Surface Area

Two questions for you this week. Let’s start with the easy one: what do you call this?

Butcher block counter top
A benchtop? Countertop? Worktop? Something else entirely? What if it’s in the bathroom – or even the laundry?

Now here’s the tough question: how much of their surface area is unintentionally covered? Be brave: your answer can’t be worse than mine!

Bathroom: three square feet, about one intentionally covered, none unintentionally. Two bare, so
3 : 1 / 0 / 2

Laundry: about one square foot of actual bench – totally covered, but mostly with things which are used right there – and about six square feet of table, which is half covered in a cat lair (intentional) and half covered in gosh-we-should-do-something-with-that (totally unintentional).
7 : 3.5 / 3.5 / 0

Kitchen counter covered in junk mail
The kitchen (oh, the shame!) has three benches, one about 16 square feet half-covered (ok, all-covered, but half’s intentional), one about 9 square feet with 1/10 clutter (if you don’t count the day’s dishes waiting to be washed), and two of about 2 square feet, one half-cluttered and one tolerably full but with no clutter (tea-making space: sacrosanct). That doesn’t include the draining board, which seldom has anything but drying dishes on it.
29 : 11 / 10 / 8 (if dishes recently washed)

A grand total (oh, I can’t look) of 39 square feet of bench space in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry combined, with 15.5 intentionally covered, 13.5 unintentionally covered, and up to 10 free for use – up to 7 of which may be covered in dishes, depending on the time of day.

Ouch. I’d never realized before that with the exception of the bathroom bench – and not even all of that – there is no habitually clear bench space in my house. And I have the lurking suspicion that if I removed the intentional covering, the unintentional would take its place as the night the day (only faster).

So what are your numbers? Share in the comments and give me something to shoot for!

Woman in kitchen, 1939

The Thing Itself

It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe: has anyone, ever, managed to get a rubber ducky to float the right way up? Apart from Florentijn Hofman, obviously, and even he’s had trouble, what with deflations, explosions, and midnight vandals. (Another of the great mysteries of the universe: what kind of person stabs a giant rubber ducky forty-two times?)

I can’t even remember the last time my rubber ducky floated the right way up. Obviously, it must be a specialist Diving Duck.

Mallard duck diving

It’s got a recess at the bottom into which, the ancestral wisdom informed me, one could glue a fifty-cent coin and thus ballasted, the ducky would float the right way up. I have been carting a fifty-cent coin around lo these many years – long after the coins were changed to smaller editions – but correctly floating ducky there has been none.

The glue was too weak, or the coin wasn’t heavy enough, or the glue gave way in the bath – or, more unnervingly, when the duck was just sitting on the shelf. You’d hear this “clonk” and put your head into the bathroom to find no one there, just a ducky staring blankly at you out of it’s rat-chewed face. (Rats have remarkably experimental tastes, considering their inability to vomit.)

rubber ducks in courtyard
Ain’t nobody here but us duckies.

But it was my ducky. Even though I seldom had baths, and even when I did they’d only be graced by the ducky for about as long as it took for it to keel over on its face and start taking on water: i.e. about two seconds, and then I’d fish it out with a sigh, put it to drain on the side of the bath, and replace it on the windowsill until the next time came to dust it off.

I don’t need to do this any more. It suddenly came to me one day. I don’t need the duck. The duck doesn’t need me. And even without it I wouldn’t be leading a duck-free life, as the Caped Gooseberry still has five ducks (which we also don’t use as there isn’t really room in the bath).

I decided to let the duck go, along with the religiously transported 50c coin (once I find it). While I was decluttering the bathroom, I decided to get rid of an old white comb while I was at it. The comb used to live at my grandmother’s house, along with several matching ones in different colours for her assorted granddaughters.

The Combing of Granddaughter

I picked it up, and I could suddenly see the ceramic bowl on the dressing table that they used to sit in; and turning in my mind’s eye, I looked out the window into my grandmother’s back yard, past the washing-line and the swing set to the fence that marked off her resplendent kitchen garden (now, alas, underneath a new house). I remembered the sights, the scents, the voices.

But I’m still getting rid of the comb. Because I don’t actually need the comb to recall those memories. For one thing, imagining the comb is sufficient, and for another I already have a ‘madeleine’ for remembering my grandmother’s house: a bar of the coal-tar soap she always had in the bathroom.

Ah, the memories.

pruning shears and gloves

My purging list for August isn’t very impressive:
one rubber duck (with munted face, therefore unsuitable for donation)
one old fifty-cent coin (probably no longer legal tender)
and one plastic comb.

These things tend to be cyclical, mind you, and I’m hoping September will prove more fruitful on the purging front. How was your August purge-wise?

What Happened Next?

It occurred to me today that while I bring up a lot of subjects on this blog, I seldom revisit them. While I know what happened next, I don’t often share that with the rest of the world.
How has it been since I cut my hair short? Have I actually done any of the exercise I praised, fun or otherwise? Have all my screeds over the years on the subject of decluttering had any measurable effects in real life? Or was it all just talk?


1815 Isabey Portrait Katharina Pawlowna von Russland anagoria

My hair is still short, and definitely curly. On a good morning, there’s a vague resemblance to Helena Bonham Carter; on a bad morning, the resemblance is more to Edward Scissorhands – and a lot stronger. I’m planning to grow it out as winter approaches – partly for warmth and partly just to see what happens!

As for exercise, I mentioned that my exercise goals included buying a skipping rope, and learning to dance the galliard (aka the cinquepace). I have indeed bought a skipping rope, and have even skipped with it – mostly outside on the grass for the sake of my joints. It’s harder than it was when I was little, though I have not yet tried any fancy touches like the Inverse Toad.

Woodcut Galliard

When it comes to the galliard, however, I have met with less success. Apart from the useful information that one could dance the galliard to the tune of God Save the Queen (perhaps why the dance was so popular with Queen Elizabeth I, who danced six or seven of a morning by way of exercise), I have got nowhere. As wonderful as our local library is, it is singularly lacking in books on how to dance the dances of history. I shall have to keep looking. Next stop: the great wide web.

I have also acquired a new swimming-suit (of which more hereafter) and gone to a swimming-pool for the first time in a long time. (Years.) I happily paddled and splashed about, enjoying the absence of large waves trying to give me a forcible sinus rinse, and even essayed a few lengths, with variable success. Running your head into the wall while swimming on your back: not success.

0ld keyboards

On the same day as we went to the pool, we took a quantity of e-waste to the safe-disposal-of-electronic-waste people. I was very happy to see the back of it. As well as safely breaking down the parts of things no longer functional (recycling), they also fix things where possible (reuse) or turn them into other things (repurpose) – all very good for the planet, as well as those not able (or not willing) to buy their belongings new.

Since I last wrote about tidying, decluttering and purging, I have also gone through the bathroom cupboards like a dose of salts (pun intended – please forgive me) as well as the pantry cupboard and the shelves in the hallway.

I’m also sleeping better. I stopped worrying about it, and that seemed to help, although I’m inclined to give the recent sudden arrival of autumn a bit of credit too – no more waking up overheated. Now I sleep like a hibernating dormouse, although happily I don’t snore like one.

Glis glis (edible dormouse) in winter sleep

What have I missed? Is there anything I mentioned once and never got back to you about? Let me know in the comments!