Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Am I a Hoarder? defines hoard as

2. (v):to accumulate for preservation, future use, etc., in a hidden or carefully guarded place:; as, to hoard food during a shortage

Clearly, the negative connotation attached to the term "hoarder" is not inherent in the definition, but is a more of a cultural judgment in a time of plenty and/or excess.

According to the strict definition, I am, in fact, a hoarder.  But most of my hoarded goods are hidden, or more likely stored, unlike some of those poor folks on the reality show who cannot walk through their own home.

Although I don't watch the show, I've see enough footage in the commercials to get a feel for the level of hoarding necessary to be a candidate for that show.  I'm not there, not even close.  But I've been wondering if I'm more of a hoarder than I need to be.  Because clearly my friends and neighbors don't reuse or save some of the things that I do.  I know, because if I see something I like in their trash, I ask for it.  Creepy, huh?

Today I will probably solidify my status as a slightly addled girl fast on my way to becoming a very addled old lady.

You see, I mentioned in a blog that I am a "waste not, want not" type of person, which resulted in a few questions about that term, and at least one outright challenge to prove it.  So today I commit myself to making a list of the things I save, reuse, up-cycle, re-purpose and otherwise don't waste.  Prepare to be puzzled, amused and possibly horrified.

1.  Plastic and metal canisters.  If you received Christmas candy from me, you already know about this one.  When my children were younger, we'd use these (or oatmeal containers, or coffee cans) for craft projects.  Lots of family members received adorably decorated pencil cups which I am sure they are still using to this day - made with love by the Arnett girls.  I can't in good conscience throw out powdered drink containers that I use at the rate of 1 per week, so I began saving them.  Eric started threatening to throw them out, (the boat was just sitting there empty at the time - geez) I had to find a new place to collect them.  Anyway, I spent one tedious November afternoon covering 35 of them in wrapping paper so that they would make suitable candy gift holders.  Add homemade candy and voila! instant Christmas present.  I never wanted to compare the cost of making homemade candy and decorating cans to the cost of buying a similar (nicer) product at a store.  That would mean computing my labor cost, which would be too depressing. 

2.  Zippered plastic bags.  Please, please, please someone -  tell me I'm not alone!  I wash and reuse the gallon and quart sized bags, unless they contained raw meat or something that went nasty on me.  I've endured lectures and ridicule from people who've seen them in my dish drying rack.  The unit cost of those handy bags is too high to just toss them, after holding nothing more sinister than Oreos.

3.  Plastic water bottles.  See explanation above, with similar caveats and not shared outside the family germ pool.

Since it is quickly becoming a time-sucking chore to find nice pictures of the trash I save, I'll just finish this out in list form:

4.  Miscellaneous fasteners and clips.  
5.  Slightly used pieces of aluminum foil.
6.  Cardboard and corrugated boxes.
7.  Nylon strapping.
8.  Sturdy paper and plastic shopping bags.
9.  Miscellaneous office supplies.  
10. Envelopes, bubble wrap, twist ties, rubber bands.
11. Lightly used tissue and wrapping paper and gift bags.
12. Zippered bags that linens, bedding, drapes and tablecloths       are sold in.
13. Cut glass decanters and jars.
14. Scrap fabric, ribbon and sewing notions.
15. Coffee grounds.

I always thought I was being a good steward of the Earth, recycling and upcycling my stuff.  I've been deeply influenced by relatives and friends who were reared during the Great Depression, many of whom have passed on their values as well as their reuse ideas to me.  It would be an insult to my beloved grandmother's memory to throw out an empty Tic-Tac container - they are so convenient for storing excess needles and straight pins!  Paper towel tubes protect artwork that my daughter Mary cannot bear to part with, but I don't wish to frame.  Ribbon and lace scraps make any shabbily wrapped gift look instantly less shabby - let someone else experience a guilt trip after throwing away perfectly good ribbon!

I knew my penchant for reusing had possibly reached the level of unreasonable when we had a plumbing disaster here last fall.  

I dumped some leftover pasta down the garbage disposal and ended up with the clog to end all clogs (warning: root word for pasta means "paste.")  Naturally, Eric was out of town, so after a day of trying all the physical, chemical, mechanical and mystical unclogging strategies the Internet has to offer, I accepted help from a neighbor and her husband.

Tom approached my problem as men are wont to do: he used large tools to make loud noises.  When that didn't work, he started taking things apart.  Gravity being the prevailing physical principle at work, the clog and all the water behind it began rushing toward the center of the earth, first stopping beneath my sink.  There was a bucket nearby, but not close enough, and a goodly quantity of indescribable sludge with chunks of pasta primavera drained onto the cabinet floor before we got the bucket in place.

It was a mess, and cleanup was a pain, but the telling moment came later, when I discovered the only item touched by the foul spillage was an unused strip of twist-ties.  I was halfway done wiping them off with a paper towel laced with hand sanitizer before I realized the utter madness of my actions.

I was trying to rescue twist-ties.  They are a cheap, useful, easily-replaceable commodity, and I was trying to wash and sanitize them!  Perhaps I was going a tad overboard?

Well, I threw out the nasty twist-ties, but I haven't exactly changed my hoarding ways.  In the full throes of cleaning and organizing during school spring break, I kept scouting around for new and better uses for all the empty cardboard shoeboxes I've amassed.  They seem too useful for the recycle bin just yet.

And I got to wondering if other people have as much trouble throwing things out as I do.  I confess, I've never watched the reality show about hoarders.  It's not because I'm afraid I'll see myself in some of those pitiful, ill individuals, but because I'm afraid I'll become inspired by their hoards!  Do any of those sickos ever seem to be onto a good idea?

Which leads me to my newest repurposing venture:  wire clothes hangers.  Some folks hate them, but I dislike the plastic ones, because they are breakable.  If a kid needs something off a hanger, the item gets jerked off the hanger, right?  No child in this house has ever removed the hanger from the closet rod, then removed the garment from the hanger.  It's just too exhausting.  So I'm constantly finding hangers with the top snapped off, or the cross piece broken when a pair of pants got yanked a little too hard.

Why buy more hangers when I have millions of the wire type laying around?  What to do, what to do?

Using a bunch of leftover potholder loops that never got as far as the loom, I make long fabric chains that I wrap around wire hangers to make them cushioned and secure for almost any garment.  They are colorful and tacky and I'm addicted to the process of making them, attractive or not.  I'm looking for a suitably wretched craft fair to try my hand at selling these poor, sad inventions of mine.  My grandmother (and many others) used yarn to knit or crochet hanger covers, but I've yet to master those needle arts, so mine aren't as pretty as some you'll see.

Here's a look at a few of my masterpieces:

Clearly, I have more time on my hands than talent or taste, but hey, I'm saving the planet, right?

If you want a case or two for your home, shoot me an email and we'll cut a deal.

And if no one is interested, well, you can guess what I'll be giving out this Christmas!

Monday, April 18, 2011

10 Reasons I should not Complain that it is Snowing on April 18th

1.  Snow.  What's 1 - 4" compared to this?

2. Heat.  Summer barely lasts three months here.  I need to remember these people in Calcutta.  They are sleeping outside and the heat has caused long-term power outages.

3. Drought.   I have never in my life missed a single meal because of conditions like this:

4.  Wind.  I love that it is breezy in northern Indiana.  I'm thankful I have not personally had to deal with this scene:

5.  Tornado.  I have frequent nightmares about tornadoes, thanks to "The Wizard of Oz" and living in "tornado alley," but it's never been my lot to see one out my window, thank God.

6.  Flood.  Flooding is common enough in the Midwest, but I've never been affected by one like this family:

7.  Tsunami.  Despite numerous trips to many beaches, I've fortunately never seen a sight like this:

8.  Fire.  I've never been inconvenienced for one minute due to a frightening scene like this one:
9,  Pestilence.I've spent a small fortune bug-proofing my home and yard, and spray chemicals on my body to prevent insect bites.  This poor guy isn't as lucky as me:

10.  Famine. Even more ungrateful than my complaining about the weather is when I say, "I'm hungry."  What do I know of hunger?

I'm as protected from the natural processes of the Earth as any human being can ever hope to be.

This exercise cured me of my Monday morning moaning.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Atlas Shrugged; Eric Merely Stomped His Mighty Foot

When the mythical Atlas found the burden of carrying this heavy planet and all its thankless, lazy inhabitants to be too great, he gave Earth the old heave-ho.   And who can blame him?  His brother Prometheus was off playing with fire, and we all know what the rest of the Greek gods were usually up to - why did Atlas have to work so hard for no thanks?  (Obviously, he'd never hung out with a group of stay-at-home mothers, or he'd have been informed that the lowly Earth woman transformed her "unthanked" status to martyrdom in a few short decades.)

The timeless symbol of Atlas carrying his spherical burden was adopted by the author/philosopher Ayn Rand to symbolize the silent struggles of the producers and creators in society, the people who carry the slackers, suckers, users, takers and various other lazy types on the back of their productive efforts.  She named this magnum opus of her philosophical vision Atlas Shrugged.  For most readers, it is either a life-changing piece of work or the worst book you've ever not finished.  I fall into the first category.

My aunt Jan recommended I read Ayn Rand's works of fiction in the order they were written, so I did.  I liked Anthem, loved The Fountainhead, and became inspired by Atlas Shrugged.  Her work informed many of the opinions I hold today, and in the 30 years since reading them, I've never seen a time when her predictions and observations were more relevant.  I re-read Atlas Shrugged last summer, mostly to make sure that I wasn't just imagining all the political and cultural similarities between her dystopic story from the 1950s and my evening newscasts.  I wasn't.  She was spot-on with her predictions.

Talk of a movie has been bantered about at least since I read the book in the early 1980s.  I gave up on seeing it actually happen long ago.  When The Brangelina were discussed as leads and producers, I figured I'd never be willing to see it, even if it did get made.  (That casting was all wrong, IMHO.)

 But lo and behold, in February the announcement came that the film (without Brad and Ang) had not only been made, but was being done in three parts, with part one premiering on "Tax Day" of this year - April 15th.  (Read all about the amazing struggle to bring this story to the screen here.) However, because of limited studio backing and no big stars to drive publicity, the film was originally only slated to open in five cities.  One of those cities was Chicago, so back in February I informed Eric that I'd be driving there to see Atlas Shrugged on opening day.

Eric, who did read the book and takes an engineer's view that it says in 1000+ pages what he could have said in 150, was interested that a movie was on the way, but not ECSTATIC about it, like me.

"You can wait until it comes to South Bend," he blandly intoned, as he attentively watched what appeared to be miniature EKGs all over his laptop screen.

"You are joking, of course," I said, with a nervous giggle.  Surely he couldn't believe this was one of the rare occasions on which I'd accept "no" as an answer.

"No, I'm not joking," he dangerously responded.  "There's no reason you have to see it on opening day."

As if I needed a reason.

This very conversation occurred late last year as well, regarding another obscure movie I'd been waiting to see, called "The King's Speech."  It opened on December 10th, as I recall, in limited release.  I'd wanted to ride to Chicago for the opening, but Sargent. Moneypincher of the Delayed Gratification Police cleverly used my own profound lectures against me.  Because I'm not a small child, his words were infuriating, but since I've managed to teach our girls a few lessons in the wisdom of not spending money impulsively, I sucked it up and figured I could wait until after Christmas, at least.

But he should really, really know better than to mess with me where Colin is involved.

 I finally did get to see "The King's Speech" on January 21.  It still wasn't showing in South Bend at that time, but I was fortunately in another town (Podunk, Alabama), where it had been playing for several weeks.  Just to make sure I registered my displeasure, I saw it 3 more times once it finally premiered here in Bedrock (in February).  I made sure to splurge on large popcorn and all the trimmings at each visit.  I estimate I spent an extra $50 by not seeing it in Chicago opening weekend, so I made my point.  Or so I thought.

"You've waited 30 years to see Atlas Shrugged made into a movie, what's a couple more weeks?"

Now Eric is undoubtedly brilliant, but you'd have to agree, he's not too bright.  I immediately went into my special patented seething/pouty mode:
too tired to cook, forgetting his good shirts in the dryer for days, staying up late and falling asleep on furniture, loudly stumbling into bed at 3 am and greeting him with icy toes on the back of his shins.  I had 2 girls' nights out this week.  Just to make sure I was getting my point across, on Thursday, when he was expecting a nice, home-cooked meal, we had hot dogs.  When it comes to Eric, nothing says, "I don't give a rat's fanny what you eat," as well as hot dogs.  They are only loosely defined as "food" in his book, and he has yet to find a wine pairing that works.  If he was being forced to eat hot dogs, he knew he was fighting a losing battle.

I was granted his blessing to buy tickets online that very night, and all four of us are heading to Kalamazoo, Michigan to see the 2:55pm showing today.

I hate to have to resort to such underhanded schemes to get my way, but hey, "Who is John Galt?"

Link to the movie's homepage at .