Today is a refrigerator triage day. Everything must come out and justify its existence to me or out it goes. This is the only area where I seem to manifest a hoarding behavior. I tend to see left-overs as a potential soup, quiche, or casserole ingredient and thus I have congestion in the fridge. I know a lot of people these days throw out leftovers, but I come from a time and a place where frugality was necessary. It is also the sign of a creative cook to know how to incorporate these ingredients into a delicious second life.
I have stuff in the fridge that I have kept for the same reasons other people keep non-food stuff. For instance, I have two quart jars of homemade pickles given by a friend who preserves garden produce. I need that space and I know it would take my husband and me three years to use up those two quarts, so out they go. But maybe first I’ll save some of it in smaller jars. My thrift sense kicks in along with an appreciation of the friendship.
Another reason I have kept some of the items is I paid good money for them. I sometimes see an interesting recipe online and bookmark it, but I lack an ingredient or two so I add them to my shopping list and purchase them. The trouble is, my memory doesn’t retain the purpose of the product so I end up with mystery ingredients. I need a system to link food purchases with the recipe they are intended for.
My memory behaves a lot like a Magic 8 Ball
these days. My thoughts stay on the surface of my mind briefly and then retreat into the background and are difficult to summon again. This is common with aging, but it is something to be fought. There is too much at stake. I look for ways to adapt and compensate for memory loss. I have developed some systems for keeping track of paperwork, things, and time. They all involve the same items:
- a calendar
- a tickler file
- file folders labeled with the months of the year
The calendar represents the present, orienting me in time. The tickler file represents the future, helping me keep track of upcoming events and needed actions. The labeled monthly file folders keep track of the recent past…here is where I find proof of a paid bill or correspondence.
In terms of keeping stuff, are you more like a conduit or a cesspool? Can good things flow into your life, stay for a while, then pass on?
When I was a child of 11 in the 1950’s, I was very impressed by a woman named Muriel. She lived in the same new housing development as my family on Cape Cod. She was a retired showgirl and her husband was in the merchant marine. She was flamboyant and enjoyed the good things of life. She had lots of material possessions. She enjoyed them for a while and then she would come knocking on our door with her arms full of things she wanted to pass on. She had taken a shine to my mother. This was our first new home. We had always rented but now we were owners. We had very few possessions to furnish our home but, thanks to Muriel, we soon had draperies and knick-knacks that we could only have dreamed of. The most amazing thing about Muriel was she had no sense of scarcity. She was abundant in every sense of the word.
Looking back over my life, I see that I too, live with that sense of abundance. This does not in any way resemble wastefulness, but is a sense of holding things lightly, of detachment. I have many items of sentimental value that I will keep as long as I am able, but my identity is not wrapped up in the things I possess. I have what I call a “conduit mentality” about keeping stuff. For every new, trivial item I purchase I discard a similar item. For instance, after a small kitchen renovation, I purchased some newer, small kitchen items. Instead of adding them to the collection of what I already had, I gathered up several older items and set them aside to go out as donations to GoodWill or to a more local “swap-shop” at the recycling center.
I’m the same way with my books. I recently purchased some books to help me learn Windows 10, so an equal number of “how-to” books on previous versions of Windows are set aside to be given away. I chose to donate rather than sell these items because it is part of my life as a conduit.
However, most of the people I work with in downsizing or organizing have great difficulty giving things up. They are older people with a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff. There are many reasons for hanging on to everything, from sentimentality to fear of making a wrong decision. But mostly they are unable to think of being a conduit for the many good things and blessings that have come into their lives.