An item saved is an item you might one day need

Published 11:20 am Friday, April 27, 2018

Finding television programs that are worth watching gets more difficult as time passes. A remote control device almost becomes an extension of the right hand. At odd intervals, however, an interesting show pops up.

Recently as I was swimming the channels, a production caught my eye. The piece was all about a lady who collected things. Not particular things — just THINGS.

Her house was piled up with only a little path to go from her recliner to the kitchen to the bathroom. Much of what smothered her space were bags of stuff she had bought or picked up at garage sales still in the bags they came home in. When asked what she was saving it for, her answer was that someday she might need it.

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The judgment that she had a mental problem was flashing in my brain when a surprise twist happened. As the interviewer passed down the hall, she went by a large mirror — and I saw my face in it! Yes, I was right there in the hoarder’s hallway!

Yes, I’m guilty, conditioned to get and keep things I have no use for. My malady was inherited, which should get me some defense. You see, my mother saved stuff.

She came of age during the Depression of the 1930s, a time of scarcity of many things a family needed.

Each year at Christmas time, dad brought out boxes of tangled light cords with colored bulbs screwed into little sockets. He spent hours untangling the wires and checking the bulbs to see which still worked and which didn’t. And after Christmas, my mother would very carefully flatten out the sheets of wrapping paper that weren’t torn and put it safely in a closet to be used next Christmas. After trips to the grocery store, our family refolded brown paper bags just in case we needed bags. I believe watching that saving (hoarding) ingrained in me a compulsion to save stuff.

Right now, there are several Amazon shipping boxes in my workshop. It well may be that I need one next week — even though I can’t see that far ahead to even know that I’ll be mailing anything.

In the kitchen is a drawer identical to one my folks had full of things — odd screws, washers, screwdrivers, pieces of coiled wire, light switches. My drawer offers great opportunity to get a finger cut from razor blades that may be lurking in there.

My most intense hoarding treasures are the stacks of books around the house.

Once upon a time, books were a major component of my life and career. I used them on the job. As later editions of texts appeared, previous ones were stuck on a shelf as I never knew which marginal notes might need to be transferred. On trips, I tended to ferret out bookstores and look for useful or interesting tomes. I still have a book about the Principality of Swat, which I Iuckily found in a store in San Antonio, Texas, just at the time I was considering accepting a Fullbright to that little kingdom.

Yes, that book fetish still affects me. Books seem to follow me home, even though my brain warns me that it will never be read. Right now six books are near my recliner, the first chapter of each has been read and bookmarked. And two bird books are on order, no doubt destined to join the other dozen or so books about birds that I hardly ever touch and certainly don’t understand. My last one, forced on me by a friend, is a huge volume by the Audubon Society. That one is almost too heavy to lift!

So, before you scoff at the sad folks on the Hoarders tv show, look in your own mirror and see whether you are one of them.

I must go now. On my way to the county library to donate some books for their resale tables. And who knows what treasures I might find for $1?

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.