Friday, July 25, 2014

How Moving Forced Me to Declutter

shoes in a closet

With an (yet another) upcoming move on the horizon, the very wet July 4th was taken as a sign that it was time to begin purging packing. The last time we moved, three years ago, I had the Herculean task of consolidating a whole load of crap beautiful things from many years of living in a large home into less crap a proper amount that would fit into an apartment…across the country. This time, the move will not be nearly as far-flung, and the space will be relatively the same, just reconfigured. So, this time it will be a “breeze.” I thought.

Tackling the big, black hole of my closet, was a scary project, but I was up to the task. I had been very conscious of space limitations these past three years, and thus was “relatively” prudent when it came to purchasing new things. (Or so I thought.) I did try to adhere to the recommendation, one thing in, one thing out, but if there is really anyone on this earth who actually abides by that hogwash, I would love to meet her. 

For some expert advice, I turned to an article in Elle Magazine, that suggested I look at the entire process as a “cleanse.” Not exactly an appetizing endeavor, but one I could wrap my head around, since the only thing actually getting the colonic was my closet. As I went through the physical things that basically told the story of my life, the questions I asked myself were not, as the article stated, “Was I high?” but “Haven’t I done this before?” and “Why weren’t these thrown out three years ago? 

I obviously could not detach myself enough the last time I packed, but I was determined to be ruthless this time.The too small (yes, there were more of those), too outdated, too stained or torn items were immediately relegated to the “toss” pile…but then there was the old high school sweatshirt (was it even mine to begin with?), the tee shirt from the final parents’ weekend at my son’s college (that I only wore once–during that weekend), the shirt my former coworkers gave me when I left New York, that said “I Love NY” and left sparkles behind me whenever I wore it. Now that I was moving back to New York–shouldn’t I be wearing it again? (NO!) 

Any workout wear that was too short, too old or too worn was aerobically lobbed into the throwaway pile…but some of those pieces reminded me of the instructors I had loved (and lost) during the years. And what of the sweaters that came with me to Los Angeles (where I never wore them) from New York over 25 years ago, and then back to the East Coast (and I still never wore them)? Those heavy, itchy, classics were…classic! After they saved me during the most horrific winter, how could I give up on them now? Ruthless me turned the sweater skyscraper on the floor into a one-story double-wide. 

"I am by no means a shoe diva, 
but the amount of shoes I've 
amassed would give 
Imelda Marcos pause."

And then it was on to the nightgown/lingerie drawer. The crossword puzzle pj’s that my hubby bought me, thinking they were SO adorable (and they were…uh, are!), but have yet to come out of the bag. My barbie doll nightgown (that would be, not one that makes me look like a barbie doll, but one that is flannel, and has barbie dolls scattered all-over-it) has been with me since before I was married (really…I haven’t worn it since I said “I do!”) 

I am by no means a shoe diva, but the amount of shoes that I’ve amassed would really give Imelda Marcos pause. Since I am now trying to adhere to the “Slow-Fashion Movement,” any pair of shoes that were bought cheaply and worn once (or never) got tossed. Better to leave the curating of a footwear museum to the wise people at the Smithsonian. 

As the day wore on, melancholy began to settle in. I realized one does not have to actually wear the clothes to appreciate them. There is a lot of sentiment and memories metaphorically woven into those fibers. I have read de-cluttering articles that suggest taking photos of the well-loved and well-worn items, and I can appreciate that, but it’s just not the same as looking closely at something and immediately knowing when you wore it, whom you were with, and how it made you feel. Touching the fabric brings you back to when you last touched it. There might still be a hint of perfume or body lotion (OK, sometimes not so good) hanging on for dear life. You can’t get that from looking at a photo. 

And then a voice inside me yelled, “Snap out of it!” One glass of wine–this was only a symbolic “cleanse”–and I could feel the fibers of mental strength coming together once more. By the time I got done, the boxes were packed, the closet and drawers were empty and I had the satisfaction of knowing that there would be some lucky people tap-dancing in their new shoes, and happily itching in their newfound sweaters come next winter.  (And emptier drawers and closets on the back end will enable me to do some more shopping!) 

"And then a voice inside
 me yelled, 'Snap out of it!'"

As I said, the rainy weather served as good incentive to get some work done, and my husband felt the same way. He had his own piles of giveaways, and he is by no means as attached to his belongings as I am. He’s out running as I write this, so it’s a great opportunity for me to check on what he’s got in those bags…and I think I see an old Hawaiian shirt from many moons ago that he definitely should NOT be parting with…not yet anyway.

This article previously appeared on

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Trifle: The Perfect Summer Dessert

According to the dictionary, a “trifle” is something that is of little consequence–a mere insignificance. But this rich, often indulgent, tiered dessert is anything but. The treat dates back to the 1700’s and came to the US via the British when it was served to the wealthy.
Over the years, trifles have evolved–crumbled biscuits became cubes of pound cake which became crushed coconut macaroons, which became lady finger cookies. And vanilla custard was replaced by lemon pudding which morphed into whipped cream, and chocolate mousse, and so on. Berries, peaches, and lemon curd were overtaken by chocolate curls, crushed brownies, and shards of toffee. 

Trifles are a perfect dessert to serve over the July 4th weekend–the ingredients can be home-made or store-bought, and they can be assembled a day or so in advance. In fact, the dessert gets better with a little time under its belt. The traditional deep, round trifle bowlsreally showcase the individual layers, but if you’re making the dessert for a crowd, a large, deep Pyrex dish would be equally good. Putting together individual mini trifles in tall iced tea glasses or large individual sherbet cups are a nice touch as well. (Once you’ve prepared all the individual ingredients, you can even have the little ones help you assemble them.)
We’ve searched the web and picked out a collection of favorites that really showcase the versatility of this long-loved dessert. And how fitting that it be served on Independence Day, as we celebrate just one more thing we’ve wrestled away from the British!
Strawberry Chocolate Trifle from uses crumbled cake and pie filling.
strawberry chocolate trifle
 “Better Than Sex” Trifle from uses chopped Heath Bars and chocolate cake, and looks luscious!Better Than Sex TrifleMini Tiramisu Trifles are from uses crushed cookies and can be made in individual individual triflesThe traditional Mixed Berry and Angel Food Trifle is from and can be assembled in “30 minutes!”angel food cake trifleRed, White, and Blue Trifles from are the ones the kids can pitch in and help with. They’re adorable!  berry trifles