The Art of Literally Taking Stock

I know many people look at January as a fresh start—the beginnings of new habits, the shedding of old ones, and the promise of a brighter, shinier version of themselves—that is, if most things stick on the list of I’m-serious-about-it-this-year resolutions.

But January has adopted a new meaning for me over the last couple of years simply because I’ve taken over a task no one at work is terribly thrilled to be assigned.


I’m absurdly delighted when faced with the challenge of organizing—of tackling chaos and wrestling it into neat rows of tidy “make sense” portions. Cupboards, pantries, file cabinets—I’ll orchestrate any item with the same military fervor Captain von Trapp had for queueing up offspring.

The snag is that my goods to groupify are not errant children, and the gap left in their absence does not allow me to tenderheartedly sigh and roll my eyes with slight amusement that a bottle, a case, or a barrel of whiskey has wandered off and is likely still up in its bedroom, wholly caught up in a drossy bit of literary drivel.

Instead, there are a couple of weeks of high anxiety, raised eyebrows, and countless vexed but ludicrous searches that include scouring closets, lifting stacks of paper, and requesting people empty their pockets. In the end, most of those absent cannot be categorized as truly AWOL—more like absent without the official paying attention to her spreadsheet.

Sometimes we just have too much stuff. Or perhaps, in my case at work, we have too much stuff that isn’t bolted to the ground behind barred holding cells.

Coincidentally, my library sent me a book suggestion at precisely the same time I was fretfully reckoning inventory. It is called: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

Disturbing, for sure, but curiously poetic, perhaps.

After reading a review of the book, I’m not sure I’d categorize it as art, or event gentle, but cleaning before you kick the bucket with the bucket you’re soon to kick is pretty accurate. Maybe it’s a Swedish translation thing?

Maybe the meta quality is what appeals to me but being as practical and word obsessed as I am, I would likely change the title to If You Can’t Eat It, Drink It, or Read it, Toss it.

Or better yet, How to Start Losing Your Shit and Have People Thank You for It.

And again, having been raised in the hard-nosed and utilitarian kingdom of the Mid-West, my people would definitely see value in this idea. Of course, many of them are Swedish, so we’re tilting the scale a bit here too.

As I see it, January is a month where myriad people try on the activity of shedding. Whether it’s weight, bad habits, or toxic relationships—why not start combing through the clutter too, right? Dostadning is the Swedish word that blends death and cleaning, although maybe there should be a “pre” thrown in there for good measure and clarity. Hard to reach corners are even harder to reach from the inside of a coffin, right?

And even though I’m a massive fan of spring cleaning no matter the season, the Swedish concept adds a new layer of consideration and thoughtfulness to the activity: do it now so your kids don’t have to. Although, in my case, it might be better stated as do it now because your kids won’t—they’ll just “accidentally” torch it and take the insurance loss.

I don’t want to leave my offspring with feelings of resentment once I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, and I certainly don’t want to leave them with a dozen boxes of high school memorabilia, drawers full of obsolete electrical cords from my Commodore 64 and Atari 7800 console, and that shed full of traffic cones, chamber pots, candle nibs, and “Do Not Disturb” signs from every hotel I’ve ever visited. I’d prefer to leave them each a heartfelt hand-written note, their favorite meal prepared and labeled in the freezer, and enough Tupperware with matching lids to last a lifetime. I imagine with this type of forethought, they would at least raise a toast to my ability to properly assess their busy lives and needs.

So, I have decided to start dostadning this month. I will work to rid myself of files, of furniture and of films that only run on archaic VCR players. I will purge my closet of garments from junior high, my drawers of mismatched socks, and my cabinets of the grass clippings that were once pungent herbs. I no longer need bed linens for bed sizes I do not possess, prom dresses from the 80s, or floppy discs that still might hold banking data from banks that have long ago shuttered.

Hell, I may even shed three letters from my name, as they’re superfluous as well.

We’ll see.

It’s the act of tidying up that aids the pursuit of simplicity—of giving space to only things that still serve you. Yes, it’s the Marie Kondo-ing exercise, and it likely exists in every culture.

No doubt we can all see the benefit of lightening not only our daily load but also the hefty responsibility we pass on to those we leave behind. There is also no doubt that my employer would prefer I not classify missing valuable liquor as the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning, as he will quickly Marie Kondo my ass right out of employment and feel sparkling joy in his own act of KonMari.

For now, I’ll keep working at hunting for the full bottles, and tossing out the empties.


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Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

I Love You For Sentimental Reasons

I am a saver. On the border of a hoarder, but still safely on the saver side. Regardless, it’s clear some culling needs to be done. It’s best to have someone stern and unattached help you with this project because there’s nothing more clarifying than having that somebody snatch the third identical teapot from your gooey grip and slap you upside the head.

But I collect them! I complain.

Try collecting common sense. You’re giving them away, says the indifferent voice dishing sage advice.

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Harsh, but true. And harsh is what’s needed when trying to part with things you’ve imprinted memories and value onto. Every morning, as I rummage around in my drawer for something to wear, I lay eyes on my “Polish Princess” t-shirt from eighth grade. I remember wearing that top to school as a thirteen-year old, catching the eye of my science teacher whose ancestry was Bohemian, and starting a two year Slavic supremacy war with the man—each of us determined to ethnically best one another. I therefore became wholly determined to prove my people’s intellectual preeminence and studied like a madman. Without that shirt I would likely never have received such stellar grades in his class. That shirt was a foundation of who I was. How could I give it away?

Then wear it, I hear my unsympathetic cleansing cohort say.

What, are you kidding? It’s so tacky. Never.

There are other things. Like one rolodex card holder and four old address books all clinging to the whereabouts of people from my past. My brain has rationally argued that it is wholly likely most of these folks have moved at least two or three times since we originally exchanged info twenty or thirty years ago. True, it might be filled with outdated home and telephone data, but my childhood dentist PROMISED he would be here for me if anything should go wrong with that thirty-five year old filling and I needed to come back to see him.

It may require the assistance of a séance, but I bet he wouldn’t be the slightest bit miffed to rise for the occasion. Dr. Fenske was dedicated soul. Or maybe is a dedicated soul.

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And how about the big tubs that hold my high school homework, exams and term papers? Or the shoeboxes full of Valentine’s Day cards I received while in my elementary years? Plus the hundreds of blurry photos my kids took from their first disposable cameras? Is the Voldemort of fun expecting me to shuffle those off into the recycling heap?




We form piles: Giveaway. Sell. Burn. Keep.

The giveaway mound is mammoth and growing, as if it’s being fed by some underwater vitamin filled stream.

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The sell stack is so beautiful, all shiny and new and incredibly useful—surely we can keep just this—ow! Fine, fine, I’ll put it back! The burn heap could be fun if we had marshmallows and hot dogs. And invited the local fire department to keep it under control. But the keep pile? These items are deemed useful. Not sexy or chic, charming or covetable. Just useful. They feed you, clothe you, bathe you or rest you. They are practical objects with nearly no maudlin attachments.

I glower and envision putting my assistant onto the burn pile.

And then there is the no one needs to know about this pile pile. And fairly soon this secret mass has swollen to the dimensions of a mid-sized village and somebody is growing suspicious as to my frequent sojourns down the hallway with the sudden admittance to owning an M&M sized bladder. But it seems my years of developing the fine skills of thriftiness might have benefited from a few minutes spent practicing the art of deception. I am found out.

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Take a picture, the old grump insists.

And how does one take pictures of eighteen years worth of Food & Wine cooking magazines, huh? I NEED those magazines because one day I may NEED to make a dish of reindeer jerky drizzled with seaweed syrup lying atop a bed of Isle of Skye moss covered with a sprinkling of powdered blowfish fins. Then where do I go?

To a psychiatrist.

The old grouch must go, but she stays firm. One hundred percent cruel and uncaring. Her rule for my future is thus: if you cannot read it, eat it, or drink it—do not buy it.

I point out to her that technically my nearly two decades’ worth of Food & Wine fall under all three categories. She points out to me that technically I should be on medication.

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It is a long and grueling week of cleansing, hours upon hours of arguments, tug of wars, and failed smuggling. But I am glad of it in the end. It was worth all the angst and effort.

The front hall coat closet looks amazing.



September Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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