camera, which I've had since March 2004?

A pile of boxes that need to be broken down and tied up for recycling. Piles of newspapers and catalogues that need to be put out for recycling. Next week! Even worse: piles of last years phone books. Can they please stop making phone books -- or at least stop handing them out to people who don't want them?

A pile of framed pictures, recovered from a house I took part in dismantling, after a death that took place years ago.

Piles of videotapes that I just want to throw away after checking to make sure there is nothing important somewhere in them. No movie on videotape, by the way, is important anymore. If it isn't on DVD, I'm never going to watch it.

Piles of 8 mm home movies from the 1950s and 60s, also from the dismantled house, that I was supposed to have transferred on to videotape for everyone's convenience, which I never did because I realized the transfer should be to digital, but that I've also never done.

Piles of CD cases and inserts from CD cases that accumulated when I put all the CDs into a 500 CD player -- years ago.

Piles of vinyl records, which I love, but almost never play.

Piles of foreign coins that are no longer even usable.

Piles of receipts and other papers that I would shred if I had a shredder.

Piles of dust in corners that I remember, but don't look at.

Piles of dishes that haven't been used in years but that take up space because I have a lot of cupboard space.

Piles of food boxes that are long past their sell-by date, that keep their permanent spots in my excessive cupboard space.

Piles of clothes that should be taken over to Goodwill, that are just aging slowly -- some for over 10 years -- in my oversized closet.

Well, maybe if you wouldn't blog so much, you'd have time to deal with the real world that is closing in on you and making you feel so uneasy.

Ah, but I love blogworld, where each day is a slate wiped clean! The archive is always neatly whisked away and always perfectly sorted into chronological order and retrievable, easily, at the push of a button.


Ron said...

Ann: Maybe you can tie the two worlds together. Make "Ann's Cleaning" a theme that pops up from time to time. Solicit responses from the blog readership, which may include exhortations to further cleaning or suggestions about the correct/fun way to approach one of these cleaning areas.

Don't make it a chore -- make it stuff you haven't yet blogged about. It's nice to think the intellectual thoughts, but since we aren't disembodied brains in vats, (or we think we're not!) the physical world intrudes.

The best blogs to me always have a person behind them, not merely a theme. This would deepen the "blog person" that we all read about and like.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Ron. Could do some good photoblogging. Actually I have done that before:


And here.

Joe said...

Do before and after shots...make Heloise proud.

Mark Daniels said...

I can surely identify with this. My home office is a pit and I had to force myself to clean the Master bed room last week, the dust had piled up so much.

But this blogging calls me. In part, no doubt, that is due to the very reason you advance. Blogging seems to impose a neatness and order on my untidy thoughts and ruminations that, scrawled on an envelope or shared fitfully in personal conversation, it might not have. (Check that, it clearly wouldn't have.)

Blogging makes me appear more profound and more together than I really am. When I see my words there on the computer screen, neatly printed and ordered, I almost believe that I know what I'm talking about.

Maybe it's that illusion that helps to make it so addictive for me.

Good post, usual.


Mark Daniels said...

I should have said, "Blogging seems to impose a neatness and order on my untidy thoughts and ruminations that, scrawled on an envelope or shared fitfully in personal conversation, they might not have."

Even a blog cannot compensate for grammatical errors and I hate to read them when I commit them!

Ann Althouse said...

I've paid the bills! And I'm making some progress on the exams....

docweasel said...

Mary E. Glynn said...

That is the scariest Saturday morning life assessment I think I've ever read, but very revealing in a short amount of space, so good writing. My thoughts were: 1) if that were me, time to move!, and 2) wow, and my highest ambitions on this rainy saturday where I'm at, were to post on the blog. But then again, I'm a lazy planner. Thanks for sharing.

Meade said...

Junk is piling up; taking up space
My eyes feel like they're falling off my face
Sweat falling down, I'm staring at the floor
I'm thinking about that girl who won't be back no more
I don't know what I'm gonna do
I was all right 'til I fell in love with you

I'm sure I don't need to tell you who wrote that. De-pile on.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: I've long realized that moving is the only real solution -- the ultimate motivation to weed through everything. I used to move every 2 years. Now, it's nearly 20 years. And the house is so big ...

Bee said...

I now sell all my used CDs, DVDs and books online through Amazon. Click on the "sell your stuff" link on their homepage. The best part is not having to wait at Half-Price for evaluation, and the fun of making a little more Amazon money.

If things don't sell, or they sell for peanuts, I just donate them to the library.


Ann Althouse said...

Bee: But you've got to pack things up and mail them right? You need supplies, postage... This is all more clutter!

Mark Daniels said...

When I don't go to Half Price with old stuff, the second quickest-and-easiest method, I take them to Goodwill. If I have a lot of books to donate, I'll take the time to catalog them for tax itemization. Otherwise, I just take the maximum allowable on my taxes. This probably denies me what I could otherwise write off, but it saves on the amount of time spent on the whole process. At age fifty-one, I've come to believe that my time is a lot more valuable than money.

It's liberating to clean out the clutter of books I'm apt to accumulate. (It also causes me to wonder things like, "Why exactly did I buy 'The Greening of America' anyway?")

Ann Althouse said...

Ironically, a couple of the books I need to get rid of are about how to declutter!

MKL said...

Books that I'm done with I send off via

But it does depend on what subjects you got piled up...

Kathleen B. said...

Prof. Althouse - I know this won't help with managing your piles, but would you post what your exam questions were? I am really interested. (But I understand if you don't want to) thanks.

Ron said...

Ann: Thanks for your links to your 'House of Althouse' cleaning reports...however, the old color scheme has french-fried my retinas...I much prefer the present.

See? Even just in your current layout, cleanup has occured. Mark that as "credit."

My own "dining room table" (HAH!) can be referred to as 'Eras of Paperwork.' So I think there may be a trilobyte or two down there if I do some core sampling...

Ann Althouse said...

Ron: I used to rotate the color scheme over there, but I can't get to that site anymore because the software I was experimenting with -- iBlog -- expired. My current blog is actually older, and I just had that second blog as a spillover for a couple months.

Ann Althouse said...

Let the world note that I have also cleared two desks, done two loads of laundry, and graded 1/4 of one of my exams -- all today.

EddieP said...

Geez Ann, at that rate, at the end of the week you're not going to have anything left to do.

Alan Kellogg said...


Excess books, excess cupboard space.


Convert cupboard space into bookshelves.

ballyfager said...

I think you left out the most depressing part unless I missed it. If you were to move, although you would part with some of it, you'd be surprised how much of this crap you would take with you.

DNR Mom said...

Ann, you may need our services. We are Touch of Pride Sales, an estate and household goods liquidation company. We will take your cast-offs and try to sell them in our estate sale store on Monona Drive.

Go to the website, to see if you think ToPS can help. At the very least consider letting us try to get $3 each -- or more -- for your books. Our commission of one-third leaves you with $2 per book.

We offer sorting, packing, moving and free storage until we can display your items at an estate sale. We can also sell on e-bay.

Best, your proceeds are not taxable, yet any charitable donations we make for you can give you a handsome tax writeoff.

--Susan Pride Caulum

Ann Althouse said...

Dnr Mom: I don't think I could bear having such a service going through my stuff. I'd never do a yard sale either. I basically either throw things out or give them to Goodwill. With books, I take them to Half-Price books. When I actually did have to dismantle an entire house once, I was forbidden to do an estate sale -- and threatened with haunting if I disobeyed!

Dr. Fager: When I move, it will be to a place less than half the size of my current house, so I will be ruthless weeding things out.

DNR Mom said...

Ann: Fine. I understand. But how about a compromise? You sort your stuff into two stacks: ToPS Sells and Ann Keeps. Hate to see all your dollars go only to donations when you can have both cash & writeoffs. But that's just my institutional penny-pinching resaler view.

--Susan Pride Caulum
Touch of Pride Sales