Out of the Blue

Hands Off My Keepers!

In defense of not quite hoarding

By Deborah Salomon

I’m not a hoarder but have always owned a modicum of . . . well, things.

Not big things. Not expensive things. Just non-essentials found at Goodwill-type outlets, yard sales. This includes books, dishes and things to hang on the wall. 

They are NOT junk. Some are interesting, artistic. Many represent places I have been, people I have met or written about, like the tin can artist. Others fall into categories, thus qualifying as “collections.” For decades I collected masks, including a papier-mâché lady from Venice and a clay one from Florence, both mementos of 10 glorious days in Italy. Yet I also see value in now extinct Hellmann’s mayo glass jars with metal screw-on lids that hold a quart of homemade soup for a sick friend.

Where is Andy Warhol when you really need him?

However, as a recreational observer of humanity I know the difference between save (including collect) and hoard. Frugal people save. Eccentrics hoard. People who stockpile twist ties don’t deserve a classification.

The pandemic blurred definitions, leaving the late-night comedians reams of toilet paper to ridicule. Keep laughing, guys. Should COVID circle back you’re not getting any of mine. But I will share an inventory of what’s stored in the corners, pantry, closet, even the trunk of my car:

Jars: Besides Hellmann’s I hang onto glass maple syrup containers, with finger hooks at the mouth. Faux canning jars filled with pasta sauce are nice for storing anything, wet or dry. Remember the jelly jars that became kiddie glasses, often fought over? Kraft spreadable cheese still comes in them but the kiddies, even the grandkiddies, are long grown and gone.

Canned goods: I cannot resist a sale on canned tomatoes — crushed, stewed, whole, herbed Mexican or Italian — which I use for many recipes. A tower of cans fills a corner of the pantry because you never know who’s coming to dinner. So, should the virus provoke another quarantine and you’ve got an urge to make spaghetti sauce, I’m your gal.

Dishes: I saved a few dishes from every set I’ve owned, a mishmash of family history, plus single bowls, plates, mugs, soup crocks, cake plates I couldn’t resist. Definitely a hoard, but precious.

Socks: I could outfit a centipede. Being from a frigid climate, I know the value of warm feet. About 40 years ago I found a pile of men’s cashmere sock “seconds” (mostly unpopular colors) in a department store basement, for $2a pair. I bought at least a dozen. My husband wore them, my kids wore them, I wore them skiing until they disintegrated. I still have one pair, in red. I’m told the devil wears red socks. Me, too.

Buttons: Many sweaters, coats, blouses and other apparel come with an extra button or two, in case of loss. Great idea. Couldn’t possibly throw those away although I can’t recall using a single one. Sometimes I rifle through the jar, trying to remember the long-gone garments they matched. 

Boxes: Internet shopping means boxes . . . handsome, strong cardboard hopefully recycled after this single use. I want to adopt each one for kitty condos, pirate ships, footstools. When my kids were small, I would drive around on garbage day, looking for a washing machine or dishwasher carton reinforced with wood to keep in the garage for a rainy-day fort or playhouse.

Business cards: On my desk, four piles held together with rubber bands — probably 300 cards total. I only use two or three but what fun to flip through them, trying to recall when and why they were obtained.

Magazines: Everybody laughed when I hoarded/collected years and years of The New Yorker covers. Then, after moving into a new house I wallpapered one bedroom wall with the first batch and, in another house, an entire powder room, where guests sat a while and exited laughing.

Black pants: A girl can’t have too many: wide-leg linen, skinny stretch with or without stirrups, tailored synthetic, yogas, charcoal denim, crushed velvet gauchos, marled sweats for all seasons, all occasions formerly served by the little black dress.

Goofs: When LED and fluorescent light bulbs took over I read that regular incandescents would be phased out. No! The newbies hurt my eyes. So, I laid away a supply from 15-watt nightlights to 3-way floor lamps.

Well, the purge never happened. So I’m set for life.

Things I wish I’d hoarded: Money.

Things I wish I’d collected: Comic books, from the ’40s and ’50s, now worth big money.

Spring cleaning is the collectors/hoarders nemesis. We divest, reorganize.

Things I’ll throw out: Any of the above?

Not a chance.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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