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February 8th, 2013

There are occasional flashes of insight which while revealing are less than pleasant to accept. Many of us are masters of avoidance and I think I have honestly acquired advanced degrees. And sometimes it is the mundane, ordinary tasks of living that trigger off the thought process which might have been more pleasant left unexplored.

I am doing laundry; one of those repetitive tasks requiring minimal intelligence, perseverance and a tolerance for repetitiveness. To be up front, our laundry room has become the depository for the odd bit of clothing, unmatched sock and those things which various members of the family don’t recognize as owning. The result is the floor is somewhat akin to the stream where fishermen keep throwing back their catch in hopes of hooking something legal to keep or at least big enough to eat.

There are unmatched sock, ragged towels, boxer shorts, a couple of t-shirts missing for months and other detritus common to people who have both some money and closet space.

Picking up a couple of the items intending to toss them out, I froze. The sock had been kicking around the room for years but I remembered it on the foot of my youngest dancing out the door on the way to school. Those pink boxers? They survived 15 months of Camp Doha washing machines with the cotton becoming softer and the colors fading in the summer hot water.

Stuff for me is memories. I have never particularly thought of my self as a horder. After all, we can walk through the house, I toss items, donate things and otherwise recycle on a regular basis. That which comes (we will ignore the post office for the moment) are consumables, clothing/shoes, media of all kinds and craft supplies. Considering that we have been in this house since 2001, we are not doing all that badly. There are still empty cupboards, space in the attic and space to walk.

But not everything I have is still being used. Not counting yarn/fabric/fiber which comprise the largest amount of future stores/stash, the rest of what I have, faded and used as it may be is my living memory bank.

Handling a worn object, picking up a previously read book brings back memories. The item becomes a physical trigger on a window to what was. Some items are large – like the printer which has been sitting in George’s office since I returned from the UK in fall of 2010. Others as small – pamphlets, patterns, fabric pieces, 15 gms of sock yarn carefully balled up. There is the pile of sweaters and shawls which I am committed to finding new homes.

In the back hall are three boxes of various school books and papers. All three youngest are gone off to University. There is absolutely no reason to hang onto any of it. Six boxes have become three. I keep promising myself that the textbooks can go – finding a new home or landing on the free-cycle swap shelf will a swage by guilt at not knowing what to do with books never mind that some/most are probably outdated.

If I let things go, will I also be letting go of the memories? Alzheimers runs wide and deep from my mother’s side of the family. Perhaps it is why I cling so ferociously to things which have no use but emotional context. By keeping them I both ground myself in the present and review the past. It also occurred to me that some of these fears may lie underneath my lack of interest in permanently moving back to the states. It is not the closing of a chapter of my life – it is shutting the door on the daily reminders of my past.

Of course, none of this explains (other than the reminder that I spent more than enough money at Ally-Pally) why I need almost a dozen 3.00 mm circular needles of various materials and lengths. I don’t think that is hoarding – just simple greed.

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  1. Rebecca
    February 8th, 2013 at 19:03 | #1

    WOW! You mean I’m not alone? I have occasionally thought how wonderful it is to have a nephew. That means I can keep all those things with all those memories locked in my room and house. Then, the day I die, somebody will be there to back up the dumpster and get rid of the string of t-shirts from volunteer events, the ticket stubs that trace my travels in various countries, and other items that (perhaps rightly) look like garbage to others, but to me fill in huge gaps in childhood memories.

    I have learned to look with skepticism upon the word “free.” Sure, everyone likes a bargain. But what will that free bag/hat/visor/key chain/etc. look like amid all the other stuff that actually has meaning and isn’t going anywhere. I have tried to compensate for my hoarding of memory objects by avoiding the acquisition of anything new that won’t end up eaten, composted, recycled, or given away within a week or two. The sad thing about memories, though, is they tend to fade no matter how hard we try to keep them. So, occasionally items pass out of significance and into the recycle bag or compost bin. This allows for feelings of triumph and virtuousness (and an opportunity for a bit of over-due dusting).

    Good luck with the laundry room.

  2. February 9th, 2013 at 21:43 | #2

    *hug* Thank you. My husband’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and now I understand better some of his compulsion to hang onto things that make no sense to me. Much appreciated.

  3. Donna & Richard
    February 10th, 2013 at 15:08 | #3

    Want to commend you for this little insight into getting older – very well written and perfectly parallels my own thoughts and feelings without having to struggle a single word out of my brain. Thanks for sharing and Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours. Sounds like you are at home for a few days! Have fun…

  4. February 12th, 2013 at 16:38 | #4

    I’m much the same way. I really don’t like the word hoarder, it’s become almost fashionable, but I admit I hang on to things much past their usefulness or apparent need. Yes, let us not count the yarn stores in my basement or the spinning wheel I haven’t touched in at least 3 months. Its time will come again. Maybe even tomorrow. I have a hard time explaining my need for books or magazines or even music that still exists on tapes. Maybe I’m preparing for the eventual apocalipse and the resultant return to pre-computer and electricity world. I’ll be prepared well. I still occasionally print out photos, not trusting that all the ones I have stored electronically will one day just disappear in with one press of the wrong key.

    So having said all that, want to use some of your stash to play along with the March Sweater Madness this year??

  5. Carmen
    February 12th, 2013 at 18:54 | #5

    I was thinking about your Memories post. I guess that is why I have so many ‘old’ names in my address book. Sometimes I think of taking them out, but then think I’d better keep them or I will forget the name of that person and things associated with him/her.

  6. Holly
    February 12th, 2013 at 18:55 | #6

    @Barbara From Nova Scotia

    Might just do that. I will be on ships most of March so it would have to be both from stash and something that I could stand knitting in potentially warmer weather. We still have our blog?

  7. February 17th, 2013 at 20:29 | #7

    Yes, the blog is still there. Haven’t heard anything from Michelle. Might have to send her an email. I like March Sweater Madness because I always end up with a completed sweater, within the month of March or shortly there after. I have to decide on a pattern.

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