Inside looking out: Just in case
I’m not a hoarder, but I am guilty as charged of having stuff in my house I’m keeping around, just in case I might use it again.
I own an expensive Canon 35 mm camera, the kind for which you have to buy film and then send it out for processing when you’re done taking pictures. Why bother with it now when a cellphone can take great digital photos? I’m keeping the Canon anyway, just in case someday I want to experiment with shutter speeds and aperture settings. You’re right. I probably won’t.
Kitchen and cooking gizmos are trendy, but now most of them are jammed in boxes somewhere in the basement, never to rise again to help prepare a meal.
Let’s start with fondue pots. Stab your food and dip it. I still have my pot. Just in case fun with fondue parties become popular again. Well, no, I’d rather cook on the grill.
Remember the rave of waffle irons, ice cream makers and food processors? In most homes, waffles aren’t on the menu enough to warrant owning one. Ice cream makers aren’t worth the time or trouble when you can buy a gallon of any flavor for under five bucks. Food processors? Use a 12 dollar mixer. Enough said.
Did you buy one of those woks years ago to make Chinese food, but after two or three uses, you dial for takeout instead of bothering to cook with it? So “wok” you going to do with it now?
Turkey fryers were a fad a few years back. I own an indoor fryer that works great, but I’ve got to be in the right frame of mind to pay the 30 dollars or so for the gallons of cooking oil I need. The cleanup is no fun with a fryer, either, but I keep it, just in case I want to bubble up another Butterball someday.
You might have felt the need to exercise after gaining some weight, so you pay hundreds of dollars for a treadmill. Six months later, you’re using the treadmill’s hold-on bar for a clothes hanger and the tread path to store boxes of Christmas lights. You tell yourself you’re a few more chocolate doughnuts away from getting back on the machine, so it stays in the basement, just in case.
You once had this notion to turn your backyard into an activity center. Remember the badminton set the kids played with twice, but then it became an obstacle that got in your way every time you cut the grass? You dismantled it. You kept it just in case the kids wanted to play badminton again. They didn’t. Now, it’s nothing more than a reminder of a summer gone by.
Maybe you went a little crazier with the outdoor game thing. You spent a few hours making official size horseshoe pits. Your friends had a blast drinking beer and tossing shoes at a picnic. Then they went home and the horseshoes went back in the box where they came from. Croquet sets were fun - for a day or two, but they too got in the way of the lawn mower and are now somewhere on a shelf in the garage right next to the Lawn Jarts that are right next to the sleds that are right next to the bikes that your kids have since outgrown.
A friend got into the fishing thing. He bought two rods, a tackle box full of lures and an assortment of hooks, bobbers and a net. He bought an aluminum boat, too. He went down to the lake, caught a couple of sunfish and that’s been it. The rods and reels are now shoved in back of the kayak he doesn’t use and the boat is turned over behind the shed where it’s become a shelter for a family of chipmunks. He keeps it all, just in case.
If you’re a reader, you have books stacked somewhere, perhaps on shelves in a personal library. You’ve read them all, but who reads their books a second or third time? Maybe you will someday.
Author Sarah Noffke wrote, “The belongings people accumulate throughout their lives will always own them. People seem to think if they had more they’d be happier or freer, but their possessions only chain them to the earth.”
Yet, there’s a nostalgic dilemma we get with some of our stuff. Keep it or throw it away. Clean and empty spaces are certainly satisfying, but sometimes we like to have some hard evidence to remind us of the passing seasons of our lives.
Fabric designer Erin Flett said, “Collect the things you love that are authentic to you and your house becomes your story.”
Noffke is right. Some things I own have me chained, but Flett is right, too. I have collected things that are authentic to me and have become an important part of my life story that hasn’t yet come to a final chapter.
Every now and then, I pick up my old baseball glove that I used to make a diving catch when I was an 11-year-old Little Leaguer. When I pound my fist into the pocket, my mind takes me back to that afternoon, to that catch at that moment.
Someday, I’ll play catch with a grandchild I don’t have yet, so I’ll keep my old glove. Just in case.
Rich Strack can be reached at email@example.com.