Nowadays, it seems to be a given that de-cluttering is good and its opposite–hoarding or excessive collecting–is all bad. Last week I wrote about a positive I gained from my mother’s hoard of newspapers. Today I’ll talk about a couple more.
The first comes from a book about hoarding I read as research for my novel, Ten Days in Summer, which involves the death of a hoarder. The book noted that hoarders are more imaginative about stuff than other people. You and I look at a used egg carton and see garbage or recycling; a hoarder sees a hundred potential uses for the dozen sculpted cups.
One of my mother’s hobbies was creating dollhouse miniatures. The craft is all about seeing something new in small, usually discarded objects. One year, she asked me to collect the plastic pieces they put on take-out pizza to keep it from sticking to the box top. I don’t even know the name for this coin-shaped plastic on three little stilts, but she could see they would make perfect café tables for her miniatures.
My second positive is from my experience of the one that got away. When we sold our house in Montreal, we had a garage sale to get rid of stuff that we’d no longer need in our new home in Calgary. Among the outgrown children’s toys and kitchen items we rarely used, I included an umbrella stand that my father had given me some years earlier as a birthday present. The stand was pretty, made of brass-colour material with punched out images. But I only use folding umbrellas, so the stand was never practical and mainly took up space in our entranceway. It would be even more useless in Calgary’s dry climate, where I expected to use my folding umbrellas rarely. At our garage sale, my neighbour bought the umbrella stand for $1.00. My heart tugged as he carried it away.
I was right. There’s no place for my umbrella stand in my Calgary home. The main thing it would do is clutter my house entrance or mudroom.
Yet, over the past twenty years, I’ve thought of this umbrella stand and wish I hadn’t parted with the thing. It was pretty and a present from dad. With a little imagination, I could have found a use for it somewhere in my Calgary home.
So is it worth hanging onto hundreds of pieces of junk so you don’t wind up throwing away the one that you’ll miss some day in the future?