When I’m stressed or angry I get moving. In the past when I couldn’t cope with a situation I would use my car as an escape. I have changed locations more times than I can count and family members complained that I took up too much space in their address books. Up and moving out of state isn’t as easy as it once was, as I’m in a committed relationship and my kids and grandson prefer to stay put. My outlet now is localized; I clean the house.
After a recent fight with my husband I couldn’t sleep. So from midnight till dawn I got down to organizing my stuff. In the old days it was in preparation to leave for good, now it’s just busy work. One of my daughters calls me a clutter freak. I don’t see myself that way at all. Sure, I collect stuff: containers that cottage cheese and coffee come in, Ziplock bags, even Styrofoam trays. Hey, you never know when they might be useful! I realized I may have gone overboard, however, as I stood facing over two dozen containers of stored water. I cannot bring myself to throw away Arrowhead water jugs or juice containers so I fill them with water and put them on a shelf. Or in empty cupboards. Or behind doors. I tell myself I’m being environmentally conscious. I do live in a drought-ridden state and my well may run dry. I think perhaps the behavior runs deeper than saving for another non-rainy day. I think it’s my grandmother’s doing.
My grandmother, born in 1912, mother to two stepchildren, 10 natural born, and foster mother to 4 (me included) was an obsessive recycler. I mean she saved and reused everything. She had to make, as she once said, “one potato feed all those kids!” Having lived through hard times made her a woman of means. One time we went to visit her and my husband whispered in shock, “what’s she gonna do with those dried up old chicken bones?” Maybe he was worried because we were just about to sit down to eat. I never did find out what she was saving the bones for, but then I’d given up questioning my grandmother long ago. Needless to say, she taught me some great stuff. Like how to make a great compost heap so my flowers and vegetables are exquisite. Or how to save the juice in a car battery by never using the radio (I’m sure modern day cars have come a long way since then, but old habits die hard). I can’t even throw away used tin foil. Like I said, old habits die hard. I actually feel guilty when I throw something away in the trash – the image of an earth overflowing with landfill debris gives me nightmares.
My grandmother died a decade ago but her ways and ideas still live on in me. Ingrained childhood teachings are hard to put aside, and frankly in this era of the Green Movement, I think I’m ahead of the game. Although I believe I can give my small house a bit more room and make it look a little more tidy if I can find the strength to temper my ways. So at 2:30 am I gathered all the filled containers with water. I opened the valves and let the water flow onto my thirsty garden and I placed the empties (I’m not saying it was easy) into the recycling bin. I ease my mind with the realization that I live in an urban center with a pretty good recycling program.
I vow to be more practical in my hoarding ways. I hope I succeed. At least I can reassure future visitors to my home that I promise never, ever to save and reuse dried up old chicken bones. That is, of course, unless I can find a need for them.