Rural Living

The Re-Do Blues: Purgin' and Parin' the Past


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

The holidays are over, and I am sure you’re putting your houses back in order.

Getting my own home back in order is a Herculean task right now. As I write this in early December, there are two burly painters and one wiry plumber bustling about the place. It is Day One, Hour One of a massive project. When they’re finished, I will enjoy newly painted rooms, and a laundry/storage room on the main floor.

I’ve mentioned The Cursed Basement before. I hate my basement. My dear late mother began storing “stuff” down there when she moved here in 1991. It had, at that time, some semblance of organization.

When I moved here in 1999, I was condensing nine rooms into three — the new addition we built onto the existing house. Much of the clutter and stuff from my old house, which included everything from sterling silver and antique table lamps, to old toasters and tiny tropical shorts I will never use again, went directly to the basement. Suddenly, there was little semblance of organization.

And thus it has remained.

Back in the day, Mom and I easily navigated the steep basement stairs to the washer and dryer. When Mom’s knees began to fail, I lithely skipped downstairs for laundry duty.

Nowadays, I creep carefully to the basement with a phone in my pocket.

I envision myself in a fallen, crumpled pile on the concrete floor, lying there for weeks before someone finally stops by and finds me. If the phone hasn’t flown from my pocket into scattered pieces, I can call the rescue squad.

Thus, I am thrilled to turn my little former office into a laundry and storage room.

As anyone who’s had their interior painted knows, it’s a whole lot like moving. Every little thing — and I’ve got thousands of them — must be taken down, dusted or washed, wrapped and stored somewhere else. Then, it must be moved from wherever and placed where it once was. If I can remember.

Today, I’m exhausted and my knees are screaming with outrage. Clutter is rampant. Furniture is piled willy-nilly wherever it will fit for the time being.

To prepare, I first tackled the closets. I was in “purge” mode. I made four piles: keep, consign, donate, trash. I was heartless with clothing and — believe it or not — shoes. What woman really needs 142 pairs of fabulous shoes? Especially when her knees won’t allow her to wear them anymore. 

And the books! I had at least a thousand. Some I’ve never read but meant to, others I’ve read but won’t read again. I kept the collected works of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey. I donated the Grishams, the DeMilles, the Cusslers and the Cornwells. If I want to revisit them, they’re waiting at the library.

Oh, the recycling I’ve done. Do I really need 10 years of travel magazines? Face it, Margo: Your European travelling days are over; your traipsing days are over. You will not be strolling through Italy, or returning to France! Embracing sad truths: That’s the new me.

In preparation for the move, I decided to hoe out every desk and dresser drawer. I think I wore out my shredder, but oh, the treasures I encountered along the way.

Amongst 20 years of papers — and a writer keeps thousands of papers, especially if she’s a pack rat who thinks she might need something some day in the future — I found long-lost things I have sought for ages. Scattered amidst 15-year-old supervisors’ agendas and phone books from 1987 were these marvelous finds: I discovered the Jarboe file, which delineates my heritage back to 1619 in France. I found the photo of Daddy with LBJ, alighting from the presidential helicopter. I cried to open the Christmas card “To a Special Daughter,” with the notation “I am so proud of you. Love, Mom.” I sort of cringed with guilt to run across the photo of myself 100 pounds ago in San Francisco. I found a pack of pix of myself and the 25 girlfriends who threw me a fabulous party when I had cancer. I sure didn’t look sick that day!

I am in the midst of turmoil right now, but with the help of three “rent-a-husbands,” my home will be perfectly ordered and lovely to look at in almost no time. Then I can start collecting again!

To order Margo Oxendine’s A Party of One, email, or call 540-468-2147 Monday-Thursday from 9-5.


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