I can no longer shop happily

12 08 2020

Cancer requires stuff.

If you’re getting chemo, then there’s a good chance that you’ll need something for your head: wigs, scarves, hats—something to cover you and keep you warm.

Happily, I will not be getting chemo, but my particular surgery and the radiation has required me to buy:

  • sports bras (aka cheap compression bras): to keep the girls in place
  • saltines & ginger ale: to deal with post-surgical nausea
  • Aquafor: to deal with the “skin irritation” (aka burns) from the radiation
  • hydrocortisone cream: to deal with the “skin irritation” (aka itching) from the radiation
  • cheap undershirts: to protect my clothes from the Aquafor and hydrocortisone cream
  • aluminum-free deodorant: presumably to somehow not mess with the radiation
  • fragrance-free soap: presumably to avoid further skin irritation
  • cloth masks with filter inserts: Strictly speaking, this is more about the corona virus than the cancer, but since I’ll be commuting into Manhattan every day for four weeks to get zapped, I wanted something that would be both more environmentally-friendly and more effective than surgical masks. (The clinic will still give me a surgical mask to wear instead of my cloth one, but that’s on them.)

My radiation oncologist also suggested I use ratty old bras, since “you’re not getting them clean” after all of the creams; since I already have those, however, that’s not a required buy.

Again, had I needed chemo, I’d probably have had to buy even more stuff, to deal with the nausea (for the tummy) and the effects of nausea (for the throat and mouth), and things I haven’t even considered, and won’t consider, because, honestly, I don’t have to, and this is already enough.

So, yes, I am learning *so much* from this cancer; I would have preferred to have remained ignorant.


Darling what you have is enough

19 09 2011

I am trying to find my way clear.

More prosaically, I am trying to rid my apartment of unnecessary and unwanted things, and consolidating the rest into ever smaller, more tightly packed, containers.

This is a years-long process, one aided by moving (which I am not) and abetted by restlessness (which I am), and constrained by the dimensions of my junior one bedroom in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn.

I didn’t really start getting rid of stuff until I left Minneapolis for Montreal. And, christ, what a vast amount of crap I hauled from Madison to Minneapolis to Albuquerque and back, and through all my apartment moves within Minneapolis. My friends bitched about moving all my boxes of books, but the real waste of their efforts was in moving paper and files I’d never look at again, clothes I’d never wear again, and assorted other nonsense that I kept for. . . no reason whatsoever.

I got rid of a lot of that when I left for Montreal, but, alas, not enough, a fact hidden by my beautifully large and sunny 2 bedroom apartment in that feline city. All that I had couldn’t fill that space, which seduced me into believing that all that I had was not too much.

I shed a bit more on my move down to Somerville and another large apartment—this time with storage space in the basement. Granted, most of what I kept in the basement were storage containers for the things two floors above, but, again, I found clothes to donate and tables to sell and books to give away.

The move to New York was. . . problematic in 18 different ways, among which was not knowing when I’d get my own place and thus, not knowing what I truly needed. Paid storage, the bane which appears a blessing, kept me in excess lamps, extra chairs, and the Buddha knows what else. Once I moved into this junior one bedroom in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, I determined that anything which I couldn’t fit I wouldn’t fit, and as a result, got rid of those excess lamps, extra chairs, and Buddha knows what else.

Still, I tire of my things, want fewer things. The problem, of course, is that my desire to trim down runs into the recognition that I have already shed the easy excess, and that what remains may just be necessary.

Are all these books necessary? To me, for now, yes. I may at some point decide they are more trouble—and they are trouble, seeing as how they appear to multiply out of their shelves—than they’re worth, but now, today, I would be cutting off limbs to cart them away. (Okay, yes, there are some I don’t want and have designated for removal, but those are the few which will make hardly a dent in the many.) And my 800 or so cds? Well, shit, I have them, and while I haven’t bought any new ones in years and may never buy any again, that I haven’t put them all on my hard drive (and have no plans in the immediate future to do so), and that I long ago discarded the jewel cases and reduced them to two-and-a-half boxes, means that any space I’d save would not be worth all that music I’d be giving up.

Pots, pans, dishes—necessary. Clothes, shoes, jackets, hats and mittens—necessary. And while I stopped buying t-shirts, flannel shirts, or any oversized men’s shirts over a decade ago, my disdain for waste and willingness to wear clothes until they fall apart, as well as the fact that I’m pretty much the same size I was half a lifetime ago, means that I still have some clothes from half a lifetime ago. And I won’t get rid of what few business suits I have because, well, I might need to wear those damned suits and I don’t want to have to buy all new stuff.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. Clearing away the detritus of my undergraduate and graduate years was a pain in the ass, involving hours hunched over a shredder and multiple trips to the recycling bin, but akin to raking up thick layers of leaves on the ground. Then came the digging into the dirt, then the hauling up of stones and fill, and now, now I’m at the hard rock, chipping away, chipping away.

I need the rock, of course, can’t keep chiseling my way down to nothing—not yet. Someday I may be comfortable with nothing, but today I’m trying discern how much something is enough without being too much.

Hey you might need a raincoat

10 11 2010

I have too much stuff.

This is something I recognize every single time I move, but in my half-employment, I’ve been trying to spiff up my apartment (painting not just desks but also bookcases! and other things!), a spiffing which requires that I get rid of stuff.

But the problem(s), see, is that 1) some stuff is useful; and 2) I hate waste.

On the useful stuff: I’ve lived with roommates who’ve laughed at all the stuff I have but who also have had no problem making use of said stuff. Television (now gone, of course). Pots. Pans. Knives. Dishes and kitchenware, generally. They’d put garbage in the garbage cans I brought with me, swept their rooms with my broom, and as far as I know were quite happy that there were lights in the living room.

No, no resentment. None. at. all.

So when I would pack up all of my stuff I’d think Oy, too much stuff, but then I’d think, What are you going to do? If I wanted to be able to cook and eat and clean and be able to read then I’d need pots and pans and dishes and brooms and lights and really, since I already owned all of this stuff, didn’t it make more sense for me just to bring it with me than to toss it out and buy new stuff?

Which brings me to the second point, hating waste. If I think something could be useful, I tend to keep it around. I grew up in a house in which half of the basement was given over to storage, as were both attics. My parents were in no ways pack rats; they used the stuff they kept in the basement and attics—that’s why they kept it—and I’ve picked up that habit of, say, saving old jeans in case I need the fabric, or of clipping off buttons and zippers of clothes too far gone to be worn, or jars for storage, or keeping scraps of wood for. . . who knows?

The attic off my sister’s and my bedroom held my dad’s old Air Force duffel bag and the Christmas ornaments, but the attic in my brother’s room held, well, boxes. My mom kept boxes of boxes because that shirt you purchased from Prange’s or JC Penney’s might not have come with a box, and if you want to give it as a gift wouldn’t it look so much nicer wrapped in a box?

So at Christmas time or at any birthday, boxes would be collected and saved for reuse, as were, for a number of years, bows. (We once saved all the Christmas wrapping because my mom heard that it that it made for multicolored flames in a fire. It did not, and thus every year thereafter someone would say ‘We should keep this wrapping for camping. . . .’ My mother did not always find this amusing.)

And, of course, plastic containers were saved, if not for food, then to keep in order the misc bits floating around my dad’s tool bench or if one needed a container for paint or stain or, again, whatever.

My folks weren’t maniacs. Once things were well-used or worn out, they got tossed. In fact, this could be one of the benefits of re-use: Why bother scrubbing the stain out of that old plastic container: just toss it. Or these things could be brought to a picnic or camping or on vacation, with the idea that if the thing were lost or damaged, oh well.

It’s not like losing the good Tupperware.

I don’t have a house or basement or even one, much less two, attics. But I do have a bin of fabric, and I’ve constructed more than one bookshelf or container out of found wood. I have a box of buttons and a few slashed-out zippers and right now there’s a pair of old jeans sitting on top of my bicycle that are too beat to donate and I already have enough jean fabric so I should really just toss them but then again. . . .

Oh, and have I mentioned that I own two bicycles? One is a road bike, circa 1991, and the other a mountain bike from 1994. I don’t really need two bikes—I could get by with the mountain bike—but I doubt I’d get much money for the road bike and jesus it really is a sweet ride and I’m not a serious enough biker to toss out a thousand bucks for a new bike if I want to do some long-haul biking and I already have this one. . . so why not keep it?

The books? Forget it: lost cause.

The files—yes! the files! I have gotten rid of a lot of those, and if I get off my ass will get rid of even more. The conceptual shift away from keeping these has been made; now the practice needs to catch up.

But what of the stuff I keep just because? I have a bin of photos and a box of letters and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of either, because I can replace neither. I rarely go through them, but I like that they’re there. (And it’s just two containers, one under the bed and one in the back of a closet. Out of sight. . . .)

There’s also a third issue, the storing-up stuff. Again, this is a habit learned in SmallTown: Whenever something our family used went on sale, my mom or pop would stock up. Too much toilet paper? Just put it in that space above the regular closet. Extra peanuts (we were a big peanut-eating family) or cans of corn would go on the shelves in the basement, as would the cases of beer and soda.

I don’t need to tell you that we had a freezer and an extra fridge in the basement, do I?

The point was never to run out of stuff. If you need a band-aid or some tape an envelope or toothpaste then it damned well better be there. There was no excuse to run out of stuff which could be stored.

In my household, this means there are always back-up bars of soap, bottles of shampoo, dish soap, and getting down to only 2 or 3 rolls of toilet paper is, if not a crisis, something which requires immediate attention. And don’t ask about the feminine hygiene products.

The upshot of all of this is that my practical habits and my preferences clash: I want a clear space, and prefer emptiness to clutter. I also hate waste and want to make sure the basic are covered.

If only I had an attic.