a visit to Urban Outfitters

I had a return to bring over to Urban Outfitters today. This made me happy, because it was an excuse to visit UO and see what was new. Most of the clothes are not for me, but some are.

There is also a Housewares Department.

Why I like Urban Outfitters:

      -- when there are French words on a shirt or tank, the words are spelled correctly. Indeed, the words are even used correctly. Inspirational, n'est-ce pas?

      -- the Housewares Department is called Apartment on the UO website, but someone has had the good sense to ask the store staff to call it Housewares, so that noone has to visit the Apartment Department.

      -- the Housewares Department is where they sell sage-ing sticks, crystals, and healing stones.

Worth going outside in the slush for.

okay, clothes, line up HERE, shirts to the right, coats to the left...

I opened Blogger with my usual good intentions; I planned to do a post on decluttering, because I'm not a fan.

As newly-weds, we lived upstairs from Sally and Andrei, the minimalists. To them, not having things was a religion. Andrei had 3 shirts, 3 shorts - wearing, ready, in the wash. Sally, a nurse, had 3 uniforms, same rotation. They proudly refused to own a television.  I pictured them listening to other people's radios, leaning against a wall with jelly glasses at their ears. They seemed admirable, as people with strong but irrational principles often can. Their apartment always looked like they'd just moved out in a hurry. I liked them but I also found them scary.

We on the other hand, had two people's books, dictionaries, grammars, mysteries, biographies; two people's albums (I had better blues and jazz, he had more classical); two people's gadgets; two people's clothes; two people's suitcases - you get it.

We had Wedding Presents. When the thank-you notes were finished, we tried to return things, until we ran into one of my aunts in Bloomingdale's, and we had to buy napkins to go with the awful tablecloth we'd brought in to return. After that, we even hung on to the re-gifted things because the stories of finding two or three previous gift cards in the tissue paper never wore out. He would sneak small tributes from my relatives into a briefcase when he left before me in the morning, I would hide away baroque objets from his relatives to be disposed of if he hadn't noticed after a few weeks... slow and ineffective.

Then there were kids. You don't just have a kid, oh how cute, oh look a smile. Oh no. You become a warehouse of Stuff. Which the kid outgrows - so the Stuff is given away, or held onto and cherished (but it was her first Wabbit!) - or if another pregnancy looms, you store. And of course you get more Child Stuff.

As time passed, we learned what it means to your stuff and storage space to be an Only Child (Himself) or an Alternating Good Daughter (me - or my only and beloved sister, we took turns). Stuff arrives. MIL enters a nursing home, and a sterling service for 12 arrives, including serving pieces for who knows what, although the spring-loaded pickle fork is a hoot - I might have been thrilled to have that in the days when we had dinner parties for the older generation at his firm. Now it's oxidizing in its felt wrappers, and people entertain us by taking us to noisy wine bars. I used to swear I wouldn't have Royal Crown Derby in the house. Earlier, I used to swear I wouldn't have a house.

I'm suspicious of donating. Some of my unworn NEW J.Crew things were rejected by a local thrift shop - you know, the one with the catchy motto: Bringing Airs and Graces to the Probably Undeserving Middle Class?

Goodwill once made pick-ups at your home, you called them and a truck arrived, driven carefully and courteously, no doubt by one of the Deserving.  St Vincent dePaul volunteers would not only come to the house but would pray for you or your intention (please don't let any of this stuff come back). It seems now that you make an appointment and your stuff is interviewed by the suspicious mothers of the gifted and entitled.
there are no garage sales on Park Avenue
So I like many others was curious to see what Marie Kondo had to say to me. As it turns out, not much. Different lives, different stuff, different climates.

And here is where my post basically stops, because here is a link to the last word on decluttering by a Real Person who actually Has A Life.  Another case of my computer anticipating my thoughts and wishes.

Lisa Miller, who I have decided must be a long-lost member of my very own family, or Himself's, because she is clearly more than just some Random Genius - confronts the spiritual dimension of decluttering as expatiated by Marie Kondo - disposing of things because they do not bring joy to the soul. She goes right to the heart of that proposition: things are not meant to bring joy to the soul.

Here's a quote, but she has a lot more to say.

  • This is a belief system handed down by Depression-era parents or parents who were raised by Depression-era parents - my insert - who teach that objects have value because you bought them with your own hard-earned money or acquired them through fate or some stroke of savvy, and if they’re not totally broken or torn, their merit is intrinsic. Objects are worthy if they’re useful, and — conversely — a use can be invented or imagined for almost every thing. Thus, to live solely among objects that bring us joy would be a repudiation of everything we ever learned. To toss belongings that, in the lexicon of my family of origin, are “perfectly good” simply because they don’t make you feel a certain way would be a heresy.  
OK, I am totally on board with that. My socks and forks and knives and Stuff are not what is meant to bring joy to my youth, check Psalm 42 if you doubt me on the joy-bringing. I didn't grow up in wartime, but as I've often complained, I did grow up with unreliable utilities. To this day I can identify a long-time resident of the East End by the candles cunningly nestled in the bookcases, on an end table, under the bathroom sink. They are not scented, they are not decorative, they are there for when - not if - the power fails, because we remember times when a power failure could last for days. Hard-core version: there are ice chests out back on the deck.

I really urge you to peruse Lisa Miller's post and then, please, let me know your thoughts.

almost 2 months into 2015, self-improvement is abandoned

if Edward Gorey had illustrated Little Women
My sister and I never made New Year's resolutions. Life was too full of other reasons to feel inadequate, many related to hair, and if that wasn't enough, there were enough people around to remind us that our homework was messy, we were smarter than demonstrated by our math work so obviously we were lazy, the constant refrains of reminders like "stand up straight, articulAte!" from Pop, and "pick up your feet when you walk" from Mom - and there was children's literature bursting with gallant orphans being rewarded for kindness to people and animals, and having dangerous but triumphant adventures, or with worried young girls who wanted to Be Good. The lesson I took from those improving tales was that being an orphan was a lot more interesting than being a dutiful daughter.

Plucky little genius that I was, I knew that life - make that Life - bristled with things that would always be Beyond Me, or that once achieved did not require repetition. Keeping schoolbooks neat, for example. Hah. I learned to color within the lines in a coloring book when I was 5. That was it. Same principle. Pointless effort.

Although I did once flip through a Gideon Bible in a hotel, and found that a previous reader had made his/her own annotations. Like "oh, true." There was a person who should have been made to promise  not to write in books.

I knew that anything Aunt Clarabelle cooked would be inedible, no need to taste the same thing again with different garnishes. I knew by the time I was 7 that certain fabrics would always make me itch and that others would always crush and wrinkle and make me look uncared-for, even if all I had done was stand very still and breathe carefully.

Thus the literature of self-improvement and self-sacrifice in all its sententious variations couldn't fool me. I have improved myself some, not to the point of perfection, but to the point of resenting every penny spent by me and others on products and systems, every theory of organizing storage, every talent I know I don't have. This is as good as I'm likely to get. I return calls, thank busdrivers, try to remember birthdays, wear a sweater on cold days.  I don't tell secrets (I learned "keep your own counsel" very early). I don't practice the piano. In this world there are very few people whose musical skills improve with practice. One is called Itzhak Perlman. Others are called unemployed. Actually, to be honest, I don't own a piano.

So now there is no checklist of unreached goals to be sadly ticked off on December 31 - oooh, flash of insight: that must be why we greet the New Year with alcohol? - and I thought I had the situation mastered. If ever I decide to lose weight/ let my hair grow/ get a different haircut/  moisturize more often / tackle the sock drawer / weed out the collection of recipes that will never be cooked - c'mon, I've spent most of my life with one guy and Julia Child, why mess with that? - stop googling high school classmates to see if they got fat/ clean out that ancient Rolodex/-- well, if ever, then I will. Or I may. Or I may not. There's an app to delete duplicate pictures from your computer, made necessary by the sad fact that Apple devices just love to share. I may let that app do some of the work. Spending more time at museums? well, that's their problem, if they miss me they should get some better exhibits in. I just don't want to feel like a project, mine or anyone else's.

This past December, however, something appeared in my Inbox. You enter your birthdate and gender and click on a little triangle, and a circle appears and spins. When it stops, you would see the resolution you should make. I've been suspicious of this stuff ever since a wheelchair-bound classmate opened a fortune cookie to learn that his backhand would improve. It did not.

Whatever. In for a penny, in for a pound, or as I once warned my sister, in for the car, in for the mortgage, in for the second mortgage...  for the gullible, all things can lead to extradition.

I clicked.

Here is what I was told to resolve:


I was terrified. This has been a problem for decades. My efforts have always gone hopelessly and expensively wrong, and I haven't learned. How did strangers in a French-speaking area of Switzerland buy or steal an address list with my email on it? Had my computer's camera been hijacked? I flipped a finger at it, just as a precaution.

Well, here we are, almost 2 months into 2015, and guess what? I haven't pointed a scissors towards my forehead all year. The lady who cuts my hair every six weeks is going to be soooo happy. Or not.

one reason I've avoided looking at the fashion scene lately...

Bad weather, strained tendon/sore ankle, and general fogginess combined to make me think that internet shopping was the best way to deal with presents for Christmas 2014. I didn't realize that the Great Christmas Shopping Disaster of Doom had happened until I belatedly checked my shipping notices to make sure things were arriving on time.

Sure, I got a phone call from the internet retailer with which I'd placed orders for many  most of the presents, taking grand advantage of a 30% + 10% + free shipping no minimum event that happened on a day when I was skiving off work and chores keeping the ankle iced and elevated. I even sent trinkets and stocking stuffers to little kids I'd already gifted.

Anyway, this charming person was calling to alert me that one (JUST ONE!) of my gifts might not arrive before Christmas. The company would honor its promise to get all orders placed by some date or other, delivered by Christmas, and would therefore overnight a replacement, at no charge to me.

I smelled trouble. Yes, I did. I told her not to bother. This was not a gift that the little 8-year-old recipient had requested, it was a last-minute impulse, and here was fate telling me that she wouldn't like it anyway. Cancel it, or let her mother hide it for next year.

The caller insisted.

I begged her to refrain.

She insisted.

I asked about all the Other Stuff I'd ordered the same day (which by the end of that day had also included some pretty good grabs for me). The carriers had reported no problems, she told me, so I didn't need to worry about the Other Stuff.

I yielded.

Early on Christmas Eve (not a creature was stirring except Ms. Kinnaus - rest of verse to be saved for another occasion), I hobbled over to the computer and checked the shipping confirmations. Every single item ordered after the tiny trinket was on its way across the country to the soon-to-be puzzled 8-year-old. This is kind of like the time a just-engaged cousin (age 45) opened the wrong package - hand-knit knee warmers for dear arthritic Nana! - and held a grudge forever after. We won't go there.

As best I could tell, when the helpful V. Personal Shopper  Stylist  Dingbat shipped out the little trinket, she left the lucky kid's address as the default shipping address. In my medicated bleariness I hadn't noticed when I'd first glanced at the shipping confirms (many orders, many more packages...).

A few phone calls later, I learned:
               >  if a package is going ordinary UPS, it may be possible to intercept and redirect it.
               >  however, only the actual shipper can "initiate a redirect," not the shipper's customer.
               >   if a package is passing through a Post Office, interception will not be possible.
               >   it is counter-productive to let terms like "search and destroy" pass one's lips.

I spoke with the 8-year-old's grandma, who was visiting them for Christmas. When she stopped laughing, she agreed that she would open all packages from the Retail Merchant of Despair, slip the little trinket into the kid's stocking, and email me a list of the rest of the loot. I in turn suggested that she keep anything she could use, pass on the camis, pajamas, clutches, etc., to other female relatives as they showed up on Christmas, and we'd call it An Experience. She just laughed some more. I warned her that even though there had been only a handful of orders, we had to allow for the possibility that there could be an infinite number of packages, given that many orders come from random stores. She continued laughing. A few delivery hours remained, thanks to the East/West time difference.
The RMOD emailed me free return labels, which I forwarded to Helpful Grandma. Another helpful person called to reassure me that interception/redirect orders had been placed. People were astoundingly sympathetic to the cause of Not Letting the Rest of the Family Know How Much Fred Can Spend If She Tries, although I must point out that there's a big difference between Sympathetic and Effective.


Twelfth Night came. Twelfth Night went. Helpful Grandma went home. January dreared on. The RMOD's first two attempts at intercepting merch in the hands of UPS had no discernible effect, other than that UPS had been notified and some of the merch had stopped moving. Apparently the "redirect" part of the task had caused confusion. A few more calls got a few things moving again.

I'd ordered a few goofy things for myself - out of curiosity - free shipping, no final sale, and all that. The Goofy Things were untraceable. By early February it was clear that they would remain so. More phone calls. I negotiated refunds, promising faithfully that if the stuff ever showed up, I'd alert them.

And last week came a call from a Pacific Coast relative, to let me know that a hand-addressed envelope from the RMOD had arrived - personally addressed to me but at their address. Feeling I'd earned a gift card, I asked him to open and read the missive. No gift card.

It was a sweet little note from the first VP Dingbat, thanking me for letting her assist me with my Christmas shopping.

and what did you want to do when you grew up?

well, actually, Thin Mints are good with anything. 

I do prefer them frozen, but why waste time quibbling?

Some of you have inquired if I've been deliberately avoiding topics related to fashion.