I’m better than I once was at letting go of stuff. Between flea markets, second-hand shops and online resources, the world has become one big carousel of buying and selling, acquiring and giving, making me feel I can essentially get something back if I want to.
Not that I want to.
I’ve had avalanches to deal with in the last few years—my late father’s LP records, cubic yards of my mother’s outdated files, dozens of token soccer trophies belonging to my blessedly unsentimental sons… remind me, how did we acquire so many musical instruments?
Somehow, though, it’s the day-to-day micro-decisions that seem to send me into a state of near-paralysis. Take these trifling, yet vexing, examples—
Crackers. OK, what’s the moral thing to do with the open package of sesame crackers I bought a couple of months ago? Green garbage? This is perfectly good food. I could crisp them up in the toaster oven and put them out next time one of my boys is here with friends—if I remember. But that still leaves the open box of oat flakes and the expired corn bread mix…
Personal letters. I know the post-birthday thank-you from an adorable nephew goes in the “keep” drawer, but what about the thoughtful note from an acquaintance? On the one hand, how much room does one little card take, especially if you remove the envelope? On the other hand, two dimensions does eventually become three if, like me, you’re fortunate enough to know a lot of courteous people.
Used nail polish. What do I do with an almost-full bottle (make that a dozen, over the last few years) that it turned out was either the wrong shade or too easily chipped? I doubt an opened container would be accepted by Salvation Army—never mind that the stuff is so toxic, it’s hard to imagine any fungus or bacteria living in there. But isn’t it too much like turpentine to go into the garbage? Just wondering: why isn’t the answer printed on the side of the bottle?
Peanut butter jar. Should I use hot water to rinse out a greasy peanut butter or mayonnaise container before recycling it? Or is that use of resources (heat as well as water) more wasteful than just putting the jar directly into the garbage? Again, why isn’t this calculation already done and explained on the label?
Magazines. You don’t want to know how many unread and partially-read periodicals pile up in my house like an ever-louder reproach. Isn’t there a way to skip the Admit Defeat step, and go straight to the part where I calmly remove the mailing labels and donate the entire stack in peace? While I’m at it, can I throw in some other lost causes, like The Federalist Papers?
Then there’s the perfect conundrum—my copy of Material World, a book featuring people around the globe photographed with each and every one of their possessions, laid out in front of their house or apartment or tent.
Keep, or give away?
Published in the Piedmont Post, November 11, 2009