A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Garage: Where Stuff Goes to Disappear

Garage Remodel, Scotts Valley, CA
Garage Remodel, Scotts Valley, CA (Photo credit: Judi Oyama)

Only in America......do we  leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk  in the garage. 
...from an email chain message--source Unknown

        So far we've visited just about every storage place that a house can have, but I've neglected the one that has probably become the most important for most home owning Americans--the garage.  This space that was intended for our vehicles often becomes that catchall for everything that doesn't fit it the house.  If your accumulations are like mine I'm sure your garage is filling up. And I know many folks have far fuller garages than mine.

         The quote the opens this page is intended for humor, but it's kind of funny because of the truth in the words.  Neighborhoods across the United States are dealing with the perplexing problem of having enough parking space for multi-car families who no longer can fit their cars in the garage or driveways that were intended for that purpose.  In neighborhoods like mine street parking is highly coveted and sometimes even fought over.  I know this to be the case throughout the Los Angeles area and I would not be surprised to learn that all countries of the world where people are getting more stuff to fill their homes have this same problem.

         When I was growing up I recall three houses where we lived that had actual garages.  One only had just a driveway and the house where my mother still lives has a sizeable carport.  I don't remember my parents ever using our garages for parking cars.   I guess garage storaging goes back at least 60 years then.  Maybe even from the time garages started appearing as a part of the family home.

Garage Memories

       The garage in our house in Cleveland doesn't play into my memories for the most part.  There was one magical Christmas experience that stands out.  My sister and I had been blessed with another abundant blessing of many presents such as my parents were always prone to shower us with each Christmas morning. On one particular Christmas day when I was probably about six years old, in the lull of the aftermath of being dazzled by all of my new toys, for some reason I looked in the garage to a sight that amazed me.  Santa Claus had left all of the boxes that the toys had originally been packed in and I found them in the garage.  At that moment the toys were forgotten and the cache of boxes became the focus of my attention.  What a find that was!  Any kid loves boxes to play in.

       The garage in our San Diego house is where the washer and dryer were hooked up.  Keeping a car in there seemed somewhat impractical.  There were many things stored around the walls of that garage with the center a clear expanse that I sometimes used as a play area.  One corner of this makeshift play/utility/storage room was piled with boxes, suitcases, and assorted loose items.   I would sometimes build tunnels and rooms using the piled items as building materials.  For a while my sister and I constructed a makeshift clubhouse in that corner.  Thankfully we were never crushed or smothered by all of that stuff collapsing upon us.   I guess I was a pretty good builder.

       In the house where my wife and I currently dwell, we have a garage that threatens storage disaster.  I actually keep my van parked in there but it is surrounded by a tower of stored goods. There are boxes that haven't been opened since we moved there sixteen years ago.  Sure I know the standard rule of discarding items you haven't accessed in x number of years, but I assure you that some of it is worth keeping.  I'm sure I'll use it one day.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.

         Then there are the Christmas decorations.  We're never home during the 2 or 3 weeks around the holidays, but my wife still likes to decorate at Thanksgiving and we'll usually keep the decorations up until February.  I could do without the decorating, but I suppose there could come that day when we are home for the holidays.

         In the months after I lost my job in early 2009 I did get rid of a lot of the garage collection by selling it off on Craig's List.  That went pretty well and kept me in cash for a while.  Now my Craig's List ads are largely ignored as I get to the less desirable items.  Maybe a curbside pick-up will be in order soon since many of the items would probably be unwanted by Goodwill.  But I've got the time.  And I've still got the space.

      Garages make a great place for storage.  You can't see what you've got in there unless you go in there.  It's that old out of sight, out of mind thing.  I think about it, but then again I don't fret over it.  I'll get rid of the stuff eventually.

         Do you have a garage in your home?   Can you park a car in there?   What do you store in your garage?

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting to the Bottom of the Storage Story

basement (Photo credit: mobob)
      Over the past several weeks we've been all over the place in the story of where we keep our stuff.  Many of us in the United States and elsewhere can hardly contain everything we own under one roof.  In my series we've looked at closets, drawers, and attics.  One place we have not set foot in yet is the basement.

       Many houses do not have a basement.  Some have a sort of a bottom floor they might call their basement.  This sort of partially subterranean room is often another room in the house used as a family room, an extra bedroom, or even a garage.   In other cases the basement--or cellar as it might be called--is an underground dungeon-like place of darkness and dampness.  Some of these basements may have rough stone walls and concrete or even dirt floors.  These latter types of basements are more the type that might be used for storage.

       The more utilitarian basement is often the place where the homeowner will keep tools, garden equipment, and seasonal items.   It's not uncommon to find boxes and bins of stored items getting relegated to the confines of the space under the main living quarters.  If the basement is not typically seen by visitors to the home, the area may begin to look much like a warehouse with stacks of storage containers and old furniture.  Those basements are visited when something is needed, but left to gather dust in the darkness for most of the year.  If care is not taken, those basements also become the living quarters for unwanted creatures that can cause quite a scare when happened upon.

       Most of the houses I've lived in have not had basements.  A duplex in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where my family lived when I was in second grade had a sort of basement area that was actually a garage under the house.  My parents didn't have much stuff back then so not much was in the basement other than their car.  In some strange moment of inspiration, my father purchased a number of colors of paint and painted the individual cinder blocks of the walls with alternating colors, giving the basement garage a sort of patchwork quilt appearance.   It was all very festive and quite random.  We moved to San Diego after only living there for less than a year.   I have wondered if those walls are still painted as my father left them.

       The next house we lived in that had a basement was the one in Maryville, Tennessee where we moved when I was in high school.  That house had a half submerged basement that was essentially finished with a fireplace, wall heaters, and a laundry room that also had a toilet in it.  This basement made for a nice family room.  During my college years our family basement became a hangout for me and my friends.  Many of my records and books still have a musty basement smell.  After I moved from home my parents added a pool table and bar.  My mother has it fixed quite nicely now.  There are some items stored there, but they are mostly in closets or neatly set in places around the room.

        The most intriguing basement of my life was that in my maternal grandparents house in Morgantown, West Virginia.  They lived in a grand old house that had been built in 1909.   The basement of that house was a dark dingy place with one bulb to light the area.  I did not go down there much when I was a child so I do not recall what was stored in the dark recesses of their basement.  The one thing I do distinctly remember was the old white wringer washer that my grandmother had to use to do her laundry.  After the clothes were clean she'd haul them up the stairs to hang out to dry on a line in the small back yard.  Some things from back then are not missed.

       Do you have a basement?   Is it used for storage or has it been finished for other use?   What is the most memorable basement in your years?    Do you know anyone who has a bomb shelter?

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stories in the Attic

attic treasures
attic treasures (Photo credit: GWSA)
        Where the role of closet space in modern home has become more important, the attic has become the neglected place where builders commonly install ductwork, ventilation, heating/AC units, and insulation.  A few of you might have attics that are still used as storage areas, but owners of the typical modern home rarely if ever see their attics.

        Some homes have attic space converted into extra rooms, but those homes typically set out to make that accommodation by design.  Many attics are difficult to get into, requiring a ladder and the agility to shimmy into a hole in the ceiling.  These attics are usually uninviting areas of exposed rafters and unfloored with wooden beams and insulation material.  Sometimes if you step in the wrong place you can fall through the ceiling of the room below.

         Once the attic was a valued space for storage in many larger homes.  We often see these types of attics in old films.  These are the attic spaces filled with steamer trunks, unused furniture, dressmaker mannequins, boxes, and many other accumulated treasures.  The attic of films is the place for hiding, mystery, exploratory adventure, and scary occurrences.

          Currently I live in a newer house with the unoccupied inhospitable attic where only termite inspectors and air conditioner repairmen have ever ventured.  I've poked my head through the opening thinking that I might use the area for storage, but quickly determined that our attic was not functional in its current state as a place for storage.

         The houses I grew up in were a little more useful for storing things like Christmas decorations or other things that didn't need to be accessed often.  I can't ever recall us having an attic you could go into and walk around, but they at least had flooring at the openings where you could put a few boxes.

          The big attics of old are the ones the can hold the real treasures.  I have a friend who told me that sometimes he'd go up to an old house with an offer.  He would clean out their attic and haul off anything they no longer wanted.   Now and then he would get a taker on his offer.  A few hours of dusty, often hot, work and he'd haul off the goods to the dump, keeping whatever he thought he could use or sell.  He actually went into business reselling toys that he had found in attics or elsewhere. I don't think he inspired the Aerosmith song "Toys in the Attic", but who knows?

         Maybe you are fortunate enough to have a big old house with an attic filled with treasures, or maybe have some relatives or friends with such a place.  If you've never taken the time to explore these old attics then maybe now's the time that you should.  With the cooler weather the attic shouldn't be as hot.  Dig through the archives of material accumulation to see what you  might find.

          Do you have an attic in your house?    Have you ever explored an old attic filled with things?   What are some treasures that you keep in your attic?   What are some of the treasures you have found in attics?

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Closets: What's In Yours?

A wall closet in a residential house in the Un...
A wall closet in a residential house in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Picture of inside a closet. Taken 200...
Picture of inside a closet by Matthew Paul Argall  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         The houses I lived in when I was growing up didn't have very big closets.  Older houses as a rule have smaller sized closets.  At least that's the way it is with the closets in the older houses I've seen.

         My maternal grandparents didn't even have closets in the bedrooms of their large house that was built in 1909.  My mother says that there was a closet in the hallway where she hung up clothes.  I don't recall ever seeing that closet, but then again I guess I wasn't looking for a closet when I would visit there.

        A Nolo Law site article offers that older homes did not have many closets because houses were taxed according to the number of rooms and closets were considered to be rooms.  Other sources dispute this idea, but I think it seems like a rather reasonable explanation.   This is also probably why the large pieces of furniture known as armoires or wardrobes were used instead.  Of course these large pieces of furniture date back many centuries.

        The concept of built in closets may have also presented construction problems in some of the palaces and mansions prior to 18th century.  An ornate piece of furniture would have been more of an attractive storage solution than a door in the wall leading to a dark little alcove.  Rooms were larger in those homes of the elite and wealthy and they could easily accommodate a large wardrobe cabinet.

       Closets are certainly more practical in an age of electrically lit rooms where the inner recesses are more well illuminated.   A closet in a small room lit by candle or gaslight could be a gloomy little place where things might be difficult to find.   When we take into consideration the greater mobility of modern families we can see the problem of moving an armoire from one house to another.  Most people who had a big house didn't move as much in earlier times as people do in our age.

       There is also the suggestion that closets were not as necessary for most people in earlier times because they didn't own as many things.  Clothing wasn't as easy to obtain back in those days since they didn't have big department stores or clothing produced on the massive scale as it is now.   A few standard items and a couple of special occasion outfits were probably the norm back then.  Fashions didn't change as rapidly either for most regular folk.

       Even when I was growing up our family didn't seem to have as much as people have nowadays.   The hanging clothes for each of my family members easily fit into a small closet with room to spare for other items.  In each successive house that my parents moved to, the master bedroom seemed to have a larger closet, whereas the closets in my bedrooms were always the single door leading into a mini-room storage space.

         I can remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom closet playing with toys or just hiding in retreat.  As I grew older I would sometimes sit in the closet to work on my stamp collection since that is where I kept it stored.   When I got bigger in my pre and early teens I might sit on the floor just outside my closet having dragged out my stamp collection or model building supplies.  The closet always seemed to be my base of operations.  I kept my closet neat and orderly with everything in labeled boxes.

         My closet was my domain even though I shared a bedroom with my younger brother.   I'm not sure where my brother's stuff was kept, but he didn't get any closet space in our room until we moved to our house in Tennessee when I was in high school.  By that time sharing the closet didn't matter too much since I was now too big to be inside the closet and I no longer did the activities that I had previously done sitting on the floor.  But the closet was still the only place I had for storing my things and I continued to keep things neat and labeled so there was no mistaking what belonged to whom.  Even after I moved away from home I had possessions stored in that closet for several years until I had somewhere to keep them.

        Compared to the ones in the houses where I grew up, the closets in the house that my wife and I moved into sixteen years ago are very large closets.  Our house was new when we bought it and like most houses of comparable size built since the early eighties the bedroom closets have double sliding doors and considerable space for hanging clothes and a sizeable shelf at the top.  The closet in our master bedroom is of the walk-in style, but nowhere as big as the walk-in closet in my sister's house.  Her closet has hanging racks on each wall, drawers, shelves, and enough room for a dresser.  This is a walk-in closet that can be considered an extra room!

      Even with all of our kids gone from the nest, our four giant closets are jammed full of clothes and an array of other stored items.   In the bedroom that I now use as an office, the closet is filled from top to bottom with boxes containing office supplies, books, my stamp collection, and all sorts of items of personal memories.  I've been trying to tackle this one to get rid of things.  But it's also one of my treasure troves which I'll have to investigate eventually to decide what I need to do with the contents.

      Our closets have gone way past the storage of clothing and accessories.   We have everything except skeletons in them.  If I did have any skeletons to store they'd go in our garage or attic I suppose.  But we'll talk about those storage places in future posts.

       Do you have enough closet space in your home?   What do you keep in your closets?  Do you have any interesting closet memories or good closet stories to tell?

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