Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Stuff: Trials and Errors in Alabama

Before I left Tucson at the end of May 2020, I edited my stuff to the barest of bare minimums so I could car camp in ChezP while en route to wherever my new digs would be for the year. This approach contrasted with past years, in which my criterion for how much stuff I schlepped from one tourist-in-residence to the next was that it fit into my car. 


Car packed for move to El Paso. August 2016.
Car packed for move to El Paso. August 2016.


Below are minimizing actions I took before my Tucson exit:

  • Reduced flatware and tableware to four or fewer pieces in each category
  • Cookware released: Cooking pots and pans, plastic spatulas/spoons, silicone oven mitt, cutting board
  • Kept only one bath towel
  • Bedding released: Airbed and its accompanying electric pump, fitted sheets, all pillows except one, pretty comforter, a knitted throw
  • Travel items released: Two coffee thermoses, smallish Coleman water jug
  • Also released: Smallish fan


Now that I've been in Birmingham for awhile, I can assess my mistakes and wins.  My first assessment on same is here.


1. Keeping only one bath towel

One bath towel was fine right up until the day I went on my road trip in October. Wanted to take a shower the morning I left Birmingham for Texas, only to realize, oh, right, my sole bath towel will be damp, so instead of packing it up, I'd have to drape it over stuff in the car while I drove.

On the other hand .... On a road trip, I can lay bath towels atop my coolers to protect my cooler(s) from the heat and sun pushing through the windows or just to cover up items that opportunistic thieves might think appear interesting enough to break a window for. 

I should have kept two bath towels.


2.   Keeping only one pillow

In theory, my decision to insert blankets and linens into pillowcases and use these as pillows was a solid one. But they aren't comfortable and they're also kind of floppy. 

I should have kept two pillows. 


3.   Bed

I don't regret giving away my airbed and pump. It would have taken up too much ChezP real estate for this year's interregnum between Tucson and Birmingham. Just as importantly, I learned how much I valued a comfortable bed! My experiment with a stretched-fabric cot, topped by my ChezP's foam cushion, has been a comfort failure, and not one I want to suffer through for a year. I hereby reject the punitive adage: You made your bed and now you gotta lie in it.


Bed fail in Birmingham apartment. October 2020.
                                                        Bed fail in Birmingham. October 2020.


I ordered a new airbed and electric pump after I returned from my Texas road trip. Same brand for the third time: an Intex Twin with Raised Pillow. I like that it's almost the height of a real bed. 

I again sleep like a queen! 

3. Cookware

I grow weary of thrift-store cookware that doesn't sit evenly on stove burners, oven mitts that don't quite do the job, and no-scratch spatulas with dubious chemical integrity.

It is time to invest a little dough into decent kitchen tools I can use in a bricks-and-mortar or on the road. 

So the mistake in this case wasn't that I released my Tucson cookware and bought "new" in Birmingham; it's more a mistake in lost time and unreliable results from thrift store hunting and buying each time I move. It's the latter I intend to rectify. 

4.   Tableware

I made no mistake in reducing my number of dinner plates to two from four. My mistake was the size of the dinner plates I was using. They were too big. They were too big to fit into my decades-old, Girl Scout ditty bag to dry after I washed them. They were too big to fit easily into my camp kitchen box. 


Vintage Girl Scout ditty bag at campsite, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.
Vintage Girl Scout ditty bag at campsite, Lake Livingston State Park, Texas. October 2020.


Notwithstanding the pretty, pastel turquoise color and the pleasing curvature of their lip, I left them in Livingston.

I could do so because I'd already found their replacement:

When I landed in Birmingham, I undertook my annual search for a replacement broiler pan with which to roast my boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, my zucchinis, my squashes, my potatoes, and my yams. I found a taped-together assortment of metal ware that included not only the PERFECT size broiler pan (fits well into a kitchen sink for washing!), but two sets of toaster-oven pans, which I didn't think I needed (and I don't have a toaster oven).

But the petite, rectangular toaster-oven pans are cute as kittens, in their way, and I'm using them as my new plates. I can't use them in a microwave, but no matter. I don't have a microwave. (Hahaha! This reminds me of how, in Ferguson, I didn't have a stove!)

My wins

I should have dispensed with fitted sheets long ago! They are a pain in the ass to fold after laundering, they are a pain in the ass to put on an airbed, and they're too big for my ChezP "bed."

Although I had some sentimental attachment to the flatware, one of the two thermoses, and the Coleman jug that I released, the storage space they didn't consume in my car and kitchen cabinets dried my nostalgic tears. 

My decision to furnish my Tucson (and future) apartment with camp gear that I can also use for road trips and camping was a good one! My bedside table is a collapsible camp table. My bedside lamp is a camp lantern (powered by rechargeable batteries). My comfortable living room chair is a backpacking chair. My ottoman is the medium-large plastic bin that houses my camp kitchen, topped by a pillow. 


Apartment living room ensemble. Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.
Living room ensemble. Birmingham, Alabama. October 2020.

Related stuff on stuff

"Office" chair

Every year, I buy a new-to-me chair for my "office." Usually, I do find a chair that is the right height for my loyal folding table, and is comfortable. But not always. This year in Birmingham, I bought a very solid, pretty, wooden dining chair. But the seat is just a little too high for my folding table, which means that every day, I'm slightly uncomfortable when I work on my laptop. 

I'd like to find a sturdy, folding camp chair with the correct seat height, provides good support for my lower back while sitting for long periods, hold up to daily use, and which will not take up too much space in my car when I use it for camping and moving. 


My living room and office in Opelousas. Louisiana, March 2015.
                        My office 'desk' and chair in Opelousas. Louisiana, March 2015.



Cardboard boxes

I'm experimenting with the use of cardboard boxes for shelving and side tables. This practice holds promise for future living set-ups.



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