When I was in junior high school, I went on an awesome road trip with my dad. We drove from west Texas to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, stopping frequently to take in historically and geographically significant attractions. As we camped and hiked and explored ancient civilizations throughout the Southwest, lessons from history and social science books came alive to me. It seemed that the past was speaking to us from the ruined cities and primitive artifacts, even from the Earth itself where I witnessed the remains of a great forest turned to stone, but the greatest and most lasting impression upon me was made in the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park, Colo...

Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA: it is the largest of about 4000 preserved Cliff Dwellings (circa 800 years old) built by ancient Pueblo people (Anasazi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cliff Palace is the ruins of the largest cliff dwelling of the Pueblo Indians in North America and very visible footprint of left behind by people who seem to have vanished from the Earth. The structure of over 150 rooms and more than 20 kivas is majestic and surreal. The mysterious abandonment of the settlement over 700 years ago elevates the surreal to just a little bit creepy. I remember trying to sleep after touring Cliff Palace and how my mind continuously raced back to the thought “What happened to all those people?!” and not being able to block out the question. Even today, looking through photos of the abandoned edifice for an image to include here visions of tragedy and mass exodus are difficult to overcome.

Ascaya development, Henderson County, Nevada

The footprint left on the Nevada landscape by Ascaya in Henderson County. (Photo Credit: Michael Light)

Unfortunately, we don’t have to look all the way back to the Anasazi culture to find the stark, standing ruins of civilization abandoned to the wilderness. Our modern society is leaving its own lasting impression upon the landscape and this impression may be even creepier than that of the ancients.Two days ago, Lyra Kilston wrote for about Economic Collapse Seen Through Aerial Photos of Abandoned Mansions and the work of aerial photographer Michael Light. The article features about a dozen images of the abandoned luxury housing development in Henderson County, Nevada. The images of the leveled hilltops and deserted, paved streets of the Ascaya development reminded me of the images I had seen over a year ago of the abandoned development in Rio Vista, California and other parts of the country. In the United States, between 13,000 and 19,000 dwellings stand vacant according to the Census Bureau.

Rio Vista, CA

Rio Vista, California: Construction was halted in November 2008 when developer Shea Homes abandoned the project.

That’s a lot of wasted housing. If you look at the data detailing the specifications of those un-lived-in housing units, you’ll find that the vacancies aren’t low-end, either. More evidence, if you ask me, to support Louis CK’s description of our current generations’ level of frantic consumerism, but I’ll let him explain that himself.

What do you think of this? Is this the kind of footprint we want to leave on the planet? What will people think of us when they study the world we left for them 800 years from now? With small numbers of people affecting the environment so drastically, how does it make you feel about the small measures of prevention you practice in your own life? I am very interested in your thoughts about this subject.

Week Five: More Clothes Than You Can Shake a Stick At

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong with my head. It doesn’t work right. It’s kind of like a big truck with a little bitty battery; you turn the key, and it starts to turn the engine, but it just doesn’t have the juice to kick it over and let it run.

Here’s an example:

This morning, when My Sweetheart and I were waking up, he commented that today is another day for me to post a pic for the 4-day De-Clutter Challenge. When he mentioned it, I told him immediately that I planned on posting something really easy this week. “I think I’m going to post a photo of the bed of the truck.” That statement was turning the key in the ignition. Now that the time has come to actually take some pics and get them out there for you to see them and join me in the challenge, the engine just isn’t engaging like it should.

Instead of taking the easy way out, like I would do if my head was right, I am thinking about a massive pile of clothing in the warehouse. Make that 2 or three piles of clothing… Massive piles of clothing. All of it clean. Most of it folded or laid out flat, waiting to adorn hangers. If I had to quantify the amount of clothing waiting for attention, I would say that there is enough of it in the warehouse to provide modest wardrobes for nearly a dozen people… not counting the massive amount of infant, toddler and small children’s clothes.

The amount of clothing we have is sometimes the bane of my existence. And the most troublesome thing about the clothes is that most of them aren’t ours. Most of them have been tossed out by the bagful and sneak into the warehouse among the treasure that My Sweetheart brings home. Every now and then a few items which are sized to fit me will come through the door, but only very rarely. We go through the bags and pull out what we think will work for us and we make piles for alteration or upcyling, but I’ve only recently gotten the sewing machine needed for those projects. The task is pretty daunting at this point.

We need to make a trip to the donation center with a lot of the clothes we have here. I don’t know why we’ve been putting it off, but I do know that if I don’t post about the clothes today we won’t be accountable for doing something about it for at least a week. Posting a photo of the bed of the truck (which doesn’t happen to have much in it today anyway) isn’t going go very far in the progress department.

That said, this is my project for week number five: More Clothes Than You Can Shake a Stick At.

And this is but a fraction of the clothes I am talking about…. UGH!

See what I mean about my head not being quite right?! If it was right I would be showing you much less work!

I hope that some of you will join me this week!

(btw… Posting on a blog works a lot better when you actually publish your post rather than just previewing it and walking away. Duh! More proof that my head isn’t right…)

Stand Up Eight

Japanese Proverb, Graffiti, Seattle

I don’t know why I let a bit of chaos derail me from this blog (again). As difficult as blogging can become when life starts throwing curve-balls, it is always harder to come back and post after a period of not posting anything at all. The diversions that turned me from the blog some three months ago have been defeated for the better part of the summer and I have been ready to post again, just not ready to bite the bullet. I think part of the avoidance has been a lack of certainty about my Etsy shop and fearing that I might find failure in that endeavor while trying to promote it here. Hopefully I have found the support solution I have been needing for the shop because I am sick and tired of not blogging and I can’t stay away any longer.

I’ve joined an Etsy group (groups are called “teams” on Etsy) and I think membership alone will help drive my shop to success. Luckily, in case I’m wrong about the placebo effect of membership, the Upcyclers team is behind me with lots of help and advice and support. Oh, and I don’t think it will hurt anything that things are going pretty smoothly on the home front and I’ve got lots of merchandise to begin posting in the shop, too. Things are lookin’ up and I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities coming my way. Can’t wait to tell you all about it and get you caught up with all that I’ve been up to!

So, enough about all that for now… What’s been going on with you?

Know Who Your Friends Are

Don’t Give Up!
No matter how much time has passed since your last entry don’t be discouraged, what’s important is that you write in your journal today!

~By Rachel Bruner, Guide

Hi, again! Sooooo much has happened since my last post! I hardly know where to begin. No—I doknow that I should start by offering my honest gratitude to those of you who have been with me through my absence from this blog and those of you who have not been with me but are here now to see where this repurposing notion will take me from here.

And now: time for a little catching up, I suppose. Let’s see, when I last posted I was well behind on my vow to publish images of the apartment(s) I share with my sweetheart. While I hadn’t managed to post the tattle-tail images of the tendency to hoard that I share with my sweetheart, I did manage to take a few pics to share with the morbidly curious among you. After all these weeks, the photos are online (the first gallery, below) for the world to see the stuff with which we had cluttered our world prior to the second week of February.

Even I can admit that these pics may seem a little redundant, but I didn’t have the chance to finish taking photos before our household was struck my an unexpected and life-changing event that nearly cost my sweetheart’s life. By a miracle, my sweetheart is still with me, but the initial result of the unexpected event was more than 40 days of in-patient care at our regional Trauma I hospital, a quarter of that time my sweetheart spent fighting for his life in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.

Looking back at the clutter that had given me so much grief prior to the second week of February the mess doesn’t seem so unmanageable. Very little in life seems unmanageable prior to the event which sent us to hospital-hotel for so long. But we did learn first-hand the truth behind the adage that says “you find out who your friends are when you’re down in a ditch.” The three people from whom we expected the most help and support—taking care of the little things like caring for our dogs and keeping our home safe and secure—during the six weeks we were sequestered at the hospital flat-out robbed us blind within a day or two of the tragic event, and other “friends” riffled through what was left of our hoard under the guise of “securing remaining valuables” on our behalf rather than packing our things onto a moving truck as they had agreed.

I don’t think you can imagine our heartbreak when we set foot in our home for the first time after 6 weeks of inpatient care we learned that in our absence we had not only been served an eviction on each of our apartments, but we were on our own to pack up and move our possessions under a three-day deadline. A small sample of the state of our possessions as we discovered them is documented in the gallery below…

We did manage, miraculously, to load out the apartments into a storage unit by way of a U-Haul truck before the constable arrived with a trash out crew on the deadline date, and we are both still here, alive and well and together. We are calling that a win, despite the “help” of our “friends.”

Now we are determined to keep that win working for us going forward. We have both come to terms, I think, with our psychological quirks and we’ve decided that we are going to make those quirks work for us rather than try to force ourselves to work around them. To that end, we’ve just rented a 2500 square foot warehouse (including two office rooms and a shower/restroom which are all topped with sub-flooring that will function as living quarters) with permission to build-out the interior to suit our residential needs.

There’s a lot of work ahead of us between moving our things from storage to the warehouse and constructing our living quarters. We’re pretty strapped for cash after all we’ve been through, but our plans for the living quarters are based upon building most of it from salvaged and reclaimed materials. Beyond that, we’re facing the set up and operation of what we hope will be a rewarding salvage, repurposing and resale business. Our major obstacle will be transforming our mustang convertible into a truck and trailer for the business. It’s all pretty exciting but a little bit scary, too. We’ll keep you posted on our progress… We shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with photos to post as we work it out. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by again.