There’s a difference between “keeping” and “hoarding.” An enormous difference, even in the simple definition.
“Hoarding” means hanging on to every single, useless item that comes your way. Pieces of wax paper. Plastic bags. Worn out socks. Shoes with no soles. Baby clothes in a family of teenagers. Shovels with broken handles. A cat litter box in a cat-less household.
Sometimes hoarders find that their houses, cars, garages and yards fill up with so much stuff that their families have to step in and get a dumpster and throw it all out. That is very painful to the hoarder who sees the items they’ve hoarded as valuable.
However, “keeping” defines the careful curating of items that meant something to you and your heart in the past. There’s a fine line - but if an item gives you pause and makes you remember something warm around the cockles of your heart - keep it.
On a recent trip to the Marion Public Library I found a great book that offers a collection of 150 items called “What We Keep” authored by Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax I found this to be a quiet book of affirmations concerning the things that have meant something to the interviewed “keepers.”
It is as fascinating as peeking into an old trunk of your grand parent’s things or looking at a Life Magazine published the year you were born.
Of the 150 things in the book, there are some very interesting and odd. Watches and clocks seem to be a favorite and retain the memory of the near and dear owner. I don’t have it, but I can still see my grandpa’s watch. it was an inexpensive Timex, but it was a sturdy watch. Silver in color with wide sweeping hands and a thick stretchy band. He always wore it with the face on the inside of his arm in order to protect the glass face from being scratched during his hard working days on the farm. It would hold no value to someone who didn’t know him - but it will remain priceless to his family.
Many of the folks interviewed for the book were still carrying around some old childhood toy. It seems toys hold a bright memory for most of us. I have a doll that my father gave me for my fourth Christmas - he died one month later. It is very precious to me.
I found out recently, that Susan, my kind and thoughtful sister-in-law saved most of the matchbox cars that her son, Kaz had played with. These small metal cars are still popular today. I remember the ones with the doors that opened or the hoods that raised were especially treasured. My nephew is now in his 40’s and the father of two sons and last Christmas she presented his old cars to him and he was so happy. All of the men, at the party clustered around the cars and talked off and on all afternoon about the beauty of the collection.
She had also hung on to the Fischer Price play sets, like the farm and the school and she now keeps those at her house for the kids to play with when they come to visit her and their Grandpa Joe. Very wise woman.
My three boys had a few stuffed animals that I packed away in a cedar chest. Last year I gave the middle son, Chad his “Hooter” a extremely worn toy owl. One wing was gone and part of its beak. I had mailed it to Georgia where he lives now and he broke down and cried when he opened it. That was a “keeper.” Brian had a patched up brown dog called “Poochie” and Kyle had a worn out, frayed blanket known as “KiKi.”
There were many examples of rings kept for deep and sometimes painful memories. The military ring a brother wore in Vietnam - where his life was ended. A secret decoder ring. A ring from a broken engagement.
One man of great wisdom in the book, understood the value of the man who had been married to his wife before him. The late husband had died a hero fighting a fire. The man interviewed wore his own wedding band and the one of the hero husband as a symbol that he would take care of the family.
There are numerous people who carry a special coin in their pockets. It is marked with the number of years that it has been since they had a drink or used drugs. Those coins are given out at Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and there isn’t one person who has seen them awarded who didn’t understand just exactly how hard that was - and continues to be.
I hope all of my gentle readers have something, no matter how small to value as just their own and will someday pass it on for someone else to keep.