I have learned that there is a very fine line between hoarding and being prepared. Maybe they cover this in Boy Scouts. I don’t know. Since I’m not a boy. And I have never been any type of scout. Scouting implies, to me, finding your way around. And that is definitely not one of my strengths.
Anyway, my husband and I often have arguments about what should be thrown away. Pretty much 95% of what he owns – according to me. Nothing ever – according to Cap’n Firepants.
I can honestly say that I have never regretted anything I’ve deliberately thrown away. (Accidental disposals do not count. I did not intend to throw my engagement ring in the garbage; it slipped off of my finger.) Despite this stellar track record, however, the Cap’n rarely listens to my advice. And trust me, I give it to him often.
Here is the most recent example: We can’t use our old dog bowls on the new concrete floors because the rubber on the bottom counteracts with the stain in the floor. The Cap’n bought new ones. I had almost released the old ones into the garbage can when the Cap’n said, “Wait!”
I looked down at the dingy, slobber-covered bowls in my hand, and looked back at him.
“Tell me one thing you plan to use these for in the next year,” I challenged.
He was silent. Into the garbage went the bowls.
That night, I looked up at our kitchen ceiling fan. One of the blades had split in half. To me, this was an opportunity. I’ve hated that ugly fan since we moved in. It’s in a dumb place, and it’s, well, hideous. I pointed out the broken fan blade to the Cap’n.
He looked up. “I can fix that,” he said.
“How?” I said, doubtfully. I pictured Dimples’ Skull and Crossbones duct tape adorning our fan. Which might actually be an improvement.
“I have replacement blades.”
“From the fans we took down in the other rooms. I kept the blades.”
He KEPT THE BLADES OF THE FANS WE HATED SO MUCH THAT WE TOOK THEM DOWN – “just in case”. And now there was a case.
I hate it when hoarding comes in handy.
Grandma, Cap’n Firepants’ mother, tried to give us a box the other day with a dead gecko inside. She tried to justify its value by bringing up that her mother had lived in the country and – I interrupted her. “We are not bringing home a dead gecko in a box,” I said. “We’ve got plenty of them in the backyard and we don’t need anything to remember them by.”
Just to keep things fair, here, let me tell you that my side of the family has its quirks, too. I don’t have problems throwing things away; I just have problems throwing them away right away. I tend to collect, then purge.
When I was a kid, a few times a year, my mother would get fed up with the Wipe-Out obstacle course that my room had become and would threaten to throw everything away that was on the floor if I didn’t clean it up within some minuscule time-frame that she sprang on me at the last minute.
Sometimes, she just came in and threw it away without any warning. I lost a few precious objects that way, but I never got any better.
So, based on our family history, our daughter is cursed. It was no surprise to me when I opened a drawer one day and an avalanche of Dove wrappers cascaded to the floor.
“What are you keeping all of these for?” I asked.
She shrugged. “I just don’t think they should be thrown away.”
“But, what are you going to do with them?”
“Keep them in that drawer.”
“Kid, they’re already escaping from that drawer. I think you need a new plan.”
I finally convinced her to throw them away.
She is much better than I was about keeping her room fairly straightened up, but, with her genes, it is inevitable that objects slowly begin to accumulate, so at least twice a year we have to do a purge.
When she was a toddler, I would do The Purge when she was out of the house. As she got older, I started having her participate in The Purge. Mindful of my mother’s random trash tirades, I wanted Dimples to feel like she had a say in what got to stay and what had to go.
In Dimples’ opinion, however, nothing has to go. To her, the Purges are joyful discoveries of long forgotten clothes and toys that must now be given more attention. Never mind that the clothes no longer fit and the toys no longer entertain. They CANNOT be thrown away.
I’m firm, but reasonable – making compromises and deals, justifying and rationalizing why things needed to be tossed or given away. I describe happy little children in shelters and hospitals who would be ecstatic to play with her gently used Lite Brite or wear her little pink tutu that barely fits on her wrist now. And we finally end up with a couple of bags of things that are permitted to leave her room. But, it is exhausting.
One of my friends recommended that I just do what I used to do – clean it out when she wasn’t at home, and she would never know the difference. But I just didn’t feel right doing that. It seems like a betrayal, and I never want Dimples to feel like she can’t trust her own mother.
The last time we did The Purge, Dimples continued to be difficult, arguing over which pile each small item belonged in. As we discussed a half-used coloring book that I was ready to put in the trash pile, Dimples suddenly blurted, “Can’t I just give it to you and pretend you’re just going to save it in your room, and you can throw it away without telling me?”
Wow. Wish I’d thought of that.
So, now that I’ve been given permission by my child to honestly participate in her dishonesty to herself, The Purge goes a bit quicker. Now the big problem is that I keep finding things in my closet and I can’t remember if they were part of The Purge That I Pretended to Keep and Forgot To Throw Away, or part of the Surge of Things I Save to Give to my Friends’ Younger Children.
I guess I better keep it just in case.