How to Store Seashells

Before you store your seashells, you must first walk along Miami Beach at sunrise with your throat still burning from last night’s margaritas. This is before marrying, having children or growing up. Along the wet sand, collect sand dollars, pointy mitres, ridgy scallops and, your favorite, oversized conch shells. Pack them in your suitcase between your swimsuits and terry-cloth jumpsuits and bring them back to Ohio.

In time, get married. Have one child. Get divorced and married again, always hanging on to those shells. They remind you of who you were before: young and wild.

When your father falls ill, pick up your family of three and move everything that fits into his duplex. Take care of him as best you can. He’s dying, but you won’t admit it. 

Display the shells on a shelf in your six-year-old daughter’s room, because wall space is scarce. She likes them, to shake the sand dollars and imagine real coins inside. When your dad’s health sinks further, hand her the conch and tell her to listen to the ocean. Tell her stories about the beach and how one day, when money and life are better, you will take her there to find her own seashells.

One day she climbs her dresser to play with the shells and bumps the shelf. It topples. Shards of shells ricochet off walls. 

The conch is somehow okay. 

Hold it to your ear. Know not everything is broken.

 

- Danielle Dayney is sometimes a blogger, usually a writer, and always a mom. Recently, her creative nonfiction essays have been shared on BLUNTmoms and Thought Catalog. Her stories have also been published in several anthologies including the Virginia Writers Centennial AnthologyShort on Sugar, High on Honey, Nevertheless We Persisted, andBeach Reads: Lost and Found.In 2016 and 2017, she received awards at BlogHer for creative nonfiction essays. You can find her chasing kids and furbabies somewhere in Virginia, or at www.danielledayney.com.

How to Fold Fitted Sheets Alone

My husband learned another trick of folding, this time for fitted sheets, that I’ve never forgotten. It is harder to do alone than the towel folding but it is designed for one person, too.

 (ghost hand)

(ghost hand)

Take two corners of the sheet and put your hands inside. Make ghost hands, wide spread, to smooth the wrinkles in the corners. Then point your index fingers into the very corner of these corners, and bring them together. Now, flip one of the corners over the other so they nest.

Here is the part that is hard to do alone: Straighten the whole, and fold into a square as closely as you can. Fold the rounded corners inward until they do not show. Fold vertically and then--as with the towels--horizontally once, then thrice until your result is a neat, smooth, trifolded packet. It’s hard to describe how satisfying it is to do this right. My husband would fold & refold until he perfected it.

One of his last full acts on earth was folding laundry. He was listening to the game in our bedroom, vague and spacey on a toxic brew of Valium and Oxycontin, barely able to stand as his hipbone now crumbled with cancer, but folding, folding, folding with care.

 

- Lisa Schamess is a Founding Editor of Dead Housekeeping. The companion piece to this essay is "How to Fold with Only Two Hands: Honoring the Integrity of Towels," which was the first piece we ran when we started this site three months ago. 

 

Everything Can Be Used Again

There is a place for everything. Being caught in need of an item that you once had in your possession, but let slip away, is shameful.

Gumbands, cracked, mismatched Tupperware lids, and pantyhose with runs. There is a place for all of it. Store it neatly in dusty shoe boxes along the back basement wall, or under the bed. Shove it in corners, under the bureau, in the backs of closets, where the records used to go in the stereo cabinet and under the couch.

When the grandkids and grandnieces are little, they will love to play with the unmatched Tupperware in opaque blues, greens and pinks. They will sit happily on the floor and smack them together or stack them in untidy towers and laugh when they topple over. You laugh, too. When the kids get older, they use them as frisbees. Send them outside. Outside! Get out of my kitchen!

Plastic shopping bags crackle out of every nook and cranny, making a soft static sound in the breeze. Hide the bags when your daughter comes to visit. She will only throw them away. When she is gone, you forget where you hid them and start again. You never know when you will need a plastic shopping bag. With them, you can send the nieces home with squishy, over-ripe fruit (There was a sale!), or pop one over your perm in the rain, if you don’t have your plastic babushka with you. But you always have the plastic babushka with you.

 photo by the author

photo by the author

- Beth Dugan is one of our favorite multiple-contributors to Dead Housekeeping and can be found at bethdugan.com

Containers

Buy store brand sour cream and margarine, unless name brands are on sale for less. Wash and save all of the empty containers.

            If you stay in the same apartment for a few years, the apartment with a smell of expensive paper and dry chicken bones and unscented lotion, you’ll build an impressive collection of flimsy plastic containers which shouldn’t be microwaved but have lids with satisfactory seals.

            As a likable older guy living alone, with an oxygen tank and an illness, people will give you foodstuffs. Keep those containers, too.

                                          drawing by the author

                                         drawing by the author

            Dedicate a whole pair of kitchen cupboards to saving them. They are good for mixing hues and rinsing brushes while you paint delicate watercolors in front of the TV, a sunrise over a rooftop, a pair of plums. You were originally a sculptor but money limited your materials and sickness your strength.

            If you snap at a helper for throwing one in the garbage, tell them it’s okay after awhile. Use a voice that’s resigned to being agreeable to the people you’ve come to depend on.

            The dry tubs are also a suitable place to leave a chewed bit of nicotine gum that you mean to resume chewing later.

- Meredith Counts

How to Fold with Only Two Hands: Honoring the Integrity of Towels

This is how my dead husband folded linens.

 First, a towel, because it is easier to do alone, and because I still know what to do, even though he is not here. There is no gap in my knowledge about folding towels the proper way, only lapses of will and the urgency of daily life.

I often no longer do it. Here is a diagram of what I should do.

 [figure 1]

[figure 1]

Fold horizontally, once. I often do the fold in mid-air, with a brave flourish, but then I have to lay it flat for the rest. It is the rest of this that matters, not that first impetuous sweep of linen through the air. After that bold start, what matters most is painstakingly matching the corners for this fold and the next. Do it again and again till just right.

Fold horizontally a second time. Again, be ridiculous about the corners. No. Not that way. Do it again.

Fold the towel into neat, even threes. It will feel just a bit like rolling, with a gentle smoothing motion to reassure your towel it is home. The result will be a towel burrito with reassuringly neat ends. This towel will display well on shelves, stack evenly in cabinets, and retain its architectural integrity when handed to a guest.

 [figure 2]

[figure 2]