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Lighten up: Digging out of winter's blues

Whew! It's been a rollercoaster of highs and lows since November, hasn't it? Whether left, right or center, just trying to keep up with developments and maintain a civil discourse is brain numbing.

Throw in the late winter cabin fever and it's definitely time for some distraction.

My first go-to when I need to take my mind on vacation is a road trip. Hours in a car with my hubs at the wheel, the sound of the tires vibrating on the pavement, heard just below the strains of my favorite tunes is about as relaxing as it gets for me.

Ideally, I prefer a three-day trip that ends with my toes buried in sand that will be whiter than my skin — just as soon as I've had a few days in a beach chair, preferably with a fruity drink in my hand. But obligations have clipped my snowbird wings this winter, so I've decided to make the most of my time in the house; I'm organizing.

After spending a winter mostly inside the four walls of my house, I'd like to back a dumpster up to the door and empty the rooms right down to the walls. Downsizing, uncluttering, purging, organizing — I've tried it all. Let's just say for me, watching "Extreme Hoarders" is a prevention program, sort of like "Scared Straight" for juvenile offenders.

But it's working, and though I have a long way to go to achieve the Spartan minimalism I aspire to, my brain has enjoyed many hours of ducking down the rabbit hole through the zen of sorting — and wondering where all this stuff comes from.

I always keep a box or bag always underfoot for holding donations. I toss in a few things every week, clothing, kitchen gadgets, books, odds and ends of craft supplies. When it's full, it goes to the trunk of my car. I usually drive it around for a couple of weeks — maybe until the next box or bag from the house if full, but that's another story (of aging and forgetfulness).

It's been years since I adopted the rule that for each new piece of clothing I bring home, one piece must leave. And recently, I've gotten on the bandwagon of whole house uncluttering where I consider each item, asking if it's used or if it gives me joy. If the answer is neither, then it goes. But I swear this stuff has a life of its own that includes mating and multiplying like bunnies, because no matter how much of it I release, there's still more.

I own at least a dozen pairs of reading glasses, the cheap drugstore kind. I have them all over the house, on my bedside table, next to my chair, on my desk, in the kitchen, in my purse, sometimes in a jacket pocket or on my head. Somehow, I can never find a pair when I need them.

I read a book many years ago that suggested never having multiples of things. The author explained that if you had one expensive nail file instead of half a dozen cheap ones, you'd always know where that good file was. It made sense. I bought an expensive nail file and now I always know where it is. I don't use it, but I know where it is.

In winters when I do get to be a snowbird, the hubs and I live in one-tenth the square footage of our house. There, we have only one of everything necessary, except for dinner place settings. We can accommodate two guests for a meal — after that it's paper plates and Solo cups.

At home, I could feed an army on my shabby-chic, mix and match dinnerware, not to mention cooking up the food for them in my two cupboards plus one pot rack full of pans. Let's not forget that there are only four burners on the stove — how many pans does a cook need at any one time?

My traveling office is outfitted with my computer and a very small printer. Supplies include one notebook (I still do a lot of brainstorming in longhand), a few pens and pencils, a sticky notepad, a small container of paperclips, a mini stapler, a roll of tape and one pair of scissors.

In my home office, I have an entire large drawer of a console stuffed with notebooks. I have stacks of decorative boxes filled with pens (I fear it's a fetish) and an entire closet of unopened office supplies, including full reams of colored printer paper that I haven't had use for in ten years. A three drawer, metal file cabinet is filled to capacity and my bookshelves are sagging from the weight of hardcovers, paperbacks, and magazines.

Think my office is an homage to hoarding? Don't even get me started on art supplies. My hubs felt it necessary to gift me a backyard studio just to get it all out of the house.

We haven't had much snowfall to speak of this winter yet here I am, still digging out.

Judith Liebaert writes for Positively Superior and the Duluthian. She is the author of "Sins Of The Fathers," a crime novel set in Superior and inspired by a true cold case. Find her online at