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No, *I’m* the Weirdest Boy Scout

I like to think of it as “being prepared for anything”, but it’s probably closer to “being a dingbat.” Here’s my confession for today: I have a problem getting rid of stuff (and people, too, but that’s a whole other story…). Sorting things I need from things I don’t need is as difficult for me as it was for that dude who (SPOILER!) had to cut off his own limb at the end of Saw. Deleting emails, even spam, is next to impossible, because I am afraid that once I get rid of it, it’ll magically transform into THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT EMAIL EVER SENT TO ME AND I NEED IT IMMEDIATELY OR MY LIFE IS OVER. You have that too, right? It’s not just me. It can’t be. For example:

“AJ, are you looking for something in our science fiction & fantasy books department? If so, you might be interested in these items: Look! Here are two books you wrote, and three books you’ve already purchased! Sincerely, Amazon.”

Clearly, I do not need to save this email. There’s nothing for me to gain by keeping it. I could have happily not even read it, because it offers me only stuff I already have (like <insert shameless self-promotion here, go buy my books>). If I delete this email, no harm will come to me. However… here it stays. I KNOW, it’s a sickness. It’ll be transferred into a file folder called Saved For No Bloody Reason. It’s a weird, modern sort of paranoia…fear of dumping probably-useless digital information. I wish it were my only pack rat quirk.

Other things I’m scared to get rid of:

1. Photographs. I’m irrationally POSITIVE that if I throw someone’s picture in the garbage (or delete it from my phone/computer) it’s the same as metaphorically trashing that person’s essence from existence, as if the Cosmos will take Her cue from me and literally dispose of that person from Her planet. Then they’ll die and it’ll be ALL MY FAULT. This is why I have eight million pictures. You know how some girls burn pictures of ex-boyfriends for closure? I couldn’t possibly do that. What if they actually burst into flames and crisp to death?! I didn’t dislike them that much. There’s really only one ex-boyfriend I would wish that on, and he’s already dead. Hmm…then why haven’t I chucked his pictures? I can’t make him more dead… CAN I?? Holy crapwaffles, my imaginary powers are terrifying. If I throw this picture of my dead ex in a wood chipper, will it come out the other end like bone chips and rotten flesh? I’d better keep these pictures of him just in case. (Probably, I should just stop taking pictures. Or I should only take pictures of my enemies! Ooooh, photo-voodoo. Bwa hahahaha. Hey, what happens if I delete a selfie? OMG!)

2. Notes about Nothing. Something occurs to me just before I slip into dreamland, and I throw a sleepy hand out and grab my night pencil (an actual thing, beside my bed) and scribble the thought down on my night pad (disclaimer: not the Always with Wings night pads) and then I chuckle and fall asleep. In the morning, these notes are nearly illegible, and more importantly, not funny. At least, they’re not funny in this century. BUT WHAT IF HUMOR CHANGES AND THIS IS SUDDENLY, INEXPLICABLY AMUSING to people who are wide awake? There’s a healthy 2% chance that could happen. I’d better put it on my desk for a while to consider its true worth. And then next month, when the crumbs on my desk between all the books and pens and note scraps have reached critical mass and it’s time to clean, I’ll tuck this not-funny note into my idea box. And then at Christmas or so, when I’m procrastinating about holiday shopping, I’ll sort the idea box and maybe move this note to my peg board or into one of the desk drawers, with the eighteen million other notes that aren’t funny, clever, or interesting. Yet. But maybe someday… (Note: that is not my desk. Mine is much, much worse.)

3. Mason jars. I have made jam once. To be precise, I made peach jam, white grape jelly, crab-apple jelly, and strawberry-raspberry jam. It was the sweatiest, most exhausting 3 days of my life, if you don’t count that ill-considered fling I had with my yoga instructor in 1996. Anyways, it was an enormous pain in the ass (the jam, not the yoga instructor), cost a fortune after buying pectin, jars, rings, lids, seals, stickers, canning equipment, cheesecloth, a grinder, etc etc…and in the end, it tasted no different than store bought. The likelihood of my making jam ever again is comparable to the likelihood of my becoming the Empress of Doom on the planet Draconia where the population is largely centaur, and they all worship me more as a goddess, really, because I’m that awesome. What was I saying? Oh, right, jam. Not gonna happen. But any time I have an empty jar, I can’t let go. WHAT IF I NEED TO CAN SOMETHING? Like, it’s the end of the world, and I really need to make pickles? For the future of mankind. Planet-saving pickles. But I can’t, because like a stooge, I threw out all my mason jars. What kind of an idiot risks the fate of humanity by throwing out something like MASON JARS? Not this idiot, I assure you. I have more mason jars than any sane person could ever need. I’m gonna be honest with ya….they’re taking up a lot of space in my pantry doing a whole lot of nothin’. Sometimes, I think I should box them up and put them out in the barn, but then what if I need a mason jar IMMEDIATELY and there isn’t one on hand? Like, there’s a pickle emergency? Could happen. And if it does…. I’m ready. I’m your gal, picklepocalypse survivors.

Are you a pack rat, too? What do you save?


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3 Responses to No, *I’m* the Weirdest Boy Scout

  1. Pretty much everything you mentioned (right down to saving for the picklpocolypse) goes down in my house. I have organized files of unclever story and poem ideas, gift ideas dating back twelve years…I have hundreds of voice memos on my iPhone (notes for papers I wrote in grad school, song ideas, five year old recordings of my daughter and niece screaming pat-a-cake over each other in an unspoken competition for cutest standing) that are constantly interrupting my music flow on iTunes. Do I really need to save that a ha moment from grad school? Maybe, because I’ve been so brain dead the past five years since graduating that this recording might very well be the last remaining evidence of a time when I was actually quite articulate. And the annoying recordings of my daughter and niece (that, in and of themselves are enough to convince me that I don’t like children)? I save them because what if they want them and will cherish them the same way my sister and I cherish our cassette recordings from the 70’s. And the Mason jars…we use them as drinking glasses now.

    The main difference between your OCD hoarding and mine is that every few years I snap out of it and PURGE. I get rid of bags full of little scraps of paper, I get rid of construction leftovers, I get rid of ill advised countertop appliance purchases, clothes, my Doc Martin collection that hasn’t fit since I got pregnant in 2002, I even purge people! I go onto Facebook and delete delete delete, I commit enormous acts of social sabotage to shake people off the periphery, I dump loads of photos and it feels fantastic!!! Until I’m looking for a 2×4 to support a planter bed in the garden, or I can’t find the receipt for the $1000 water heater we just bought and we need proof of purchase for the $500 rebate, or I realize that, in my deleting frenzy I accidentally got rid of the video of a three year old Gwen rockin’ out singing along to Gwen Stefani.

    There has to be an in between, but I realize there cannot be balance and order on the outside until I am balanced and ordered on the inside. We tend to hoard things out of trauma or a feeling of powerlessness. With two kids (and a partner that is a mega stasher and borderline hoarder) balance is not likely to happen in the very near future, but maybe the key lies somewhere in throwing our hands up for the time being, grabbing a mason jar of wine and relishing the interruptions while we still have them. There will be plenty of time for order years from now when the house goes quiet and still.

  2. Sami-Jo Cairns says:

    Because my mother thinks the same as you, I’ve fallen the opposite way. I do keep things most people would roll their eyes at but, unlike my mother who saved the part of the umbilical cord when I finally had a belly button, I go through everything 1 or 2 times a year. I mean everything. As far as digital pics, they take up hard drive space only so I don’t count that. Actual pictures? As long as I know who’s in the pic, I have it in a cedar chest with my other memories. Childhood journals, graduation cap, my dogs first tooth (I know, I know). But some things I justify need to be saved.

    Clothing, if I didn’t wear it for the season it was intended, it doesn’t make it to next season. Our spaces reflex the chaos of our brains and if its a hurricane around us, our brains probably look like Twister just popped a squat in you grey matter.

    Think of what important and ditch the rest. You deserve to be die from something half-way cool. Parachute mishap, flying airplane toilet, zombie attack…all better than being found under notes no one can read and they will put on your gravestone hoping in the afterlife it makes sense to you then.

    Here Lies A.J.
    “The squirrels nuts are dry baked”
    Oh and she was a good mother and junk.

    Note to self: Edit your own tombstone.

  3. Wendy Logsdon says:

    To answer your question…Well, forget about what I have accumulated over the years all on my own–the bigger problem is that my Grandmother was a bigger pack rat than me and when she passed and we went to take care of her estate–I was blown away by all the crap she saved! We’re talking receipts from the day my brother and I were born! If she bought something there was a receipt! Her immaculate collection of Frederick’s of Hollywood apparel and shoes (Stilleto’s in every color, knee high boots in every color)–things I will never fit in! Age old make-up and empty parfume bottles, braziers that I could swim in, photo’s, love letters, old memorabilia, some nudes of my Grandma (oh yeah, she was a sexy Sicilian Vixen!) The list goes on….I was buried under a pile of sentiment and nostalgia…endless boxes and drawers of STUFF! Magnificent gems and pieces that I cherished as a child…things that I never knew existed…there was so much and that isn’t even counting the furniture….oh yeah, like I could get rid of that? I am the proud owner of all of this–even the braziers! It is safe to say that this is a problem for me and now it will be a problem for my children someday! Oh my.

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