Tag Archives: NPR

The Virtues of Being a Basketcase

Alaska room pic

By KIMBERLY MAYER

 

Two books are before me on my writing table: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo and Mess, by Barry Yourgrau. Two drastically different books on decluttering—one, so Zen, and the other, well, messy. I have browsed, pondered, read reviews on each, but haven’t dove into either yet. Instead I seem to be writing my own: a case for baskets.

A long time ago in what seems like another life, I lived on St. Thomas USVI and my passion for baskets started there, at The Shipwreck Shop in Charlotte Amalie. Moving from one rental to another, I furnished my homes with straw rugs and tropical trees standing about in baskets, dined on mahogany plates from down island, and donned straw hats as protection from the Caribbean sun. I practically lived out of The Shipwreck Shop and the look has been with me ever since, even now, on San Juan Island in the Puget Sound.

Baskets, I have found, pretty much work with any type of décor. Lately, what I like is juxtaposing baskets with the industrial. A winning combination: rustic and industrial.

In my house what goes into baskets is extensive: scarves and gloves on an upper shelf in the mud room–called an “Alaska room” in the Pacific Northwest. Hats in a wall-hung basket. Two large baskets contain gifts ready for giving when the occasions roll around. I store stationery,  greeting cards, and candles in baskets. Folded dining linens in baskets. In bathrooms, extra hand towels are rolled into a wire basket, and a collection of European soaps in another.

The list goes on and on, and with that I need to confess to a few little hoarding habits of my own. Nothing compared to Mr. Yourgrau’s stuff, but still… I “collect,” as I like to call it, “affordable luxuries,” all of which are stored in baskets. Oh, and in the process I collect baskets.

“Finders need keepers,” states House Beautiful’s Sensational Storage Solutions. Marie Kondo, the Japanese cleaning consultant and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, would disagree. “A booby trap lies within the term ‘storage,'” she writes. Purging of belongings is Ms. Kondo’s modus operandi.

Mr. Yourgrau, on the other hand, author of Mess, accumulated everything of meaning, and if it didn’t have any, he gave it meaning. What began with gathering mementos such as cocktail napkins and coasters from well-loved restaurant experiences around the world, degenerated into hoarding plastic bags and cardboard boxes in his apartment in Queens.

“I looked like a storage help center,” he said on interview with NPR. “I thought they’d be useful when I eventually sort of tidied up my place.”

It can be a slippery slope. I confess to keeping packing peanuts for reuse as well as folded sheets of bubble packing plastic for the shipping of gifts. I keep them in baskets of course, out in the garage. Mr. Yourgrau lives in NYC and doesn’t have a garage. I don’t know what I’d do there; I would have to change my ways.

And seriously, Ms. Kondo, would you send me out for supplies each time I had to ship a gift? Perhaps your family lives within walking distance in Tokyo, but my family is all over the map.

Although Mr. Yourgrau has tidied up his place tremendously, his display of miscellany from table to table as seen in “A Hoarder’s Tale of Redemption,” The New York Times August 19, looks to me like Ye Olde Curiousity Shop down on Pier 54 in Seattle.

What started on an island for me, a passion for baskets, finds itself on an island once again. All my favorite things, close at hand yet out of sight. Call me a basketcase, but it’s working.

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They Call Us Mossbacks

For years I wondered: where on earth do I feel most at home? We would move and I’d try various places, waiting to see if I could grow roots. Finally I took up gardening. In the garden I can make myself at home anywhere, but nowhere as easily as here, in the Pacific Northwest. Where everything grows on its own accord.

Moss_Covered_Old_Stone_Bridge_HD_Wallpaper-Vvallpaper.Net

Back in San Diego I used to paint my flowerpots with buttermilk, then roll them in dirt before potting. With regular watering over a course of time, the pots would whiten and grow the mossy green patina found on garden antiquity. All around me the homes were too new. Too many developments with roofs of clean bright orange terra cotta tile. Whereas the pots on my terrace gave the appearance of old. While developers were busy putting up “Mediterranean style” for the masses, I was looking for Old Spain, something evacuated from say, Seville.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we can save the buttermilk for baking. Moss grows up our steps, over walls, on all sides of trees, and onto rooftops. I have to laugh.

We love our moss. A friend told me the story of a time she hired a man to pressure-wash the brick patio, as it can get slippery, and stepped out of the house to find that he had gone on and taken care of the back wall as well “which was a treasure trove of happy lichens in yellow, orange and gold, plus fabulous swaths of moss.” She was heartbroken.

Not too long ago a neighbor from those days in San Diego, now living in Houston, came through Seattle on book tour. I had come into the kitchen in the morning, turned on KUOW, our local NPR, in the middle of an interview and recognized her voice immediately. That night I attended her reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest. Harriet Halkyard is her name. One doesn’t forget a name like that. She and her husband, John, wrote 99 Days to Panama based on their travels there. After the reading I bought their book and we sat down for lattes and to get caught up.

I will admit I was surprised to hear how much they love living in Houston (“It’s the people; we’ve never been so socially engaged!”), but nothing could have prepared me for her next comment.

“I don’t know how you live here,” she cried.

“I mean,” Harriet went on, “when you’ve seen seen one pine tree you’ve seen them all.”

I smiled and realized it could be plants and trees and climates that determine where one feels most at home. In San Diego we both had the warmth, the sun, the desert landscape, the occasional palm tree and arid climate, and she chose to go get more of it in Texas. Whereas I sought to come home, if not to New England, to the Pacific Northwest. A place more exaggerated than New England ever dreamed.

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