Mary Beth Writes

Our internet service had been goofy all that day; the house alarm system sent a random beep to my phone at 3AM. Waking from deep sleep to “Is there a bad guy coming up the steps right now?” turned into the kind of insomnia that requires … decluttering videos. My heart stopped racing as I watched a mild woman talk about the closet in her laundry room.

My first response was, “Closet in the laundry room? Doesn’t one just take the clothes to the washer and then the next day, when they are a large, wrinkled wad in the dryer, take them back to the bedrooms where they live?  Why would there be a closet in a laundry room?”

Whatever. She opened the closet door and Honest to Pete, there were more household products in there than in any average city bodega.  Rows and rows of deodorants, shampoos, soaps, and detergents crammed in like disorganized platoons of plastic soldiers.

I assume she buys products with coupons, gets much better deals than I do, and that is the reasons she needs to spend a morning decluttering the hundreds of products in her laundry room closet.

It was not easy to sell our house in Racine. The market was slow, and our house was, ahem, low glam. Our agent predicted sales would be brisker the following spring, but we didn’t want to live there six more months to see if she was right.

She had set a price based on the last few houses that had sold in our beautiful, close-to-Lake Michigan neighborhood.  But our house had been on the market nearly a month and not much was happening except stress.

That’s when we started wondering more intently about our asking price. The agent had only compared us to a few houses. When we wanted to know more, she graciously produced a six-page list of all the ranch houses that had sold inside and close to Racine that year.

Len and I spent a very long evening looking up those listings on the Internet. One-by-one we checked out what they looked like on the inside as well as figured out what neighborhoods they were in.  Then we divided the price they sold for by the listed square footage. It was a lot of work and we learned a lot.

Our house was listed at the same per square foot price as a house with a gorgeous kitchen, a spectacular view of Lake Michigan, and a pool out back. We also learned per square foot price of plainer houses in less impressive locations. We dropped our price to less than that top house, but still quite a bit more than most of the places we had researched.  Our place sold in two weeks and we didn’t feel cheated.

I’m guessing the woman in the decluttering video lives in a 3000 square foot house in a pricey development in a nice community.  Let’s guess that she and her husband bought it for $500,000.

That closet was about 3’ by 4’ which is 12 square feet. Her $500,000 house, divided by those 3000 square feet, equals about $167 per square foot. Multiply that by 12 and the real estate value of her closet is $2000- not including interest or taxes.

If she is financially savvy enough to stock up on products with coupons; then she cares about budgeting.  Yet will she save enough on those products to pay back the cost to store them? Nope.

I’m not here to criticize other people’s choices.  Maybe extended family lives with her.  Maybe she has a passel of kids and foster kids.  Maybe someone in their family uses a wheelchair so a big house is just easier.  

Still, the “cost per square foot” of one’s home is a handy tool for figuring out what you really have and how you want to use it. Thinking about that figure adds excitement to clearing out stuff you no longer need or use. A filled garbage bag is around 3’x3’ (depending on what’s in it). That’s nine square feet of space. If you can give away ten bags of stuff, you have just added 90 square feet of territory to your house - about the size of a bedroom. 

Obviously, nothing is this simplistic. If you have one bedroom and some kids and now grandma needs to move in, decluttering your coffee mugs isn’t going to solve where to put her. (Unless she is VERY small.)

Then again, I overheard some parents talking to another. “We’re adding a family room because we don’t have any more room to put all the toys.”

No one asked me to add this last part, but here I go.  The Racine AAUW has a GIANT used book sale twice a year.  Most of their thousands of novels etc. sell for around $1. Bigger, rarer books are a bit more.

Their next sale will be October 31st til November 10th (see their site for details). 

Proceeds go to their scholarship fund for women; a program which is organized and administered in a thoughtful, focused way. They work hard to reach into the community to find their scholarship recipients.

August for many of us is a quiet month. Sometimes the weather is marvelous; other days it’s so hot you can watch birds sweat. This might be a great time to thin your tomes. Give yourself a few more square feet of space!

How to donate and other details at:

If you don’t live near Racine but might see me before the middle of October, I’d be glad to transport a few bags or boxes of your books to the sale site for you.







Leonard's picture

I read about the AAUW -- and, I know that you meant to speak about it as a way to GET RID of books. Alas, I love books and I love to buy more. I will probably go to the next sale; here's hoping I don't buy back volumes you gave away! INFO ON NEXT SALE:

One of my California friends suggested a Lent option: every day take an item no longer used/wanted/needed to place in a donation box. To be given away, of course. So I have started. There is some pain with the memories...but do I really need the wine bottle turned into an oil lamp even if it was a celebration of the birth of my son? Or the cute pitcher with matching cups I have not used since my 30+ sons where in high school? Not easy for me to let go yet am making an effort.

Add new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

"It's Good for You" Pizza

The Best Pizza Ever is in Madison 

Click here for their info:   “It’s Good For You”   

Last weekend, while out of town, we decided to stop for a pizza at the place where our son works one night per week. If you know my kid, you know he was manager of an artisanal pizza place for years. He doesn’t miss managing an entire restaurant. Apparently, he DOES miss making spectacular pies and then baking them at temps high enough to burn the hair off his arms.

What’s Scary & What’s Not Scary


Happy Halloween! I think because this is mostly a kid’s holiday, it tends to evoke a lot of sweet and funny memories from our childhoods and then of our kids.

Remember when we (who are now antique kids) collected candy in paper grocery bags that we had decorated with crayons? And then it would rain and one would have to carry the bag in both arms and run between houses while drenched and noisy and not even caring?

Obviously I remember that.

Frugality Hacks or how I saved $64,000,000, so far.

I read the ‘frugal things I did’ letters in other people’s huge and interesting frugality blogs. I figured I could list some of the ways I saved some money this week (this life). I’m pleased to say I saved about 64 Million.

Quarantine Diary #645 - Granola

Two recent tweets : Someone named Kate Harding tweeted; “What haunts me is that I am not just smart enough for so many people to be this much stupider than me.”

And from Di, Obstinate Hoper; “I’m starting to think of pandemic caution like labor: buckle down during peaks, relax a little between them. Hang in there, folks. It’s a damn long labor.”

Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words A-Z AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent afterlife aging Alaska animals anniversary antibiotics antlers apples appointments Arrows art Ashland August Augustine aunts baby Badlands balance Baldwin Barbara Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM Blue BookReport books Boxing Day boy scout Bread breakfast BreakfastClub BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada canoe cat romance cats cello Chicago China cholesterol Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus climate change clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community confluence consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote crime CrimeShows danger DarkRiver death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering deer democracy dentist depression Destination Today Detroit Dickens Didion disasterprep distraction dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Echoes Eclipse election EmilyDickinson eschatology Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade family farmer Fata Morgana ferns firealarm Fitness Five Flatbread Flexible flu Food Pantry Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal FrugalHacks Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga fungi fusion Galena Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd gerrymandering ghosts gifts girls GNTL gorgons goulash GovernorThompsonStatePark Graduation grandkids granola Grief groceries Guadalupe Guatemala gum guns Hair happiness HaveYouEver? hawks healthcare Healthinsurance hearings heart heaven HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HowCrowGotOutofJail humor hurricane Ice Cream idiosyncrasy igloos impeachment Innkeeper Instincts integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin Jan 6 Janus jewelry JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich Jump justice Karen kites ladder Lady Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len lies Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness LouisArmstrong Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories men Middlemarch MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens MineralPoint Mistakes MLK moon Mother MothersDay mounds mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha NAMI Nancy Drew Newfoundland New Mexico New York City Nomadland nope observation OBUUC Ocotillo OnaJudge ordinary OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon photos Pi Pies pineapples pizza poetry Preaching privacy procrastination Protest QE2 Quern quest Questions Rabbit holes racism reading recipe recipes recommendations religion Remember RepresentationMatters Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb Ricky rime RitesofPassage romance Rosemary Ruether Roses Roti Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraKurtz SaraRodriguez satellites sci-fi ScottSimon sculpture scuppernong Seasons Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory shoulder sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito solstice South Dakota SpaceShuttle spirituality spring square feet St. Louis staining stars stele Stereotypes stories StoryStarts stream monitoring stress SUBSTACK Survival swan swim Talent taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge TheMaid ThePerpetualYou therapy ThreeBillBoards Three Thing Three Things ThreeThings TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone Ukraine Ulysses Grant Umbrella UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam vision VivianWokeUpDrowning Vocabulary vole volunteer WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving Webs wedding whines WhyAttendChurch Wiley Willa WillaCather Wisteria Won! Wonder words Xeriscape Yellowstone Zebra
Ad Promotion