In which I am throwing everything out–but not you!

I love to declutter–LOVE IT. It’s something I usually embark upon just after the holidays. Packing up the decorations lends itself to tidying up all kinds of other things. This year I chucked out several hundred books and it felt AMAZING. (They went to our local library for their book sale.) I also cleared out loads of shoes and clothes; even the pantry got an overhaul. And I’ll tell you what: when I was finished, I felt light as a FEATHER. The energy in the house soared. If you find yourself feeling a bit stuck, throwing things out is the perfect remedy. I wrote this piece awhile back, but bears reposting because Gail Blanke’s book is a superb kick in the pants to get yourself moving.
I have never been able to wait for spring to overhaul the house. To me, the post-holiday doldrums offer the perfect time for pottering. It’s too cold to go out and usually dreary to boot. It’s the time of year when we feel bloated from too much holiday excess, both inside and out. Our cupboards and closets are groaning from holiday decorations, gifts, miscellanea. It’s the absolute best opportunity to meander through the house, taking a drawer or shelf at a time to organize and purge. It feels virtuous to throw things out or fill up bags for donations. (And honestly, after the holidays, it is lovely to have something to feel virtuous about, don’t you think?)

In my quest to declutter, I love to read about other people’s systems and rules. I’m fascinated by folks who declare they will throw something out every time they bring something new in, and actually stick to it! I am more spontaneous in my purging. I never discard an item just because something new came in, but I will happily get rid of a drawer full of things a week later. (Now that I have started watching HOARDERS it’s become even more satisfying to get rid of things.)

Earlier this week, I tore through Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke. It was superb. The principle is simple: throw away fifty things in two weeks. The catch is that like items count as ONE. (Which means if you decide to purge a magazine collection, good for you, but those hundreds of pounds of glossy pages that you hauled out to the recycling bin are still only one item.) The beauty of the system is that once you start weeding out the excess clutter, you weed out the bad thinking as well. It is just as much a self-help book as one about organization, and I found myself flagging page after page so I would go back and read certain passages over again. One of my favorites: There is no way it is. There is only the way you say it is. A beautifully succinct reminder that our reality is what we make it. Anyway, if one of your resolutions was to tidy up, this book is a must-have.


In which I really, really don’t like scary movies

I don’t do scary movies. I love suspense–classic Hitchcock is my jam and I like classic horror like 1930s Universal and 1960s Hammer–but I don’t do slasher movies or overly gory things. I can barely sit through “Halloween”, to be honest. If I’m going to be creeped out, I want it to be something that doesn’t look like it could be happening to me RIGHT NOW OH  MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT NOISE FROM THE BASEMENT?

A few years ago I found “The Collector” on TCM and here’s what I thought:

So this morning I settled in to watch “The Collector”–1965–based on the John Fowles book. (Mea culpa, haven’t read the book so I can’t speak to how faithful an adaptation it is.) But goodness me, wasn’t it delicious? It helps that it was overcast and rainy this morning, suitably spooky for a movie about a disturbed butterfly collector who abducts the art student he believes he’s in love with.

I actually expected to cue through most of it and just pick up the gist of it, but I was completely sucked in. Terence Stamp was mesmerizing as the abductor–a tremendously complex character who ought to have been completely loathsome. But he wasn’t. There were moments when it was quite easy to forget what he had done and see him only as a wretchedly insecure, usually courteous young man. (Terence Stamp’s stunningly beautiful eyes didn’t hurt. I even got impatient once or twice with his victim, thinking, “Oh, my God. I know he’s clinically insane, but he sets such a nice tea tray and bought you such lovely clothes and it wouldn’t kill you to give him a little kiss.”) I would have thought that generating sympathy for his character would have called for loads of backstory either through dialogue or voice-over or tedious flashbacks. Not a bit of it. There is one brief dreamy scene that fills in some of the blanks, and the rest is entirely up to his behavior. It’s particularly telling that when the girl suggests he has brought her there to assault her that he draws himself up, clearly affronted, and insists, “I will not. I shall have the proper respect.”

And yet…there are wonderful moments where his struggle is apparent and he is chillingly capable of cruelty. In all, superbly done–and available on Netflix from what I am told. (If you do watch it, see if you spot the odd moments when he resembles Sheldon Cooper. If they ever remake this film, I think Jim Parsons is the perfect choice to play someone who can be simultaneously creepy and sweet.)