Cleaning fever gets serious over what to save


There's one thing harder than working to buy a worldly possession: Letting it go once it's outlived its useful life.

As the days grow short and the shadows advance quickly, I am struck by an urge to houseclean, to attack the piles of cobwebbed clutter. During July and August I had an excuse. There was heat, humidity and mildew. Now that the weather is changing, the justifications for delay slip away.

Take the pile of paint cans in the garage. What is the sentimental attachment I hold to a 12-year-old gallon of dried-up Duron Leighton Ivory exterior semigloss latex? And the demi-quart of the all-weather varnish next to it? Both are now as hard as golf balls. There is nothing to be gained by saving them. They are probably fire hazards.

Every bit of logic I possess says get rid of them. But what about environmental dangers? Won't it hurt Chesapeake Bay to toss them in the municipal garbage? Should I let the scientists worry about this?

Then I look at nearly 30 years' worth of vinyl plastic in the form of all those 33-and-a-third long-playing record albums that actually play less than half of today's compact discs.

Look at all that stored and stacked Sinatra, Dixie Cups, Jelly Beans, Radio City Music Hall pipe organ and Guy Lombardo. It just never gets played anymore. The CDs sound better and take up a lot less room. But weeding, culling and making decisions is difficult. Leave the task of saying what gets saved and what goes to the other place to St. Peter.

The justification for saving? These aren't just 12-inch plastic circles in cardboard sleeves. It took hours to go through everything and weeks to save the $4 (mono was cheaper) for the cost of one of those platters. If $4 of 1966 money were figured in today's prices, those records would be worth the price of a night on the town.

And how can you discard these memories? The records have as much to do with music as with the Saturday hours spent in the old Hochschild Kohn basement on Howard Street, where the inventory was stored in blond wood browsing racks. And what about the trips to the Modern Music House in Edmondson Village, or General Radio-Record opposite the Civic Center (oops, Baltimore Arena), or the Radio Center in Waverly, or the E. J. Korvette's on the Beltway at Perring Parkway.

Is all that investment going to be chucked out in some frenzy of household orderliness?

The answer to the record storage dilemma is easy. Flip through the collection, pull out the ones you always hated. These can be easily pitched. But preserve every single side from the great years. It's that easy. After all, vinyl may one day make a comeback the way old baseball cards did. Then you'd be rolling in the kind of money the royalties from Neil Sedaka's "Calendar Girl" still produce.

Old clothes often just wear out and are easier to jettison. But there are some, like my grandfather Edward Monaghan's wedding suit. He walked down the aisle in 1916. Those woolen suit pants still hold their crease. They were fine for a Halloween party a few years ago.

Consider the tie I bought for my college graduation. It may be ugly by today's standards, but it was conservative in 1972. And some ties should just never be tossed. What about the special edition William Donald Schaefer "Baltimore Is Best" model with the Battle Monument?

A sort of second cousin to an E.J. Korvette's phonograph record is a piece of preserved clothing from an old local fashion house. And since so many of Baltimore's fashion houses have closed in the past few years, every closet should cling to a few raggy reminders.

Come on. Admit it. Somewhere there's a coat hanger holding something from the late and lamented Epstein's, the May Co., Bernheimer-Leader, Warner's, Schleisner's, Wonder Clothes, Mildred Davis, the Drop Stitch Studio, Tru-Fit, Frank Leonard, O'Neill's, the Hub or K. Katz. If nothing else, it is reassuring to look back at yesterday's fashions and recall with great personal satisfaction how you once could fit into expensive or at least great reduced-in-price clothes.

Let's hope this orgy of pre-fall housecleaning passes quickly. It is hard to part with the toys and frills of the past. That's why there is never anything worth buying at yard sales. Nobody else can surrender anything decent either.

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