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Sunday, April 26, 2015


I wrote last about decluttering with an aim to opening up some literal as well as mental space in my life. Well, things are progressing.

After much research, I managed to find a vinyl collector for the majority of Dad's old jazz albums. Armed with a special turntable that records straight into a computer music file, I spent a whole weekend copying some early folk and contemporary trad jazz that will never be sold on iTunes or found on YouTube. It was a rainy weekend, perfect for soaking up the memories that bubbled up in me as I sang along with the old music. Then I catalogued and uploaded the tracts to my iPod, packed up one hundred pounds of vinyl record albums, and shipped them to Tennessee. On tax day. It was, quite literally, a weight off my mind.

Next up? A doll collection.

I was never the sort of child who played with dolls. But I spent my college years working at Disneyland in the gift shops in Fantasyland. I became friendly with Elyse, the Doyenne of the Doll Department in Tinkerbell Toy Shop (alas, the shop is long gone). Elyse was British, and I admit I first made her acquaintance in order to hear her beautiful Sussex accent. Soon, though, I became fascinated by Elyse's knowledge of her stock and began to love her charges as she did, and to request the department on my shifts. The Doll department was tucked into the quiet back end of the large shop, near a back door that wound around the side of Sleeping Beauty's castle...far from the counters selling t-shirts and pencils and rulers and pens with a Monorail that floated from one end to the other when tipped. Everything in our end of the shop was expensive: we sold what are nowdays called the Princess dresses (Snow White, Cinderella, etc., sized 2-6x), and dolls by Effanbee and Madame Alexander.

The Madame Alexander dolls were by far our best sellers. Yes, we occasionally had some truly special (read: $$$$) editions such as a 21" Scarlett O'Hara in the deep green "drapery" dress, or lifelike, life-sized baby dolls, but the biggest sellers were the 8" dolls. The word on the street at that time was that Madame Alexander herself was 85 and in very poor health, and that when she passed away the molds that produced the dolls would be broken. For this reason, we were allowed to sell no more than two dolls per person, we were not supposed to alert our many collectors to a new shipment, and we weren't allowed to specify what we wanted to order. The company simply shipped us what they felt like shipping us when they felt like shipping it to us. We inventoried then sold it...often selling out in a matter of days.

So given that level of exposure and excitement, I started to grow interested in collecting them too. I started with some of the Storybook dolls (the Little Women series, Scarlett O'Hara) and moved into the International line. True to my training, I kept every box, the packing material, and often even the hang tags, carefully stored in an old footlocker. I've added a few dolls to the collection over the years, but for the most part, it's remained static, not least because there is limited room in the glass cabinet I display them in.

But...the dolls are of a period my life from which I have grown away. It was time to find them a new home. So I started doing my research on eBay and elsewhere. And found, to my disappointment, that all that hype back in the late 1970s was just that--marketing hype. Madame Alexander sold her company a couple of years before her death in 1990, and there hasn't been so much as a slowdown in the production of dolls since. The average closed auction price for one of the dolls was one-seventh of what I'd paid for them in 1980.

Still, I kept reminding myself, the point was to rehouse these lovelies where they could be more fully appreciated. And thus, the exodus. As of today, all but four of the Madame Alexander dolls have left for new lives in new places.

Which left me two nice empty shelves in my display cabinet, located in the dining room at A Butler's Manor. Hmmm. What to fill the space with?

Ah hah! Simple. Something representative of where I am now, what I do now. My "grown up" self.

I set up a display of all of my books for sale.

Yeah, I've still got some porcelain dolls to find new homes for. But instantly, what a change it made to the feeling of the room. And to my heart. This is who I am now. This is what I do now. This is my past...AND my future.

And sure, perhaps my books will remain "collectible" only to me. But they're my best sellers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


It's often said--and I believe--that decluttering frees up blockages, and allows the Universe to send you what you might truly need.

I hope so. I feel I've been at an impasse lately with my writing. I need to clear whatever junk is in my head that is blocking me from moving forward.

The bigger picture is that I want to declutter my life in order to be able to more nimbly move forward into whatever new opportunities may arise. And frankly, I just have way too much stuff.

My project last fall--proudly accomplished--was to convert my boxes and boxes of snapshots to DVD, which in turn I categorized and saved to Dropbox. Doing so cleared out much of a cupboard. Every so often now I open that cupboard just to admire its emptiness.

The next cupboard has the record albums.

My parents, especially my dad, were aficionados of Dixieland jazz, a.k.a classic or trad (traditional) jazz, and through immersion, I too became a lifelong fan. From the time we were small, my siblings and I were taken monthly to the Sunday afternoon meetings of the Los Angeles-based organization called Jazz, Inc., and to regional Dixieland music festivals, especially the Sacramento Dixieland Jubilee. After my parents passed away, I took the majority of Dad's LPs home, thinking I would somehow accomplish what he never got around to doing--transferring the music to an easier-to-store medium. (His medium of choice was his beloved TEAC reel-to-reel.) Alas, though I did acquire a turntable with the capability to transfer LPs to my computer, I found, as I think Dad did before me, that it was quite a task if you wished to be thorough in doing so (e.g., not only the name of the band, album, and featured tunes, but band personnel, record label, and label number). And then there are those fascinating and evocative covers and liner notes...

Music is a huge source of memories for me, and even researching online for potential new homes for Dad's collection, I found links like this that allowed me to go back in time to those days when I used to sip my cup of Coke and dance in the aisles to a live Dixieland band. Those were such good times.

But I have to accept that I am not slated to be the archivist of this collection; trust that someone else with more passion for documenting the past will love these albums as Dad did. So my project to rehouse them begins today as I start cataloging what I have, consoling myself that nowadays, almost anything is findable online. (Thank you, YouTube.)

Let me clear cupboards of that which doesn't serve me anymore, and thereby create space to fill up with what I need in the way of new findings, new ideas, new words.