He's a Keeper

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I've finished reading the first two (of three so far) Mick Oberon "Jobs" by Ari Marmell. Good stuff. Mick is a very cool guy, for being one of the Fae and all. The second book, Hallow Point, is a complex romp through 1930s Chicago, and the strange imitation of our world that the Fae have created in their own world (and if Ari Marmell wasn't inspired by my favorite Star Trek episode, "A Piece of the Action," then I'll dress up as Oberon the wolfhound for Halloween!). Anyhoo, one of the interesting aspects of this series is that Marmell carries through several plot points through more than one book. So in the first book, Hot Lead, Cold Iron, we learn that Mick often accepts barters from clients as payment for his private investigative work. Sometimes, Mick isn't sure why he asks for certain things, but he follows his Fae instincts and collects various items in an office drawer. One such item from Mick's "drawer of oddities" turns out to be quite useful in book two, and Mick is justified in his hoarding. Or prescience. Depending on your perspective. Which raises interesting questions about keepers and tossers. I'm a tosser. My husband is a keeper. It makes for tense times when we clean out our closet. Or even our refrigerator.  There is a conflicting worldview between the keepers and the tossers, one that cannot be easily resolved. It goes to a fairly deep place of trust in the Universe, feelings of abundance versus scarcity, and moral imperatives to redistribute wealth and prosperity a bit more equitably. It is about the dichotomy between those who pass things along and those who keep stuff for themselves. Our individual proclivities to keep, toss (or give away) also say a lot about who we are as people, with the keepers and the passers seeming morally superior to those who contribute to landfills simply because they cannot be bothered to find a good home for those items they no longer want or need (not that I have an opinion on this topic or anything).

One person's garbage is another's treasure. Whenever I'm tempted to think something is rubbish, in the literal sense of that word, I'm reminded of someone I know who is the queen of free cycling. This woman free cycles everything, from last week's newspapers to egg cartons to plastic ziplock bags. She finds homes for stuff I wouldn't normally think twice about recycling or taking to the dump. But her actions have caused me to stop and think even more than twice and to consider re-purposing before trashing (she gives her old newspapers to a fellow free cycler who has pet rabbits to line the cages). Apparently, there is almost always someone who wants our garbage. Or what we think of as garbage. 

If we're not fans of free cycling, there is Goodwill or the myriad church thrift stores or consignment shops that accept our used clothes, books, furniture, kitchenware, etc. I love these places, and have donated mountains of stuff over the years. Personally, I have two rules that have served me well in terms of keeping my home fairly clutter free and satisfying my desire to share the wealth I've been blessed with. I do not practice perfectly, but I do try my best. The first is the One-Year rule:  if I haven't used it or worn it in a year, it gets given away to someone who will use it more often than I do. The second rule is One-In, One-Out. I'm less good about this one, which states that if I buy a new pair of jeans, I give away an old pair. But it's a good rule. We used to do this with our kids at Christmas and birthdays. It helped (I hope) to encourage them to realize that not everyone has what they do, and no one needs fifteen different colored light sabers (or even five). 

Having said all of this and ensconced myself firmly in the camp of the toss-till-it's-de-cluttered camp, I feel it's only fair to make the case for Mick Oberon and his fellow hoarders—I mean collectors. There is something to be said for finding the exact right item one needs in our "junk" drawer, as Mick does, or in the garage where it's lived for 20 years. This is my husband's philosophy with respect to…everything. "You never know when you might need it!"  Not true; I can state with certainty that I will never, ever need a 30-year-old oxygen tank that has not been used or inspected in 25 years when I go scuba diving.  I enjoy breathing, even underwater, and plan to continue until my dying day, which I prefer to be in the far distant future, far away from water. I'm also pretty confident that I will never use my wedding dress again, and I have no daughters, so that could probably go as well.

But my examples are somewhat extreme and cut-and-dried (although we still have that oxygen tank plus his ancient BC vest that we have never taken with us on a diving vacation and my wedding dress is in the same box it was stored in 21 years ago—but we were moving on…). What about more ambiguous examples? Like my children's "art" from elementary school?  Or framed wall pictures of me as a little girl that used to hang in my mother's house before she died?  I feel bad throwing that shit away, but who would want it? It would be creepy for me to hang baby pix of myself in my house, and neither of my kids will be mistaken for Picasso, so I don't think their childhood drawings will have any value.

And what happens when we down size and de-cluttering is an imperative rather than a satisfying way to avoid writing (oh, did I say that out loud?)? I've never understood the idea of the offsite storage unit. Unless you're a criminal, in which case it makes a more sense. But why would we want our stuff somewhere on the other side of the railroad tracks in some creepy warehouse that I'd never want to visit lest said criminals decided to lure me into their portable pseudo-operating room to perform surgery without anesthesia?  Maybe I've been watching too many episodes of Criminal Minds, but still, you know what I'm saying. 

The way I figure it, I can go through my crap now and make sure I've sorted and stored the things that I truly value and need…or my kids can have that happy task when I kick the bucket sometime down the road. It seems unfair to burden my sons with such a thankless job, so my plan is to do it myself. Preferably while my husband is otherwise occupied.  So I can finally trash that stupid tank. And his monogrammed bowling ball. Mustn't forget that. I doubt even Mick Oberon, which his penchant for odd items, would accept that ball as barter for finding my lost dog. If I had lost my dog, that is. On the other hand, one never knows when a monogrammed bowling ball might come in handy. You know, for bowling. Maybe. Someday.