Sunday, February 24, 2008

One Man’s Treasure...

"There are three things that last: faith, hope and junk, and the greatest of these is junk." - Bible, I Corinthians 13:13 (slightly paraphrased)

Unlike the people I live with, I’m not burdened by the pack-rat gene. Accordingly, when they give me unopened 12 year old bottles of vitamins, crochet needles and yarn that’s older than I am (I don’t crochet) or that moldering stack of National Geographic magazines from the Fabulous Fifties, I can manage to throw the stuff away without a qualm.

We share a dirty little secret. They give their junk to me because they cannot bear to toss it out themselves, whereas I’m an unsentimental fool. Unlike them, I can throw away every single generic birthday card they’ve ever sent me (cold-hearted bitch that I am) as soon as they leave the room they entered to deliver said cards. I’m pretty sure they know I take out their metaphorical trash, but at least they’re spared from discarding the untold treasures buried beneath Grandma’s old Mothers Day Cards inside the cardboard grocery carton of Velveeta Cheese, with smashed corners repaired by curling duct tape. One box has a scrawl in spare red crayon: Household. I assume that if I say “Hhmmmm (pause) Household” in a soft, ponderous voice, while slowly scratching an imaginary goatee, and letting my voice trail off into a whisper, that the contents of this mysterious box will magically be revealed.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then pack rats are the devil incarnate. There’s Satan, crouching deep inside their souls, amid unlabeled packing boxes, stacked and teetering, plastic bags with old bedspreads, and old shoeboxes of candles from celebrations past, melted into a single ur-candle of indeterminate shape and color, but with some old newsprint transferred to one surface. My theory about the mutant candle is that individual candles tend to meld together in some process of devolution that takes place only during dark nights of the closet’s soul: resistance is futile. Either that, or the metal roof of the shed conducts too much summer heat to expect candles to survive intact. But I’m no scientist.

Way back in Holy Christ Elementary School, I learned that there are three things that can survive the direct blast of nuclear bomb: cockroaches, disposed-of disposable baby diapers, and Velveeta, the processed cheesoid material sold in brick-sized lumps whose cartons seem to constitute the majority of the boxes in one section of one junk room. (Actually, I made that up. I don’t think disposable diapers were invented until after I was expelled from high school for passing out Bola Cola from the tailgate of my boyfriend’s station wagon outside the front gates of the school, because the principal, peering out from between bushes, had mistaken it for beer. In that brief moment, my hopes of being the only person canonized as a saint before dying went up in smoke. But that’s another story, as is the reason why I also lost all hope of wining the Nobel Prize in Diplomacy that day. Interestingly, they’re the same story, but that’s not important now.)


Getting back to trash: my spring cleaning fantasy is that we rent a giant sized dumpster, park it by the front door, and make about a hundred round trips between the junk rooms… (Yes you heard me – not only do we have junk closets (plural), junk outdoor sheds (plural) and junk piles in various and sundry rooms we occupy, we have - not one - but two entire rooms filled with junk.) …to make as many trips with a wheelbarrow between junk piles and dumpster as my stamina permits. Tolerance of other people is all well and good, but I’m developing serious intolerance of other people’s junk.

Lest you think I think I’m perfect, I too, have a heroic fatal flaw. Unlike junk, I have trouble leaving books and other written information behind. This might be the death of me since, as my sister recently told me, in these days of information overload, the pursuit of knowledge is less about a process of acquisition than about proficiency in tossing stuff out. But I'd rather die of information overload than from a concussion sustained by a falling stack of Velveeta cartons filled with mutant candles.

Clearly the recent rainy weather has left me with a bad case of cabin fever. At least in the yard, I’m in charge and junk is tolerated only so long as it amuses me and not a moment longer. I can’t wait to get back outside.

9 comments:

Kylee said...

Bwaaaahhhhhaaaaaahaaaa!!! Oh, but you forgot Twinkies. Nuclear holocaust and if we're around, that's what we'll be eating. With Velveeta on the side.

Karen & Mike said...

Happy to have found your blog through your visit to mine! I've added you to Bloglines, so will be back soon.

Melanie said...

Now how can you have the same dream as me? After 25 years of living with a pack-rat I'd give anything for a dumpster. All I'd need is somebody to haul him off while I clear things out.

Ah well... I can still dream...

Travis said...

I love the photographs you take. You do such a nice job. I am just starting to take some basic pictures of nature in Iowa. I have posted several pictures from a recent trip to a botanical center nearby. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions you could provide.

kate said...

Would you consider making a trip here? I could use your help in ridding my place of things I don't seem to be able to part with - or maybe that's not such a good idea since much of my stuff is of the paper variety.

I haven't thought of Velveeta Cheese for ages. I once made a doll couch from a Velveeta Cheese box and upholstered it in the ugliest brown fabric (it is somewhere downstairs). I remember distinctly opening a box of Velveeta to discover there was a free cheese slicer in it. (It's late and I'm tired ...)

One of these days, I'd love to hear about the Bola Cola, Nobel Prize and school expulsion incident. Please...

GardenAuthor said...

I found my first visit here, most interesting... absorbing, amusing and thought-provoking text, combined with wonderful photography!

Your comment on my squirrel posting, got me thinking. Other than the squirrels (who, by the way, I find rather cute, although aggravating), peace does usually reign supreme in the backyard bird sanctuary. We, too, have local coyotes, but they seem disinclined to feast on squirrels.

Thanks for dropping by last week... Deb

No Rain said...

Great post!
After reading about 30 books on how to get rid of the kind of clutter you mentioned, I've been able to throw out 30 years worth of old birthday cards, and crap that I received as gifts and didn't like. The reamining issue is I just can't dispose of the 30 books, or any of the many hundreds I own, or any reciepts, statements, and other misc.paperwork. That will come next--after I buy another book on how to dispose of that kind of stuff!
Aiyana
Aiyana

Blackswamp_Girl said...

lol. By the way, I feel empathy for those people who give you their trash because they cannot themselves bear to throw it away. That, in a nutshell, is why I tend to gift plants to my Mom! *grin*

Martha in Michigan said...

Re packrats:
Okay, so L, V & D were here yesterday for a proposed trip to the refurbished Detroit Institute of Arts. It was snowing so hard, though, that the roads were dangerous, and we did not go downtown. While they worked on a crossword puzzle they hated so much that it is now in my Purple Heart box (and where would the OCD to complete a project you hate have come from?), I was thinning out a drawer in mom & dad's old console containing maps and Christmas cards. I had been on a search for Chicago maps, left over from the Beloit trips, to see where L will be working. I found it, and I discarded about half the stuff I had combed through. I was feeling victorious, having attenuated the pile to a noticeable degree, but they gave me unholy hell for putting back into the cabinet a punchcard-sized 1988 Amtrak schedule for Detroit-Chicago runs. After all, such things, with likely more accuracy, are available on the Web now. I stubbornly held onto it anyway. This despite a recent visit to packrat central in SS (where we have, in fact, filled multiple rental dumpsters over the decades, to no ultimate avail). Maybe it's time you came to visit me.