Saturday, January 2, 2010

What is this thing and why am I keeping it?

Most of us have them. Some of us have entire drawers or closet shelves filled with them. Those funny-looking little parts that came off something or other (can't recall what, exactly), those keys that must fit a lock somewhere (we can't recall where, exactly), those odds and ends that we're afraid to throw away because the day might come when we'll have an urgent need that only they can fill. What does the stuff we save say about us?

You decide. Today Poe's Deadly Daughters open their junk drawers and closets and expose a few of the items lurking there.

Elizabeth Zelvin:

I decided to take the macro route in answering this question. I had only to open the nearest closet and take a gander at the top shelves, which hold three sleeping bags and a tent from the pre-pop-up era. My husband has adamantly refused to go camping since we last used these things in 1982 in Bar Harbor, ME. My son was at camp in the area, and I drove us and my mother’s car into a ten-foot ditch to avoid a pile-up when a driver five cars ahead suddenly decided to make a left turn on two-lane US 1. Also on the shelf: a crumpled black cap and gown that I initially thought must date from my master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in 1985. But on second thoughts, I think my son wore them at his graduation from Stuyvesant High School in 1988. He’ll turn 40 this year. But you never know. Somebody in the family might need them. Peeping out from behind the mortarboard is a foam neck brace. We got whiplash back in 1982, and my husband is currently getting over a herniated disc in his neck. If we’d only held on to the old neck brace, we wouldn’t have had to go out and buy a new one.

Lonnie Cruse:

Okay, I'll cop to owning the aforementioned multitude of odd keys that no one in our family claims. Strangely enough, we went through those keys just last week, tried them in every door in the house, and discovered three or four that should have been on my key ring (dead bolt for front door, keys to back door, and why weren't those on my key ring where they belonged to begin with?). We found the keys we give to guests staying with us and promptly put them in the proverbial "safe place." Now I just have to remember where that is. Beyond that, we still have a handful of odd keys (pictured right) and we have no idea what they open. Sigh.

We're hoping that a couple of them belong to our grown kids. (They did trust us with keys to their houses a long while back. Perhaps that trust was misplaced? Hmmm.) I've got them in an envelope and plan to try them at the kid's houses sometime soon, to see if we need to keep them.

Beyond that, we still had another handful of keys that opened absolutely nothing we now own. Not the garage. Not the shed. Not the house. Not a P. O. Box, nor a safe deposit box. They aren't car keys. Who knows what they are or where they belong? We tossed them. Which means that whatever they did/do belong to will suddenly and most urgently have to be unlocked sometime next week, something that hasn't needed to be unlocked in decades. And we won't have the key(s) anymore. Anyone know a good locksmith? Sigh.

Julia Buckley:

There are two items that I always grab at the store when I see them: tealights and tiny bows. Therefore many a drawer in my house will contain random bows like these. The advantage of tiny bows? They work on little presents, big presents, even envelopes that need a special flair. If I could put bows on verbal sentiments, I would. :)

Other things that you might see, a la I SPY, in this picture, are the legs of a Sherlock Holmes greeting card that I never sent (I suspect I bought it for myself); a Borders gift card that I just received for Christmas; paper, scissors, marker, tape, some blank DVDs. And the only reason that this drawer seems so light on junk is that we just bought the desk about a month ago. :) The TRUE junk drawers were just too intimidating to take apart--although one of them held every school i.d. I was ever issued. I wonder why I saved those? To prove that I existed in the 80s? To prove that I once weighed far less than I do now? Who knows. The mysteries of our junk drawers may never be solved--but they're fun to examine, nonetheless.

Sandra Parshall:

Like Lonnie, I have old keys that fit no lock I can identify, as well as a couple that might still get me into a house we sold 15 years ago. Like Liz, I’m giving closet space to things I’m unlikely to use again. For some reason, I’ve saved the zip-out linings of coats but not the coats themselves. I also have countless left-hand garden gloves, mateless because the right-hand gloves wear out

Book bags acquired at mystery conferences have multiplied much faster than they should have, considering how few conferences I attend, and I really should be using them. But what do I carry stuff in when I go to the library? My National Gallery of Art bag.

I didn’t realize until Christmas, when I received a desperately needed new wallet as a gift, that I’ve been carrying a certain amount of detritus everywhere I go. While cleaning out all the slots and hidden compartments of my old wallet, I removed an expired driver’s license (tucked behind the current one), an expired insurance card, a bookstore discount card I haven’t used in years, a scribbled address that doesn’t look familiar (intriguing), a couple of raffle tickets (For what? Who knows?), and two DC Metro farecards so ancient they don’t even have Tai Shan’s picture on them. My new wallet is starting fresh, but it won’t be long...

Sharon Wildwind:

I regret to admit that in 2009 I came down with a case of chronic ephemera; that dreaded mixed-media art malady, which says everything, no matter how small or odd, should be saved because it might one day be useful to make art. It’s the writers’ equivalent of saving snips of dialog and descriptions because one day they might make a story. The difference is that all of the writing treasures can be saved in a small journal, while chronic ephemera tends to take up more space each year. So far, I’ve managed to confine my addiction to one medium-sized box, containing several plastic trays, like the one above. And no, I'm not looking for more stuff, so forget about sending me your spare keys, mismatched buttons, and collection of springs . . . well, unless it's something really unique, then I might be interested. Oh, heck, send photos, we'll negotiate.

I came upon this quote today, and it hit the nail on the head about how I feel about the coming year. Peace and a Happy New Year to everyone.

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential."
~Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer prize winning columnist, author, speaker, and commentator
Now it’s your turn. What’s in your junk drawer or stuffed in the back of your hall closet? What useless items do you feel compelled to keep forever?


Anonymous said...

Funny! Funny! I have ever so many cupboards, drawers, closets, and file cabinets full of STUFF! I always think I may need it some day. I have lots of those left handed garden gloves, too, Sandy, and camping equipment, Liz, but I still use mine - the camping equipment, tents, etc. not the left handed garden gloves, but I did read a hint in a gardening magazine that those left handed gloves can be turned inside out to make right handed ones. Hmmm. I'll have to try that. Gloria Alden

signlady217 said...

Ouch, ouch, and ouch! My mom and I were just talking about this kind of thing yesterday! They say great minds think alike, but this is getting ridiculous! (Who are we all channeling at the same time?)

Susan D said...

Don't even want to think about it. As every quilter and miniaturist knows (and I am doubly blest, or curst) no scrap of fabric is too small to save for a quilt, and no little bit of something or other is too small to save to use in a miniature scene. And those little bits add up. And up.

Anonymous said...

Susan, I am so sorry to hear you have the double curse of quilting/miniaturist. My new rule for fabric this year is that the piece has to yield at least a square 2 1/2" on a side before I'll keep it. I don't suppose you want all of the smaller pieces I'm discarding, do you? I thought not.

Susan D said...

why Sharon, that sounds positively obscene, tossing out all those lovely little scraps (see "miniaturist", above)

Sheila Connolly said...

I have a box of keys that weighs about ten pounds, and includes keys for cars we haven't had since 1967, and apartments and houses where we haven't lived for decades. The prize is a lovely padlock with key with a tag (written in my great-grandmother's handwriting) that says "silver chest." Needless to say the chest is no longer around--but the key is.

Hmmm...come to think of it, there's probably a story in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

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