/ Relate /

Collecting Crap for Good Reason


My mother-in-law thinks I’m a hoarder. For perspective, she (Babs) has moved several times in the last 15 years for work, and most recently to settle in Florida for retirement. She’s great at keeping the good stuff, the stuff that matters or that she really likes, and pitching the rest of it. Hell, you can get a new one of just about anything at Target if you tossed the old one prematurely! On the flip side, I grew up in a family that saves EVERYTHING for eventual reuse. Empty mayonnaise jars, long (and even short) pieces of ribbon, hardware from old desks, and the list goes on. My kids play with DUPLO blocks that I played with, because my parents kept them. The thing is, they kept them for a really practical reason, so my kids could play with them. And such is the case with their other stockpiled treasures. The jars undoubtedly will become firefly catchers or vessels for small pieces of something else that’s being collected and saved. Ribbon might end up tied around one of my nieces’ pigtails. And all those saved screws and nuts and washers and hinges, tucked away in countless coffee cans in the garage . . . my Dad has NEVER failed to produce when a neighbor asks, “Rod, any chance you’ve got a bolt about this size?”

Holding Onto Stuff

Back to me. I’m completely bought into the value of keeping things you, or someone near you, might have use for. As a result, when we moved to our new house last year, despite my wife’s eye rolls and Babs’ teasing, I moved three enormous boxes filled with smaller empty boxes. Yup. That’s right, I packed the gift boxes and shoe boxes and other “high-quality” boxes that I’d collected into another, bigger box (like I said, three other bigger boxes) and moved them to a storage unit and then to our new basement. In retrospect, that means I paid storage fees and rental truck costs on these empty boxes! Anyway, the week before Christmas, guess who was looking for boxes to wrap presents . . . you guessed it, Babs! Vindication and huge personal satisfaction.

Ol Kiems Crep

My Mom reminded me that this desire to hold onto things is in my blood. My great-grandfather, who came to the US from Russia to escape continued service in Stalin’s Army, gave me and my Dad the organizing-nuts-bolts-nails-and-springs gene. To this day, the term ol kiems crep, a Russo-English phrase that translates to “all kinds of crap” is my family’s way of bucketing junk that cannot be broken down and segmented any further. At some point you just dump it all into the same pile. Grandpa Hilkovitch left an inheritance of several cigar boxes marked this way!

My grandma kept kitchen gadgets and batteries under her bed. She maintained multiple lifetime supplies of Vaseline and stamps.

My parents, who are far from ready to fully hand the collecting-baton to me, seem capable of fulfilling any request for odd, unexplainable “problem solving” things. You should see their attic, or basement, or crawlspace. The effort it will take to empty their house years from now, when they are gone, will be monumental. “Mom, do you guys have any old wheels? I want to build the boys a wheelbarrow.” Sure enough, with almost no effort, my Mom produced an entire box of old, mismatched wheels and axles. “Dad, I’m working on this project, and . . .” Before I can even finish, there are piles of materials, just scraps, that completely fill the need!

Solving Problems, Producing Solutions

And so the circle of life continues. Our neighbor recently appreciatively complimented the fact that we had party supplies to lend them – tables, chairs, decorative wine tubs. I like having “stuff” squirrelled away that might help my family or friends solve a problem, fill a need, save a buck, or enhance an event. Babs is right, Target probably has the same crap on their shelves, but it all has a price tag and requires a trip to the store. There is something extremely satisfying about producing solutions from the archives of our basement or garage. As a result, those scraps of salvaged wood and that pile of old campaign signs and that box of random knick-knacks need to stay exactly where they’re at, Toots!