Category Archives: Gone!

Gone, bit by bit

Books and photos and stuff … oh, my!

steiff bear w:boxes 2

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

I had reason yesterday to look under my couch with a flashlight. Tip to anyone inclined to do the same: Don’t. Under no circumstances should you look under your couch more than twice a year. Especially not with a flashlight.

The beam of light revealed a harsh landscape of down feathers, dust and various unidentified crumb-y looking things on the hardwood floor. No dead bugs, dirty socks or other major debris, so that was a plus. No money, either—a negative. Anyway, I was looking for my cat, whose tortoise-shell coloring provided the perfect camouflage for hiding under the sofa.

Normally, I clean house only when I’ve exhausted all other forms of procrastination. I do make my bed every day. Whoo-hoo! Lately though, I’ve taken an incremental approach to housekeeping.Not a room at a time, that’s too much commitment. I do just as much as I can, then quit. Doesn’t matter if I’ve dusted but haven’t vacuumed. Next time.

"Kobayashi Issa." Wind and Fly LTD, 2017. 28 May 2017.

I’ve found cleaning takes a lot less time this way and, overall, the apartment is generally cleaner than under my previous system. The old way, in which I aspired to clean a room at a time or the whole place, took way too long. Mainly because of my need to notice the place was dirty, deny the place was dirty, anguish over my sloth, go out and buy new cleaning supplies, and even, in extreme circumstances, sit down and write something. Then I got around to cleaning—maybe.

This incremental thing doesn’t come easily. I’m definitely an instant gratification gal. It has been said—infrequently, mind you—that I have the attention span of a flea. As a kid, I didn’t mind cleaning the kitchen because, with seven kids using the kitchen, the mess made it easy to see progress. Although it really burned me up if, while I was cleaning, someone came in and started making a peanut butter sandwich or poured a glass of milk. Any progress I’d made was spoiled.

Finally, I’ve realized that, yes, progress can be made inch by inch. Incrementalism works in writing (though a deadline really helps). It worked for me in building an art collection over the last several decades, one flea market or thrift shop find at a time. I’ve heard it works in creating an exercise habit, or losing weight, though I can’t testify to that. And it works in getting rid of stuff.

Decluttering can be done gradually. Don't stress about doing it all at once. Just start.

Storage locker bound

The number of my possessions, compared to three years ago, is significantly reduced. It took me two years, but I finally condensed the contents of a three bedroom house with a full basement and a double garage to one ten-by-ten storage locker. (Alright, there was another, smaller locker for a brief time.) I now live in a two-bedroom apartment. Besides the ample closets and cupboards, the only additional storage space is the shower–yes, the shower–in the second bathroom.

Last week, I tackled the shower storage. I need a place for the cat box, so the shower has to be cleared. Besides various boxes of books, it contains two tennis rackets, a basket of tennis balls, a large stuffed Steiff bear that converts to a rock-a-bear, a plastic bin that I believe contains tools (too soon to tell, it’s at the bottom of a stack) and two sets of diving fins, goggles and snorkels, which I bought at Goodwill, intending to sell. (I don’t do that anymore. At least, not much.) Oh, and a box of Max’s children’s books, which I kept, as well as a box of his comic books, which he chose for me to keep.

The bad thing about incrementalism is that it creates temporary disarray, which can easily turn permanent. In order to empty the shower and get rid of stuff, I have to take that stuff out of the shower. I’m doing it a box or two at a time.

Volleyball signed by Olympic champion Karch Kiraly

Goodbye volleyball & comics!

So far, the diving gear, a shower rack and some books have gone to Goodwill. The comics and a signed volleyball will soon be reunited with their rightful owner.

As regular readers know, my number one rule for streamlining and creating a more artful life is this: If you think you are ever going to move—or die—start now! If you do that, the good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once.

When I was a kid, one of seven ages 1 to 12 years, my mother had a cleaning lady who came in twice a week to restore order in the house. My mother would leave her with the kids and return to find the house clean. Once I heard her ask, “Mary, how do you do it?” Her answer was maybe my first lesson in incrementalism: “Honey, I just start.”

So I’ve started on the storage shower, disposing or dispensing of its contents. Good thing, too. Because when I was searching for the cat, I had to look under the beds. And you wouldn’t believe how much stuff was packed beneath them!

Tortoise shell cat with golden eyes

Marla, the disappearing cat

The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and trying to live a more artful life. She’s saying Goodbye to All That Stuff (well, a lot of it) in the process.


Ditch my books? Oh, no!

By Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista


A little free library on Grove Lane in Santa Barbara

Books. Among the people I know, books are the hardest possessions to get rid of when editing their possessions. Even using the phrase “get rid of” seems too harsh when it comes to books—sort of like murdering a friend.

Books hold memories beyond their own contents—memories of when, where and why you read them, how their content reflected your life at the time, what adventures they prompted and the disasters that may have ensued. Our most-loved books, or at least mine, have aged along with me, acquiring wrinkles, creases, rips and stains inflicted by a well-read life.

I have a small box of outdated tourist guides that are more potent mementos of my travels than the now long-forgotten souvenirs I lugged home from Greece (Greece on $5 A Day—now there’s a throwback to another era!), Brazil, Calcutta or Peru. No doubt their information is useless but merely riffling through their pages prompt images of folk dancing on the beach in Mykonos, shopping a flea market in Buenos Aires, or photographing a rickshaw driver in repose in Calcutta.

Some books evoke particular eras of my life. I can think of three examples that turn back the years each time I catch a glimpse of their covers: Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook taught me to deal with a life issue, tie it in a package and tuck it under the eaves of my brain’s attic—not gone, not forgotten but no longer possessing the power to interrupt my dreams. I read The Women’s Room, by Marge Piercy, in college and know it influenced my feminist persona. I still long to wander the United States on the Blue Highways described by William Least Heat Moon, discovering “three-calendar” country diners, eavesdropping on insights of the local denizens.

I may be part of the last generation with an attachment to physical books; my son sells them back to Amazon as soon as he finishes reading them (sometimes he does regret this). I guess I’ll get used to it—after all, I’m probably among the last to have grown up with three channels on the television (not to mention the revolving dial and, later, the wired remote).

Still, some books don’t rate room on the bookshelf—some never even make it past the bedside table. In my case, those are the novels that, once read, go right back to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. But for those books that may be more difficult to part with, here are a half-dozen ideas for placing them in new homes:

  • Set up a Little Free Library. This charming “take one, leave one” book-sharing movement zoomed from a one-man tribute to his book-loving mother in 2009 to an international phenomenon, with more than 32,000 Little Free Libraries throughout the U.S. and countries from India to Italy. The idea is simple: Erect a book box on a stand curbside, place your adoptable books inside and invite passersby to take a book—free—and leave one, if they are so inclined. I once left an 24-inch plastic brontosaurus on top of the Little Library in my neighborhood, knowing it would find a good home. Building a Little Free Library is a great project for kids, too.
  • Donate to a school or college. This is a particularly good option if you have a topic-specific collection of books. The director of a Stanford University journalism fellowship program winnowed his extensive library by donating to a nearby community college. No need to aim for Harvard University or Berkeley. Nearby community colleges and high schools would probably welcome books related to their programs, such as journalism, design, construction or historic preservation. If you have children’s books, find an age-appropriate local school and see if any teachers want books for their classroom.borges-book-quote
  • Seek out collectors. If you have a narrowly focused collection—on history books, cook books, atlases or some other specialty—find others who collect on the same topic. You may have a rare book and not even know it. When I sold my house in St. Louis, I took a bunch of books to The Miriam Switching Post, one of my favorite non-profit shops. The great thing about the Miriam shop is they provide year-end, itemized lists of your donations for tax purposes. I was perusing my list when I noticed this item: Two books, value $460. What!? The titles were specified but the individual values were–one for $340 and the other for $120. I have no idea what these were and I for sure never spent that much on a book! Probably there were decorative books I picked up for a few dollars to use as platforms for a lamp. At any rate, someone at the Miriam Shop researched their value. At first, I was aggravated that I didn’t do that myself. Then I realized I never would have done that, would also never have found someone to buy them. The tax credit was great, though. If you think you have books like that, advertise on Craig’s List, check websites like The Book Collector or look at the ads in publications such as  First, The Book Collector’s Magazine. Be very, very careful with this option–I sense their are some among us who could be lured into a new collecting habit. You know who you are.
  • Sell them—in bulk, if possible.  If you have a lot of books with no particular pedigree, call local second-hand book sellers and see if they will buy the whole lot for a single price. If you are having a garage sale, books usually sell relatively well. Just don’t expect to get anything more than a pittance for most—and resolve to banish any that don’t sell to your local thrift shop. Remember, the idea is to get rid of the books. Price ‘em low, to encourage everyone to buy an armload.

    Prisoners prize dictionaries

    Dictionaries gather dust in thrift shops but are prized by prisoners

  • Give them to prisoners. The Prison Book Program is a grassroots organization founded in 1972 to send free books to prisoners. The website points out that most prisons don’t allow family or friends to send books to prisoners–they must come from a bookstore or publisher (the old hollow-out-the-book-to-hold-something-illicit problem). The Prison Book Program is affiliated with a bookstore and gets books from many different sources, to serve thousands of prisoners each year. The website includes links to local Books for Prisoners programs, to cut the cost of shipping. While the organization delivers books on many subjects and genres (see the list on their site), there is high demand for two types in particular: Basic legal information and dictionaries. They even have a special program to purchase dictionaries in bulk. (I’m so tempted to visit a thrift shop I know of that is over-stocked with dictionaries, I suppose because anyone with access to Spellcheck doesn’t need them.) Unfortunately but understandably, there are restrictions on some books–no books with a spiral cover, no writing in the margins, no children’s books, nothing with weapons on the cover, no chic-lit, romance or (obviously) true crime. No travel guides, either.
  • Goodwill, of course.


The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and trying to live a more artful life. She’s saying Goodbye to All That Stuff (well, a lot of it) in the process.

Gone, all gone!


Animated video by

Yeah, it’s Independence Day for sure!

That’s it. I’m done. For the first time in almost three years, I do not have a storage locker.

By Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

As you may recall, at one time I had two storage lockers–the big one–10-feet by 15-feet–packed front-to-back, side-to-side, bottom-to-top, and a smaller “spillover” locker. I acquired those when I sold my house in St. Louis and spent a year or more house-sitting around the country. When I moved into a one-bedroom apartment here in Virginia, I put the excess stuff in a 10-by-10 storage unit.  Now that I’ve moved to a two-bedroom apartment, I’ve made room for everything.

Well, not exactly everything. I parted with several items I decided I could live without–things that had some meaning or history attached that suddenly seemed not all that important.

  • Four mid-century modern rattan and bamboo bar stools. I bought them just before I got divorced and haven’t had a home with a counter in the 15 years since. I kept imagining them in a Deco-inspired kitchen or, alternately, selling them. Neither came to pass. I hauled them to Goodwill.
  • Four pressed-back oak dining room chairs that belonged to a gaggle of grand-aunts on my mother’s side of the family. I used them with a solid oak clawfoot table that came from the same household. I foisted–uh, I mean, presented–the table, which extends to seat 12, to one of my brothers. I don’t see myself entertaining 12 people in the near future and besides, the chairs weren’t my style. I gave them to Habitat for Humanity’s ReSale store with just a twinge of familial guilt. Goodbye, chairs.
  • An eiderdown comforter I bought in Switzerland on a trip after high school, took to college with me and used on my son’s bed. It was fluffy enough to hide my college boyfriend when a girlfriend popped in at an inopportune moment. Now I never get cold enough to need a real eiderdown comforter–and have no need to hide a male friend, should one materialize.

As I found when I staged my St. Louis house for sale, getting rid of the first thing with emotional or financial value (as opposed to run-of-the-mill furnishings or detritus) seems nearly impossible. But it’s like diving off the high-board for the first time, or skiing a black diamond slope. After the first time, the subsequent dives, ski runs or  Salvation Army deposits get easier and easier.

Quick factoid: Self-storage facilities are a $33 billion business in the United States. There are 2.63 billion square feet of self-storage capacity, and almost one of every 10 Americans rent a storage unit. According to Alexander Harrison, an independent Virginia journalist who blogs about the industry at  The Storage Beat, about half those people are using their units as a substitute for attics, basements or garages.

I have to admit–the storage locker is empty, but there is still an excess of stuff. One wall of the second bedroom is lined with unpacked boxes, of what, I’m not yet sure. There is still too much artwork lurking at the back of closets, behind furniture and in a Chinese leather trunk. And the shower in the second bathroom is a temporary library, housing a half-dozen boxes of books, cleverly hidden behind a hanging panel of fabric.

Books, this is where real difficulty arises. I have a box marked “classics and favorites.” There is another labeled “design and art books,” as well as one of “current reading” (despite the fact the box hasn’t been unpacked in two years.) Another, small but hefty, contains travel guides from the past twenty or more years. Though probably the most useless, these are the hardest to discard–“Greece on $5 a Day” is the memento of a post-high-school trip to Greece, more lasting than the 20 boxes of slides I haven’t looked at in the ensuing 40 years. There are guides to India, Antarctica and Hong Kong before the British lease expired. Is it wrong to dedicate three-feet of shelf space to a chronicle of my travels?


My “good box” collection

On the bright side, I unloaded a cache of moving boxes that were too good to throw away. They, along with a couple cartons of bubble wrap and packing nerdels, were piling up in the storage unit. Then, as I wandered through Lowe’s one evening, in search of a desk top, I spied a young woman loading fresh boxes into her cart.

“Moving?” I inquired.

“Yes,” she replied, “the van is coming tomorrow and we’re nowhere near packed. I thought we had enough boxes, but we keep needing more.”

“I can help! I’ve got boxes! Free boxes! What’s your address?”

As an example of just how frantic moving can make you, she didn’t hesitate to give me her address and phone number despite my wild hair, paint-spotted clothing and out-of-the-blue offer.  I paid for my desk top, ran to the car and rushed to the storage locker–in a downpour, mind you. It didn’t take long to fill the Subaru with an assortment of boxes, both assembled and flattened, as well as the packing material. I was unloading them to their grateful recipients in about 15 minutes. They offered money but I assured them that accepting the boxes was more than enough payment. My only regret is that I’ve since unpacked 10 more boxes that are “too good to throw away,” and it seems unlikely I’ll have such good luck again in Lowe’s anytime soon.

As always, remember my advice: If you plan to move–or die–anytime soon, start getting rid of stuff  now! It takes longer than you think…

The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and trying to live a more artful life.








Going to move or die?

Don’t wait ’til the last minute to downsize

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

Here is my advice on downsizing and decluttering: If you think you are ever going to move–or die, start now!

I’ve passed along that advice to several people in the last year, having spent many months–more than a year, really–getting rid of many of my possessions. The recipients of my wisdom have chuckled and nodded, but I didn’t get the impression they were taking me seriously.

Two of those people have lived in their respective houses for more than 20 years. Every closet, every drawer, every shelf is full. In both cases, art work abounds. Photos and mementos are plentiful. Dining room cabinets are filled with beautiful crystal and china, none of it recently used. One person has closets filled with carefully kept business clothing; she hasn’t worked in more than a decade and wears mostly tank tops, shorts and flip-flops.

Neither of these particular people have children, so there is no one waiting or willing to inherit. One woman has her father’s Steinway grand piano; she doesn’t want to part with it, even though she doesn’t play. I have to say, my mother has been diligent in pruning belongings in the last 15 years. Of course, one of her main strategies is shipping things to her various children, mostly without warning. (A strategy I don’t condone!)

Downsizing doesn’t mean you have to move immediately. In fact, you may find that clearing accumulated belongings rejuvenates the home you live in. When I removed a third of my possessions–including art and significant pieces of furniture–in order to sell my house, I was surprised at how well-furnished it still was.

If you need more nudging, read this New York Times article by Elizabeth Olson. She quotes Kimberly McMahon, co-owner of a Maryland downsizing and moving service, who says many people “wait–and wait” to begin getting rid of stuff.

“Downsizing is the hardest, because it is emotionally difficult for people to release their history,” said Ms McMahon. “It’s the worst anxiety associated with any move.” Her advice? “Nothing should be off limits. Either use it, love it–or leave it.”

And here’s another NYT article, about a couple downsizing gracefully to a retirement apartment. One of the subjects says “I didn’t want to spend one night without my husband in our old house. Plus, I didn’t want to do the packing by myself either.” Her own mother, she said, had been an inspiration: she died at 101 with only two small boxes to her name. “She gave away things for years,” Lydia said. “You have to stop accumulating, and start clearing out early.”

‘Nuff said?


The Resale Evangelista is dedicated to simplifying, reducing clutter and creating a focused, artful life.











Scenes from a move

My house is gone, sold, cleaned out

The Resale Evangelista

And oh, what hell it was! But I’ll get into all that later. Suffice to say for the moment that what I thought would take 4 days took 10.  I missed two flights and rescheduled four others. My arms and legs are bruised from packing and moving. And this was an operation that went relatively smoothly. The simplified life is not as easy as it might look.

For the moment, I’m just offering a few verbal snapshots of the experience–and repeating my advice: If you think you will ever move out of your current abode, begin sorting, packing and discarding now! Trust me–start now!

Telling Time, Bird by Bird

I’ve always enjoyed spring’s predawn cacophony of birdsong. The earliest chirps break out around 5 a.m., soon escalating into full-fledged orchestral tune-up. The first fingers of sunlight begin tracing shadows on the window shade by 5:30. Secure in the knowledge that another day is dawning, I turn over, pull the pillow over my head and sleep another hour or two.

Not this time, Missy. I closed on the house Tuesday morning, got my hair cut and had a quick lunch with a friend. The buyers were closing the following day. Needless to say, there were a few things left to pack and haul away. Luckily, I had realized Monday evening that I was a little behind and changed my departure from Tuesday at 6 p.m. to Wednesday at 6 p.m. Thank you, Southwest Airlines, for your no-change-fee policy. (Which I used again on Wednesday to reschedule for a Friday flight.)

Back to the birds. There I was, sorting through a few things (okay, a lot of things) when I heard the tell-tale predawn chirp. Nah, couldn’t be, could it? I checked the windows: Still dark, but with the unmistakable bruised-blue tint of approaching sunrise. The bird orchestra was soon in full-throated warm-up. I’ll say this about working through the night–deciding to get rid of things is a hell of a lot easier at 3 a.m. than it is during the day. That’s about when I decided to give my television to my son’s girlfriend, rather than pack it for storage. The impulse evaporated with the realization I’d still have to pack and transport the TV. Simple solution? Just walk the television (in the dark) over to the neighbor’s porch. Imagine their surprise in the morning!

Misery Loves Company

By Thursday, everything was at least out of the house and in the garage. But there were boxes, so many boxes. Boxes I hadn’t opened in 10 years. Why start now? I determined to save time by pitching without sorting. After all, what could be so important in boxes stored for so long in the garage or basement?

Well, my son’s baby book, which I found when I noticed his name on a folder in one of the boxes. A brand-new-with-tags Coach laptop bag, origin unknown. Four years of journal entries from the late Nineties, which I long ago gave up on finding. A copy of my parents’ original family trust, now the subject of sibling dispute. Several pieces of writing, the only other copies of which are locked on obsolete floppy disks. Pitching without sorting was no longer an option.

Enter my neighbors. Chris and Maryann (you may remember their sons, Joe and Matt, as models of my top hat) pulled me away from the garage on Wednesday for hamburgers and Matt’s special fries (crinkle-cut), and again on Thursday for chicken curry. Maryann wrapped the delicate kitchen things left on the shelves when I couldn’t stand touching another sheet of butcher paper. Jason and Christie said I could leave anything I couldn’t carry, and they would dispose of whatever it was, one way or another. Mike and Linda stood with me for two hours while I went through boxes. Mike took anything technical and all the foreign language dictionaries; Linda claimed odds and ends for a charity garage sale and even accepted the two under-the-bed drawers that would in no way fit into my rental SUV. And when it was dark and cold and I just wanted to leave a bunch of crap–er, stuff–on the lawn until the following morning, Mike helped me put it all in the garage.

Thanks, guys. I couldn’t have done it without you.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? 

It was Friday. I had packed the last, most difficult load of my belongings into the rented SUV. A bed frame with slats, which I couldn’t–or wouldn’t–take the time to disassemble, therefore requiring that it be fitted diagonally into the SUV, stretching from the front seat, passenger window and protruding out from under the hatchback on the driver’s side. That necessitated tying the hatchback down with an extraneous piece of some sort of cable (of which I had many baskets that ended up at Goodwill). The load consisted of other bits of flotsam and jetsam, including the most problematic–several gallons of old paint. I hadn’t been able to locate a disposal center and was, therefore, planning to illegally dump the paint at my storage center.

My flight was to leave St. Louis at 6:05 p.m. I was heading for Public Storage at 4 p.m., thinking I might actually make the flight–which I had already rescheduled three times (thank you, again, Southwest, for your policy of not charging for changing flight schedules.)

Driving down Manchester Avenue, another driver started beeping his horn and, when I met his eyes, he gestured toward my tailgate. Shoot, I thought (no, that’s not exactly what I thought), maybe the bed frame is slipping. I pulled into a bus-stop lane, put the emergency flashers on and got out to check the tailgate. The bed frame was secure. But a can of cream-colored paint had tipped and was spilling over the bumper of the black rental vehicle. “Fudge,” I thought. No, that is definitely not an exact quote. I pulled the offending can of paint out of the car and dumped it in the public trash basket at the bus stop.

Since this was not my car, it wasn’t equipped with the wealth of rags and shammies normally available in the back of my Subaru. I headed–hyperventilating–for the nearest gas station, hoping for a hose or faucet. No such luck–there was only an air pump for tires.

I dashed inside and bought two bottles of water. No cleaning rags available. I poured the water on the paint and used the windshield cleaning wand stocked  by the gas pumps. This was not going to work or, at least, not quickly enough. I ran back inside and bought a gallon of windshield washer fluid and grabbed a big handful of paper towels. Thank God the paint was latex, and hadn’t spilled inside the car. I managed to swab off the paint before it dried, thus saving myself thousands of dollars in charges for repainting the vehicle. (I have to admit it: I also disposed of two or three more cans of paint at the gas station. What can I say, I was desperate.)

Maybe it’s my sporadic practice of Buddhism. After the paint spill, I realized I was going to again miss my flight. I think in my whole life–the child of a TWA pilot, so one who flew often–I have actually missed three flights. In the past, I would be cursing, sweating, racing to the airport. Now? Phhfft! There will be another flight tomorrow. (Thank you yet again, Southwest.)

Ending on a bright note

Here’s the best part. In pitching stuff–I did empty about 30 boxes, consolidating them into three or four–I tossed out a lot of film negatives and slides. Joe Musial, 15, retrieved many of them and asked if I minded if he kept them. Of course I didn’t–I sense a fellow dumpster diver in the making.

Over dinner, we looked at the negatives and slides. And you know what? Joey, who (along with his brother) is one of the two smartest kids that I know, said he had never seen a slide or negative. Isn’t that amazing? I once interviewed a man in Iowa who remembered seeing his first steam engine chugging across the prairie, spewing smoke. I felt like that old man, having witnessed a bygone era of technology.

We held the negatives up to the light over the dinner table and, without having my glasses, I was able to identify myself by the shape of my hair. Maryann explained that negatives reverse the dark and light areas of a photograph. I had developed some of the film myself; Joey was unfamiliar with that concept. And when Chris mentioned that, if you wanted to magnify a slide image, all you had to do was use a thumb and forefinger to swipe the picture, Joey–a computer jockey–didn’t get the joke. Made sense to him.

Lessons Learned

Did I learn any valuable lessons through this ordeal…I mean, experience? Not really, nothing that I didn’t already know about myself.

  • I am overly optimistic. I always assume a task will take much less time to accomplish than is realistic.
  • I live by deadlines, even when I miss them. Having a deadline at least gets me started.
  • My first instinct in a crisis is panic. I hyperventilated twice while moving–I’ve never hyperventilated previously in my life.
  • After the hysteria passes, I do what needs to be done. What choice do I have?
  • Friends are the best.

And for you all? I can’t say it often enough: Start getting rid of stuff now!










Deadline pressure for paring down

Life will be easier without the house

Susan Caba
Resale Evangelista

Nothing like a deadline for getting rid of stuff you don’t need

Everybody has an opinion on what stuff I should ditch when I move. Excuse me, opinions on which of my lovely possessions I can part with.

I’ve listed the house for sale. Obviously, that means speeding up my sorting and disposing schedule, both in order to show the house and to move. Maybe that’s why I did it–I work well under deadline.

Gingerbread house goes on the market Looks like a gingerbread house, doesn’t it?

Max has been urging me to purge forever.  Of course, the way he gets rid of some of his things is simply to leave them at my house. (Then again, I have two of my grandmother’s chairs and a pair of teak doors from my in-laws’ house in India stashed in my mother’s garage.)

Max made one concession.  I  could, at my sole discretion, decide which art to keep and which to discard. Except, he added, for the two pieces of artist Mary Sprague’s work that he wants for himself.

An only child, with parents in separate households–and one grandmother for whom he is the only heir–Max is eventually going to be bombarded with too much stuff.  As he says, he’s not the least bit motivated by his surroundings. (So he says now. What about the Mary Sprague paintings?) I’ve never expected him to keep anything in particular of mine. I’ve just told him which things are junk and which are worth selling.

So here’s what he thinks I should keep:

  • In the family room–nothing. I argued for the cherry cabinet with glass doors and the stacked black boxes side table. Also the lime-green goose-necked desk lamp and a big Fifties lamp. He said okay, maybe.
  • In the dining room–the pine armoire. My great-grandmother’s oak table and chairs are going to my brother. I argued for the red lacquer etagere. The decision on that is still up in the air. He’s against it.
  • In the living room–the 1920s Chinese tansu and a leather trunk that serves as a coffee table. Oh, and the black leather and chrome chair.  Ix-nay on a glass and iron side table (I’m keeping it–and its double).
  • In his bedroom–nothing. I agreed.
  • In my bedroom–an armoire. He wants the bed. Fine. I get to keep a little green side table.

So that’s, what? Nine pieces? I can live with that. And anyway, it’s not the furniture–it’s the little stuff that’s a problem.  Lots of little stuff, Chinese tchotkes, an antique typewriter, a collection of green pottery, and … and … and …and …

The Realtor was a little more liberal. She did suggest I move some of the big pieces out before the house goes on the market. “Just to make it look a little more spacious,” she said.

Mary See more of Mary Sprague's work at's work is available at      Angry Chicken, by Mary Sprague

I had to chuckle at that. I’ve already gotten rid of two big, dark rugs, sold a glass-fronted bookcase, took two ratty chairs to Goodwill and made a curbside donation of a mid-Century coffee table (someone plucked it from the curb within an hour).  Crystal glasses are snuggled into empty wine boxes, there are two mirrors under my bed and the collection of green pottery has been “disappeared,” though I can’t remember where, exactly. Thank God she didn’t see the house last year.

Oh, and I’ve employed the “generous hostess” ploy. I gifted the plush, stuffed moose-head I found at Christmas to one of Maryanne’s boys and found the perfect recipient–her other son–for the leather and fur Russkie hat with ear flaps that my father brought me from Leningrad. Trust me, it looks better on Joey. And when the Realtor admired a big bunch of peacock feathers in a vase, I said, “take them, they’re yours.” She was happy, I was thrilled.

Getting rid of stuff may be easier than I thought.

Simplifying life can be messy; just go with the flow–it’s only stuff.

Going, going, almost gone…

Color stars at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

By Susan Caba
Resale Evangelista

You may never again have the opportunity to see the work of two artists, each extremely focused on their vision and working at their peak, in an exhibit in which each perfectly complements the other.

Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works–a gang-buster exhibit at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis–ends tomorrow, Jan. 4. You still have today and tomorrow to see this comprehensive, one-of-a-kind show that would have attracted crushing crowds in New York or London.

Judd, who was consumed in his last decade with the interplay of color, light and space, could not have hoped for a better setting for his work than the deceptively simple light-box of a building Tadao Ando designed to explore the relationship between light, space and line. Art and architecture are perfectly married. The Judd Foundation lent many of the twenty finished pieces and 30 collages and drawings for the exhibit.

There are two special opportunities remaining to see the show:

  • Friday, January 3, 2014  5:00pm—First Friday in Grand Center
  • Saturday, January 4, 2014  6:30am—Sunrise at the Pulitzer. Free and open to the public, but space is limited. Register with Programs Coordinator Philip Matthews at or 314-446-2057.

More details at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Also, the Judd show was recently named as a critic’s pick on

Give a girl the right shoes….

…and she can conquer the world

(Bette Midler)
Susan Caba

Resale Evangelista

Goodbye, high-heels, I hardly knew ye.

At least not recently, when age and lifestyle combined to make you obsolete.

And yet, I let you linger in the closet. Why?

IMG_2748Well, what was the harm? Who could predict…might I not have occasion to slip on the bronze suede and leather shoes and meet someone for a drink? Besides, bronze is really one of my colors and so, I had to have them–even though I was buying the same shoes in gray suede and silver leather for some long-ago black-tie event. I’m not sure I ever wore the bronze pair, but they were filled with promise.

The orange and magenta sandals? Well, I did wear those. As unlikely as it sounds, I had a dress in the same colors. And they looked good with jeans, too. In fact, I wore them recently to an art opening.

That is, I wore them for about 10 minutes once I got in the door. Then it was either take them off or limp awkwardly around the room, pausing to lean casually against the wall when the pain became unbearable. That’s when I knew viscerally, rather than just intellectually, that my days of wearing high-heels are over, despite their sex appeal.

My daily footwear is pretty much of the flip-flop variety. I mean, I have some dressy flip-flops, they aren’t just the $2.99 variety. Shoes aren’t the focus of an at-home ensemble that usually consists of sweat pants and t-shirts, occasionally augmented with a fleece cardigan or vest.

And then there’s the age thing. The one tiny bit of arthritis I experience is at the joint of my big toe, on my right foot. Exactly where high heels put the most pressure on a foot.

IMG_2731I once purchased a pair of black boots that required a rather peculiar angling of the foot to get them on, at which point I was basically balanced on the balls of my feet. The man I lived with at the time, a physical therapist, watched me trying them on. He could not believe I might actually buy them. “How do they hurt?” he asked, in a tone as pointed as the toes of the boots.  Now I know what he meant.

Sex appeal–let’s face it, that’s why high heels exist. Both men and women lust (for different reasons) after Christian Louboutin‘s red-soled, sky-high heels. “A woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her shoes,” he once said.  And flirty, he might have added. I once wore a pair of high heels to work that caused a strong, silent type to pause in his conversation with other men and, as I passed by, comment “cute shoes.” The expressions on the faces of the other men were priceless. And the shoes were that cute.

Do you remember Candies? They were high-heeled slides popular in the early Eighties. I wore them practically every day when I wrote for the Iowa Farm Bureau. I was just out of college. Otherwise the staff was all male and predominantly middle-aged. The combination of my age, the Candies and the fact that I sometimes wore three earring studs rather than two, often seemed to flummox my more conservative colleagues.

Those Candies were so high and I wore them so often, the muscles in the backs of my calves shortened. I had to do stretching exercises to compensate.

Ironically, the other iconic footwear about then was the Earth Shoe. Oddly shaped and homely, the soles were constructed so that your heel came down lower than your toes–negative heel technology, they called it. I remember walking past an Earth Shoe store, long and narrow with two lines of benches running from front to back. The benches were filled with all sorts of people–elderly women, teenagers, hippies, businessmen. And they all had their legs extended to admire their new Earth Shoes. There was nothing sexy about Earth Shoes.

IMG_2715Here’s the thing about taking my high heels–or at least my highest heels–to the consignment store:   I don’t want give up my sex appeal.

I still want to make strong men weak at the knees. I’m not ready–and never will be–to be limited, literally or metaphorically, to sensible shoes. The high heels are gone.

But I’ll never part with the tiger-striped smoking slippers or my cheetah slides.