Maybe it’s the cold, and the whole hibernation/nesting thing. Or the fact that I know within a couple of weeks we will have an influx of plush and plastic. Whatever the reason, these days I find myself with a serious NEED to cull and purge my house of all this STUFF. Clothes, books, toys—oh, God, so many TOYS—even expired canned food. It’s all got to go, and like, right now. Usually this kind of mad organization means it’s time to start writing again, but I’m not wanting to think about that right now, as I am still exhausted from What Happened to Goodbye. So instead, I attack my closets and upgrade all my technology. When everything is neat and in sync, THEN it is time to start another book. No telling when that will happen, though.

I used to be able to donate a lot of the toys my kid no longer plays with (or has forgotten about, or just won’t miss if I nick them while she’s sleeping) to the local PTA Thrift Shop, but due to lead regulations they won’t take them anymore. So I’ve discovered the thrill of the local Swap Shed at the dump. Oh, man. This place ENTHRALLS me. Tucked away by the cardboard recycling, this little metal building where you can just leave things and people who want them take them. So simple, right? As I writer, and someone with too much time on my hands (a writer who isn’t writing, I guess) I could spend hours parked watching people and seeing what they take, wondering what they want to do with it. (And I would sit there, except the guys that work at the dump are strict and wouldn’t let me.) The other day, I dropped off a big box of old vinyl records my parents needed to get rid of, things like Beethoven and Gordon Lightfoot and show tunes. I am DYING to know the person who picked those up. I have also left stuffed animals, and old DVD players that still work. I REALLY want to leave a bunch of my foreign editions, because I don’t know what else to do with them, but I fear I’d return and they’d still be there, unwanted, which would make me depressed.

Okay, so I’m a little codependent about the swap shed. To the point that I am fighting the urge to leave little notes with my stuff, explanations. Like, “This iPod dock will only work with REALLY old iPods. Just so you know,” and “There is nothing wrong with this baby stroller! My kid just cannot and will not be contained!” But I supposed the swap shed is like a whole other level of buyer beware. More like, taker, be warned. This week I am dropping off a bunch of DVDs, some plastic race car track and a lifejacket. Need a writing prompt? Think about the person that needs those three items, and why. Go!

(See, so maybe I can say this isn’t me being slack. I’m just working UP to writing. Well, it sounds good, at any rate.)

In other news, the holidays are fully upon us, and I’m doing the retail equivalent of the white flag. You know what I mean: gift cards. It’s an envelope Christmas, people, and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. Okay, so I have a few actual gifts for a few people. But more and more, it’s just easier to let people pick out what they want. I keep telling myself that by giving people that choice, I’m keeping more stuff out of the swap shed. Can you imagine how many foot massagers and Snuggies will be there after the holidays? I do feel sort of uncreative, though, I have to say. In a perfect world, I’d make homemade gifts, or homemade cookies, and wrap them by hand in gorgeous, hand-crafted packages. But there is one thing I have learned, and that is if there is EVER a time to lower the bar, it’s the holidays.

Another example: I’m serving frozen lasagnas at our annual party this year. Not cooking, not paying someone else to cook. Just a quick stop at Sam’s and I am in business. Okay, so I MIGHT hide the boxes so people don’t know they are Stouffer’s. (Although, true connoisseurs will probably be able to recognize Stouffer’s flavor. But if they know it that well, I bet they aren’t cooking from scratch much either, right?) Should I be ashamed? Maybe. But instead of being a stressed, nervous wreck the night of our party, as I have in previous years when I have insisted on Doing Everything, Preferably Perfectly, I MIGHT actually have fun this year. And I think—I know, actually—that my friends don’t come to the party for my fancy cuisine. They come because we are all friends and love to see each other this one time of the year, if no time else. The food doesn’t matter. I mean, the first time we did this party, WAAAAY back in 1990 or something, my friend Anna made a lasagna, then spilled it all over the kitchen floor. We scooped it back up and ate in anyway, because we were young and silly and hungry. See, THAT needs to be my bar. Not one I’m reaching over, but so low I can’t help but stumble over it, no matter what I do.

Words to live by, right? That, and love your local Swap Shed.

Have a good night, everyone!