Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Likely Is It...

A man was stranded in the desert. He crawled in the blinding sun along the endless sand. Gasping for breath and fearing he would not last very much longer, he was astonished to see what appeared to be a small building in the distance. Gathering his last ounce of strength and praying for his life that it would not be a mirage, he inched his weary way to where a man was indeed standing in the doorway of a hut.

“Please,” he choked. “I need water.”
“Would you like to buy a tie?” was the devastating reply.
The traveller was horrified.
“No. I don't need a tie. Just a drink.”
“Are you sure? You seem hesitant. Look, just for you, a deal—half price. I've got some excellent ties. What do you think?”
“Water,” was all the broken fellow could muster. This strange salesman in the desert—he must be half mad!
“We've got ties in many colours, some different materials—”
Our hero had to keep crawling. The salesman was still shouting after him, to offer an even better deal. The sun seethed in an unforgiving sky.
He might find a spring or a well, or—no. All was lost. He was going to lose consciousness at any moment and there was surely no well in the desert. That was desperation talking.
And then, he saw another building, much larger than the first. Perhaps his life was spared after all.
Oh, thank goodness. A large and beautiful sign said 'HOTEL.'
He dragged his body over to the doorway and cried for help. Somebody came to the door.
“Water,” the fatigued man whispered. “Do you have water?”
“Yes, yes we do,” came the merciful response.
At this, the thirsty man sank into the sand. He was saved.
“But I'm dreadfully sorry, Sir. This is a hotel. I simply can't let you in without a tie.”

I have heard this tale many times from different sources. The question it brings to mind for me is this: how likely is it, that in order to survive, one would need a tie in the desert?
The answer, of course, is an undisputed 'not likely at all.'
We all agree on that and on the foolishness of the situation: nobody would suggest that the traveller was short-sighted in neglecting to pack a tie for his journey.

However, while we people say one thing, we live life a completely different way. We instead store and hoard items that we will, if we are honest with ourselves, never get to use.

I cannot count the number of times we hesitated to throw something out because of 'possible guests'. This was a significant rationalisation for us.

-What if we ever have more guests than there are forks? In that case, we had surely better keep the unused plastic fork we picked up from that restaurant. Just in case.
-What if one of our guests forgets to bring a hairbrush? We should always keep a spare one in our bathroom. Just in case.
-Assuredly, we are the only two in the apartment but I would like to keep 16 mugs—and only one of us uses them—should some break, or we should happen to have 16 visitors who all want to partake of tea or coffee at the exact same time. Just in case.

I am all in favour, mind you, of being imaginative and using seemingly random items for new purposes but for the most part we have neither time nor inclination to be so crafty. It becomes a burden at moving time when you end up paying to move and perhaps store boxes full of such things. It is an encumbrance in every-day life when trying to maneuver over or under barrel loads of jumble that do nothing but ensure one cannot sit at one's kitchen table. Some of the items I have been known to hold onto in case of emergency are:

-Socks with holes in them. I have not thought of a single solitary reason yet to keep these but I cannot let go. They are not even useful for dusting furniture.
-The wire used to hold bread wrapping together.
-Empty Tic-Tac boxes in case I should fall into possession of Tic-Tac-shaped items in sufficient quantities to require such a container (bearing in mind the great possibility that such items would come with their own, new container.)
-The cotton belt of a thick winter house coat that was given away or sold to someone in the desert years ago.
-The unused side of a greeting card, because the front picture is so very pretty.
-Those circular, sponge-like dividers that come with a new spindle of CDs or DVDs. Oh, dear. I can count four of those right now without moving from my chair.

If you are living this way, it is probably not the most efficient you can be. Being a 'pack rat' does not equal being creative and clever. This is especially true if the items stored are not easily located if an opportunity does arise.

The right questions to ask yourself then, are:

  1. How much is it costing me to keep? Could I be using my space for living rather than hoarding needless items?

  2. How likely is it that it will ever be used? Can I see a situation—without having to resort to absurd 'tie-in-a-desert' scenarios—where I will find a functional use for it? Do I honestly think that a single shoelace will get me out of some domestic disaster? How Likely Is it?

At this point I am not entirely sure we want to keep so much as our couches. I can envision a life without them. They are heavy and I cannot think of a single occasion, even when we had seven people in our home, that the couches were used to capacity. The same goes for the bed; we are giving serious consideration to purchasing a bed that can be folded into a couch in the daytime. It would effectively kill two birds with one stone, a feat not often achieved with two such burdensome items.

Once we get past the heart-rending vision of our poor, befuddled guests having no bed to sleep in; once they stop invading our dreams knock-knocking on the window crying that there are 15 of them and there are not enough vessels for all to drink from, then I think we will have mastered the art and conquered our fears.


julochka said...

in your absence (i'm missing you, which is weird, because i don't even know you!), i'm reading your blog from the beginning. love this line:

"Being a 'pack rat' does not equal being creative and clever. This is especially true if the items stored are not easily located if an opportunity does arise."

I am a horrible pack rat and we are remodeling our house and have over recent months started to try to de-pack our packrat's not easy. but i feel inspired by your blog to continue to take it step by step.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

I'm not going to get all upset about Blogger, as it is a free service and all. But why couldn't I get a notification about this?
Anyhow, happy you're running back through older posts. Thanks for the kindly words :)
Sorry it took so long- I was going back and back myself and saw one lone comment. I thought, that's not right!
Now I've responded, I can breathe easier :)

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