Tag Archives: homelessness

I’m not the only writer living out of her car…

The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a piece by Sandra Tsing Loh, “On Being a Bad Mother,” which features a description of her “mobile home” – a paper-filled Volvo station wagon:

I am bad because after a domestic partnership of 20 years, when my kids were still elementary-school-age, I fell in love, had an affair, admitted it, and quite deservedly got tossed out of the house on my ass. Currently between homes (my earthly belongings reside in a 10-by-10-foot windowless U-Haul storage unit whilst I alternately house-sit, pool-sit, and cat-sit), I furtively park at the curb of my former home for an extra few minutes after dropping my kids off and, with my laptop, I steal wireless. Approaching 50, I am living a life that is less sunlit Waldman/Chabon than tattered Charles Bukowski.

My situation is less grimly colorful, thank goodness. I am peripatic by choice, not bad behavior. My Toyota minivan has space for more crap than a Volvo station wagon (I know this from experience… I had a VSW, in my “good mother” days). Plus the Toyota’s windows are darkened so passersby can’t see the crap.

Finally (neener neener NEEner, Sandra), my storage unit is almost twice as big. Though this may not be a plus in my favor.

Like Sandra, I am house-sitting, pet-sitting, and wireless stealing while I figure out what’s next. (No pools to sit where I am…).

The downside of living out of a couple of suitcases during the holiday season is that my meager wardrobe seems always to be one garment short of the perfect outfit. Sneakers with velvet pants, thin rain slicker over a little black dress when it just snowed. The slacks are right but the top is hopelessly rumpled.

It would help if I stayed long enough in one spot to hang my clothes in a closet. My next house-sitting gigs back in the Portland area are three weeks each – remind me to empty those suitcases.

And Sandra, why don’t you and I make a New Year’s resolution to get our cars (homes) detailed next week… We’ll both feel so much better.

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Filed under Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Storage

Goodwill for the homeless?

I don’t need to look far in San Francisco so see what homeless looks like here. Several homeless people camp outside my son’s office in the Mission District. Matted hair, dirty face and hands, worldly possessions stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into a shopping cart pinched from Safeway.

In the past month of radical downsizing I delivered to Goodwill the equivalent of a dozen shopping carts-full of perfectly good clothing and under-used household goods.  And several more cart-full equivalents to other local charities.

What does Goodwill DO with all that stuff?

I had washed and neatly folded the sheets, blankets, and quilts. I tried to pin, tape or tie shoelaces together, pants and jackets of suits, lids and pots, so that they would actually be useful to someone.  However when I got to Goodwill the man placed anything that seemed hard (shoes, pots etc) into one bin, and tossed everything soft into a bin marked “fabric”.

Suddenly I remembered that my friend Kristen goes to the Goodwill outlet (can you believe, even Goodwill has an outlet!) and pays something like a dollar for five pounds of fabric (which could be anything from perfectly good sheets, sweaters, kid’s overalls, to rags).  She uses it for various forms of fabric art.

I wanted to snatch back the quilts and blankets. Hey! That could go to the guy on Ethan’s corner who sleeps under pieces of cardboard.  Even if that sweater was a little “tired” (as Judi called a few of my clothes) and beyond reselling, it would keep someone on the street warm on a winter’s night.

If you go into a Goodwill these days, you’ll see that they have quite a retail operation going. In fact in my town alone there are at least two “Goodwill Superstores.” Salvation Army is another that has expanded mightily – but I don’t donate to them because I don’t appreciate their missionary zeal.

If I’d had more time and energy during the downsize process I’d have researched the most direct and cost-effective places to get my good stuff to the folks who need it most. Goodwill was close by and easy.

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Resources, Spiritual lessons