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It’s been a slow crawl, this move to Atlanta.

I’ve realized that, despite all of my downsizing and decluttering, I’m still not very portable. And I’ve decided that portability is one of my main goals right now. If I decide to move to Manhattan in a few years, or Key West, or anywhere, really, I want to be able to stuff everything that has to go in the back of a box truck.

It’s doable, really, because I’ve discovered how many things that I really don’t want or need. I left a lot of things back in Huntsville — “temporarily,” if you will — and I haven’t missed most of it. (OK, I totally missed my cookie scoop, but I grabbed it on my last trip back.)

It’s been like losing a lot of weight that I didn’t even know I was carrying around. It’s freeing, being surrounded by only the things you actually use, the things you actually enjoy looking at.

It makes for way less noise in my head. I like it.

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I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how the heck side-by-side refrigerators got so popular in the ’80s.

I grew up thinking my family, with our old-fashioned one-door, freezer-on-top model, was missing out, that somehow the families with side-by-sides were enjoying better meals and tastier snacks. They were certainly enjoying hipper, more modern kitchens.

Oh, the misguided assumptions of youth. I finally got my new-fangled side-by-side refrigerator when we moved to Huntsville (at the same time, I might add, that the hippest homeowners were purchasing refrigerators with French doors and freezer drawers on the bottom).

I quickly ascertained that side-by-sides are virtually useless for anyone who actually wants to USE a refrigerator. I was constantly rearranging things to try to make other things fit. The freezer was a disaster, with two extremely deep, extremely narrow drawers that quickly turned into a tumbled mess of freezer bags and containers no matter how careful I was to try to keep them organized, and shelves that were difficult to navigate despite their small size.

Organizing the refrigerator shelves was like playing a game of culinary Tetris. A gallon of milk and a container of orange juice was pretty much all the top shelf could handle. My love for greens fresh out of the salad spinner required a dedicated bottom shelf. The small salad spinner, mostly reserved for fresh herbs, sometimes had to reside in the crisper, a problem given that the drawer usually already contained an array of veggies.

We never got around to getting another one, partly because someone had kindly custom-built the cabinets around the refrigerator, severely limiting the potential replacement models.

Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m once again living with an old-school, freezer-on top refrigerator with one non-French door. Only this time, I’ve decided that old-school is pretty awesome.

The refrigerator shelves offer wide, open spaces — currently, the salad spinner is residing alongside half a gallon of milk, a carton of goat cheese AND a jar of jelly. The freezer’s a huge open space — no shelves, but a couple of small plastic boxes can help sort a LOT of frozen foods. It even has a working ice maker, an innovation that I have, until now, not enjoyed in my own home.

The whole setup is so much more usable than the side-by-side that I’m not even curious about freezer drawers on the bottom anymore. I just want space that makes sense.

I guess the moral of this post is to be careful what you wish for, because you might be stuck cursing at it for five long years when you finally get it.

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Posting has been erratic here for several weeks because my brain has been occupied with big decisions. Like whether to apply for another job, accept another job and move to another city.

In short, the answers were yes, yes and yes.

The husband and I will be moving to Atlanta in short order.

I want to say it was a difficult decision, but it really wasn’t. Huntsville is a nice enough place, but I’m getting antsy.

I haven’t been sure about my career path for the past five years. I’ve wanted to be in the newspaper business since I was a teenager. I never quite recovered from leaving the industry, and the transition to technical writing has never felt quite right to me.

People say your job doesn’t define you. I would reply that no, it certainly does not, but you sure do spend a heck of a lot of time doing it, so you may as well try to enjoy it.

Thus, I’ve accepted an Atlanta job that I think will be an excellent fit for me — the company has already hired several former newspaper folks with great success. I’ll be doing lots of reading, analysis and writing, pretty much all the graduate school activities that I’ve been missing ever since graduation last December.

Atlanta itself? Pretty cool. Lots to do, lots to see. It contains a very busy airport that I’ve never been keen on flying through (in truth, I haven’t been very keen on layovers for several years), but that I’m more than willing to fly out of and into. Two-hour direct flights to New York City abound, and I could spend every vacation day I ever earn in Manhattan if I had the chance. Which I might.

I’ve been packing and getting rid of stuff for the past week. We’re hoping to live in Atlanta, not outside in the commute-stricken burbs, and the tradeoff for this is space. This is going to be the first move in which I really analyze what means enough to me to take. Stuff doesn’t just go in boxes because I own it; stuff goes in boxes because I want it, love it and/or will definitely use it.

I’m excited and nervous, a combination that probably indicates this is going to be awesome. It’ll offer plenty of blogging material, at the very least.

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Yesterday, we hustled this beast of a piano into a rental truck for a short trip across town to one half of The Owl Sisters, two Huntsville ladies who refinish old furniture. After they remove its incredibly heavy harp, one Owl Sister will move the piano (which will really be a former piano at that point) into her home, where she’ll probably turn it into a bar. Or, possibly, something even cooler.

I’ve learned that old pianos are essentially worthless unless they’ve been completely reconditioned, a process that can cost just a thousand dollars or two less than the newly reconditioned piano’s value. I’m not taking that wager.

In the past, I’ve called this the accidental piano. When I was helping my dad clean out his mother’s house, it seemed like a good idea to take it home, not because I had fond memories of it (or even played piano), but because I had always thought it was a groovy piece of furniture. I had no idea that nearly 10 years in Mobile’s humidity would render its delicate wheels virtually useless.

For me, it has held family photos and knickknacks, along with whatever objects happened to be attracted to a flat surface at any given moment. I will miss its unique addition to the general decor, but I won’t miss moving it to another house or worrying about it scratching/denting the new floor when we get around to ditching the carpet.

Au revoir, beastly piano. Enjoy your third life.

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I’ve had several canvas art projects pinned to my Pinterest craft board for MONTHS. My favorites involved silhouettes, but the instructions invariably called for purchasing vinyl cutouts. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just PAINT a silhouette onto the canvas, because, you know, paint is cheap. And in my garage.

Finally, I painted a clearance-rack canvas with a couple of coats of red that I had left from another project. (The canvas had cost like $2 at Target, and featured a starfish, which I somehow thought would look good in my guest bedroom, only no.)

Silhouette time. I can’t tell you exactly where I found the stencil, but if you make sure your virus protection is updated and  google “free stencils,” you’ll find tons of candidates.

I chose a bird, partly because it looked easy to cut out and partly because of Porlandia’s “put a bird on it” spoof.

I printed out the stencil and carefully cut out the design with scissors. I debated whether to try to transfer the stencil to wax paper or foil for cleaner painting, but decided that the paint likely wouldn’t go through the paper. And if it did, I could just paint everything black and make silver birds later.

Accidental Craftiness 101: Plan for Failure.

The design fit almost PERFECTLY on the canvas. I only had to cut out a 2-inch slip of paper to extend the branch all the way across. I folded over the ends of the branch and taped them down on the sides of the canvas.

After squeezing some black paint onto a Styrofoam plate (I know: paint in a tube – fancy, right?), I got to the messy part. Since I didn’t want to tape the edges of the design down on the front of the canvas (more from a fear of having the red paint lift off with the tape than concerns about the final design), I held down the edges of the paper as I painted around them. I made sure to move the brush out from the edges of the paper, rather than toward the edges, to avoid pushing paint underneath the paper. (And I’m not even sure how I knew to do that. It’s like the time I knew to stick straight pins in the drooping flowers at my future sister-in-law’s wedding shower and I was certain I had been possessed by Martha Stewart.)

I call this the messy part because HOW MUCH black paint did I get on my fingers?

A LOT. I probably should have taken a picture of THAT, only it wouldn’t be that much different from a picture of the normal state of my hands. Today, for example, I have eyeliner under two of my left fingernails. EYELINER.

After completely surrounding the silhouette pattern with black paint, I carefully pulled away the tape and lifted the paper off of the canvas. Voila … a sharp bird silhouette. My next decision was whether to try to leave a subtle black aura around the silhouette or fill in the rest of the canvas. I’m not good at subtlety, and even as I was telling the husband about my decision-making process I was filling the canvas with black paint.

A completed craft project with no cuts, bruises, broken fingernails or glue-gun injuries? WIN. Now I just have to decide where to hang it.

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On Sunday, I posted this photo to Facebook, noting that I had owned this book since I was 2 1/2 years old.

It took a friend approximately three minutes to name two of the kittens (Paddy Paws and Toddly) featured in the tale. He also quickly found a link to the series, titled Books for Young Explorers, on LibraryThing.

Looking at the inscription date — December 1974 — and considering the fact that the book was from a branch of the family with whom we did not usually exchange Christmas gifts, I can only reason that this book was offered to me as a consolation prize after my little brother was born.

A kitten would have been more appreciated.

My real question is how I didn’t manage to obtain this entire series. Because a quick look at some of the titles (Amazing Otters, Animals of the High Mountains, Animals that Build their Homes) tells me that this series was written specifically for me and my kind.

It’s made it through a lot of moves and book purges, I think because I love the title so much: Little Tigers in Your Home. I also must admit, however, that flipping through page after page of kitten photos never gets old.

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This month’s Rocket City Bloggers’ shared carnival topic — “your favorite tool” — was a gimme.

It’s the set of screwdrivers that my grandmother gave me for Christmas the year after I got married.

One of the first realizations I had after moving in with the husband was that our organizational styles differed. He could live with items in any number of places, whereas I enjoyed finding the same items in the same places time and time again.

Screwdrivers, for some reason, were an early ongoing issue. I would find them on the kitchen counter, under a bathroom sink, on a bookshelf or in the car. Anywhere but the toolbox. And I would NEVER find the model I actually needed. Sure, it was nice to know that the medium Phillips head was on the end table, but that knowledge wasn’t helping me tighten the flat-head screw on the top bookshelf.

My grandmother heard my laments and came to the rescue. Christmas morning, I was the envy of all the men in the room, with my full set of Craftsman screwdrivers (complete with a bonus pair of RoboGrip pliers that have since met their demise).  The tools were packaged in a vinyl organizer, so it was easy to keep track of them, and keep track I did. I all but made the husband sign a checkout card when he needed to use one for a project.

The vinyl organizer disintegrated a couple of years ago, so the screwdrivers now reside in a plastic box that formerly housed jewelry. I had to steal back the favored medium Phillips head from the husband’s office for this photo, so obviously my efforts to keep them all in one place aren’t always that effective.

It would be too simple to say that these screwdrivers are my favorite tools because my grandmother gave them to me. I mean, she made sure I had the BEST screwdriver set that she could find. What could have been a throwaway joke gift was, instead, a well-planned purchase that I’ve used time and time again.

The woman who had given me a toaster and a mixer at my wedding shower was perfectly content with the idea of her granddaughter wielding a screwdriver in the name of DIY. Awesomeness personified.

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I thought this was interesting in light of my recent post on aspirational clutter. While blogger jlsathre had assumed that she would end up bringing home most of the contents of her deceased parents’ house when she and her sister cleaned it out, she left with only a very few items.

In The Things I Didn’t Keep of Mom and Dad’s, she writes:

Leaving the house that first day, I knew that it wasn’t the things that remained inside that I wanted to keep. I did take a few things– the candy dish, a ledger with page after page of Dad’s handwriting, and an address book with pages of Mom’s.  But mainly what I kept  were things I didn’t have to carry.  I had found that I didn’t need very much.  I already had the stories.

Stories without things? Absolutely the best souvenirs you can ask for.

Things without stories? They’ll clog your closets and your mind.

Not every item that we inherit has a story, and I think it’s an unfair burden to think that we have to keep a thing only because it belonged to someone in particular.

Stories vs. things? I’m picking stories every time.

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Have you ever found a book passage that seemed custom-written for you?

While perusing Slave to Happiness: Why Having an Interesting Life is the New American Dream by Penelope Trunk, I stumbled over this paragraph in the chapter titled “Testing the Meaning of Money and the Value of Stuff”:

So much of what we human beings hold on to is what we wish we were using — aspirational clutter. Objects that commemorate a life we aspire to but do not have.

I’ve had a version of this thought running around in my head for the past two weeks. I’ve expressed my exasperation to the husband that sometimes it feels like our house is simply a museum for stuff, a storage bin for the trappings of suburban life.

There’s a reason they’re called trappings: Get yourself a houseful of stuff and see how much it stresses you out to even CONSIDER packing it all up to move.

We all seem to find ourselves using the “what if” mentality when it comes to belongings. What if I ever have 12 people over for a sit-down dinner? (Note: If I invite 12 people over for a sit-down dinner, call your local psychiatrist because, seriously, 12 people?) What if I decide to take up embroidery again, despite the fact that the activity bored me to no end the first time? What if I decide to make homemade Twinkies with that specialty pan, despite the fact that the only homemade Twinkies I ever made were nearly as atrocious as the real thing?

What if I never saw this stuff again?

People attach artificial value to a lot of things they never use and really wouldn’t miss if they were gone.

We’ve essentially made ourselves immobile. Scale up in home size, scale up in things to fill it. And I don’t mean Hoarders amounts of stuff, I mean bookshelves filled from end to end, cabinets filled with things that rarely see use and plastic boxes — neatly stacked in closets, mind you — filled with decorations and accessories that we’ve either tired of (for now, we tell ourselves) or just don’t work in our current situation (for example, we haven’t had a Christmas tree in 15 years because of the cats, but we do have a box filled with lights and a few ornaments because, you know, one day …).

The funny thing? That rare moment when you DO find that you need the stitch-puller that you remember packing away with the rest of the sewing supplies even though you never sew? You WILL NOT be able to find it because of all the other stuff you’ve got neatly stored, just in case you ever need it.

It’s lunacy, really, the way we stockpile our homes and clutter our lives and minds with physical objects that have little use or meaning. We trap ourselves in suburbia with 2,000 square feet of china cabinets, storage ottomans and under-the-bed sweater boxes, never considering the opportunities we might freely pursue if we didn’t have to worry about the stuff spread all over the house, the tiny apartment in the big city we might move to if we only didn’t have hundreds of books and an inexplicable assortment of old, unused electronics.

Maybe it’s time to refocus our aspirations so that our “aspirational clutter” isn’t clutter at all, but only the things we use, love and enjoy.

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The secondary flowers from large bouquets usually last longer than the main flowers. When broken down into sub-bouquets, they stand on their own as quirky little arrangements.

Yang agrees.

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