In my last post, I pretty much threw my ex under the proverbial clutter bus and mocked his collection of endless lotion, empty plastic containers, and pianos.
But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’m not immune to the desire to hang on to stuff I don’t need, either.
Case in point: Shoes.
Last weekend, I was traveling (again) and my flight was booked through Erie, PA. My return flight was cancelled when the sky started hemorrhaging snow.
(Yeah, I know better than to book through Erie during winter. And for the unschooled, “winter” in Erie runs from October through April – if spring comes early. But I was suckered in by a less expensive fare – can’t pass up a bargain, ya know. Sigh. Some bargain when you have an extra hotel night and a bonus day of car rental.)
So I got rebooked the next day, leaving me away from home for an extra 24 hours. And how did I kill time? Guess.
OK, so before you judge me, know that I was REPLACING my “airport shoes” – the shoes that are comfortable enough to get me from gate A2 to Z164 with an 11-minute layover, are easy to slip off for security, and work with both jeans AND yoga pants (because travel is sooooo glam.) On my last trip, I noticed that my current pair was making parts of my feet fall asleep the longer I wore them, so I NEEDED new ones. It’s a health thing. And COME ON, MAN! Not only were they 50% off the CLEARANCE price, they SPARKLE! My feet are WORTH $24 glitter pillows. (Thank you, DSW, for feeding my addiction in an economically responsible way. Happiness at $12 a foot.)
And yet…I’ve been home since Monday night, and I haven’t quite moved the trusty black clogs to the donation pile yet. I’m not sure why, exactly. Blue sparkle SHOULD go with everything, but I’m holding back on the slim chance that flat black might be a better option at some point. If I ever have to attend a funeral in the middle of an airport, I suppose I’m set.
And then there’s this shirt. I got it as a thin layer to wear under sweaters and stuff, because it was ONLY $8 at Aeropostle Outlet. But the last time I put it on, I noticed this:
The suspected culprit:
Anyway, the point here is that it was only $8, I’ve worn it a kajillion times, AND thanks to the aforementioned Kohl’s addiction, I have an entire drawer full of Cuddl Duds that I bought SPECIFICALLY FOR THE SAME PURPOSE.
But…this is the only one with THIS pattern, ya know? The OTHER black-and-white one has flowers, so it’s TOTALLY DIFFERENT. And maybe I could sew it back up. You wouldn’t see the hole because it’d be under a sweater….
IT’S A RAG.
YET I WON’T THROW IT AWAY.
This behavior’s got to be at least partially hereditary. My ex clearly gets his from his parents; there’s certainly a family resemblance in the way they cram their closets. In my case, my guilty relative was my dad’s mom.
To be fair, Grandma was a Child of the Depression – so she learned to use up and reuse. However, her spouse did quite well for himself with some Ford stock back in the day, and she clung to those behaviors long after she was more than “financially comfortable.”
When she passed, she left a four-bedroom house chock full of “treasures” that needed to be sorted. And we had to actually look through everything, too, because Grandma left the plot twist of hiding cash in random locations. I had her bedroom dresser for YEARS before I discovered a $5 bill from 1963 tucked under the shelf paper. Oh, and remember those squeeze coin purses that banks used to give out?
In one of those, we found one of these:
That sucker’s about the size of a nickel, and was worth about – wait for it – $400 at the time.
FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS. Dayum. So yeah, we looked through EVERYTHING.
Of course, we ended up pitching a lot of stuff. The canned food in the basement, now a furry gray, was a culinary adventure none of us were willing to take. And there was an entire bedroom of her house filled with just two things: shopping bags and clothespins.
THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF THEM.
Much like the rest of us, Grandma didn’t just hang on to the old things. She liked new stuff too. Especially shoes. I clearly inherited my love of shoes from Grandma. She was on a life quest for the Perfect White Sandal – one with a chunky 1″ heel and straps that didn’t pinch her little toe. (Nowadays, you’d just have that inconvenient appendage cut off.) Unfortunately, she never found them – by the time she passed, she had well over one hundred pairs of sandals in near-mint condition. More unfortunately, Grandma wore a size 5 1/2, which I probably haven’t worn since I WAS 5 1/2, so sadly, they all had to be donated.
Grandpa passed away a few years before I was born, leaving Grandma fairly well-off. She spent much of her time traveling the globe, bringing back dolls and spoons from every country she visited.
Why dolls and spoons? I HAVE NO IDEA.
But she clearly loved them. She had several spoon racks lining the walls, and boxes and boxes of dolls. A little girl’s dream, right? Well, not exactly. See, these dolls weren’t toys – they were collector’s items. And therefore, each doll was required to remain sealed in its individual hyperbolic chamber, feet firmly affixed to the plastic base.
We didn’t care. My sister and I played with them anyway. While they were still in the cases. Hey, we didn’t have cable then; you had to use your IMAGINATION. Our star-crossed lovers could never actually kiss, or hold hands. <raises wrist to forehead> Tragic. But they were each encased in these cool little pods that we pretended were flying transportation devices, like on The Jetsons.
While the collector’s items* were to be handled with care, ironically, we were allowed to play with these fellas as much and as hard as we wanted.
(Well, except chucking them down the dumbwaiter. That was only allowed to happen once.) Of course, these dudes have some actual street value now. Ah well.
Anyway. It’s clear that Grandma didn’t NEED all this stuff. She didn’t NEED to keep grocery bags and ill-fitting shoes; she could afford multiple globe-spannning trips and fancy-schmancy look-but-don’t-touch dolls* each year.
*Clearly, still somewhat bitter.
But she kept all that clutter anyway.
Most of us do.
And, you know what? Once in a while, something you’ve saved actually comes in handy. Witness this latest conversation I had over text with my daughter while she was at her dad’s:
I knew I’d find this quickly at a used bookshop…but since I’m cheap, and want to save my dinero for important things, like shoes – and I was CERTAIN her dad MUST have a copy, because he has a ton of crap, and like I said, EVERYONE had one of these – I decided to do this:
(It’s cool. We flip each other the bird as tokens of affection. We’re classy like that.)
So, as much as I’ve complained about my ex’s clutter, it did come in handy today.
And, from my grandmother’s house? Well, my folks kept some of the pricier collectibles, of course. (Which didn’t include any of the dolls. GO FIGURE.) And deep in my grandmother’s closet, I discovered three shoe boxes filled with…
Go on, guess.
Yep. Three boxes of those little tiny bars of soap. This one from an Alaskan cruise, that one from a hotel in Australia, one from each country in Europe.
My mom was going to throw it away – let’s face it, soap is cheap, and those doll-sized bars are stupid annoying.
But I decided to take the soap. And you know what? I USED the soap. For nearly three years, I dipped into the box to unwrap another memory with every bar. Ivory from Germany. Dial from Alaska. Irish Spring from Australia.
Generally, I think we could all use with a little less clutter in our lives, and a more diligent tossing of things we don’t need to cling to. It makes you feel lighter, somehow, to come home to an uncluttered entryway and a well-organized coat closet. It’s refreshing, relaxing…and helps us stay focused on what’s truly important instead of staying mired in things that weigh us down.
But sometimes, it’s good for the soul to relive a fond memory – perhaps one that you’d have forgotten if not for the ancient shopping bag with the long-gone local-five-and-dime logo printed on the front.
I couldn’t fill Grandma’s shoes, but I used every scrap of soap she saved. I used it up, reviving each memory one more time, and then I threw the wrapper away. At that point, the soap was just soap – it did exactly what it was intended to do, and gradually washed away.
I think Grandma would have been OK with that.