Waste not, want not. What piles of rubbish have accumulated under this imperative. The pencil stub in the catch-all drawer still has a few good sentences left in it—or at the very least could manage a grocery list. And perhaps the day will arrive when that stub will be the only pencil in the house. Better keep it!
Ah, those basement shelves, piled so high with items deemed usable or re-giftable that removing one is a fifteen-minute project, lest they all fall into and between and around the collection of cardboard boxes waiting to be needed.
Two newspapers a day are delivered to our front door. Each rolled-up paper is secured with a rubber band, and sometimes two. Do you have any idea how quickly the house supply of rubber bands surpasses the demand? I hang them on two S-hooks in the kitchen, where they are handy for affixing labels to jars—very important in our house. But it doesn't take long before the rubber bands are spilling off the hooks, at which point I remove all but a few from each hook and give them to my husband. I don't want to know where he puts them. There is probably a box in the basement chock-full of deteriorating rubber bands.
I don't know what today's rubber bands are made of. I suspect it isn't rubber. Nor do I know what they were made of when I was a girl—still probably not rubber, since rubber was a military priority during WWII and civilians were denied rubber products in order that jeeps could have tires.
At any rate, whatever they are made of now, rubber bands don't last very long. They deteriorate quickly in the heat of my kitchen. The ones that wrap around a Mason jar and hold a card saying "millet flour" or "baking powder, homemade"—these mutate in mere weeks from springy rubber bands to crumbly pebbly strings that snap, letting the cards fall onto the floor or among the other bottles and jars arrayed on the shelves. If I am lucky, the card stays near its jar and I can re-attach it with a fresh rubber band. If I'm not lucky, I end up with an unlabeled jar with a sticky, unresilient rubber band hanging from the side like an expiring worm—and me with no idea what is in the jar.
What's the answer? We have to save the rubber bands, of course. We are Mr. and Mrs. Thrifty. And having saved them, we are obligated to use them.
Another aspect of the rubber band problem is land-fill. I have read that animals (sea gulls, for example) are attracted to the bright colours of rubber bands and eat them, leading to terrible problems when the rubber band twists around their intestinal parts and kill the bird. So when I throw away a rubber band I cut it into several pieces; at least it is no longer a circle, but I don't know whether that alleviates the effect it has on a bird's stomach. I'm not even sure that land-fills openly display rubber bands these days.
Rubber bands are small. Fabric and yarn take up a lot more space. I stopped buying fabric fifteen years ago, and I have sorted and purged several times, sending some very nice lengths to the annual fabric sale held by the Museum for Textiles. But I still have fabric. Of the ten drawers in my white-vinyl-coated steel mesh storage unit, seven hold fabric. One length, a jade green wool flannel, I bought to make a long, unstructured jacket for my sister Sari. She died five years ago, and I had had the fabric for at least five years before that—and never made the jacket. This year I was imagining making a skirt for myself. Perhaps I will. Some day.
But that jade wool is only one piece. In addition to the numerous three-yard lengths in the drawers, which are at least usable for a prospective (imagined) garment, I have scores of one-yard pieces, and additional scores of pieces smaller than that. These would be usable only if joined with something else—for example, if I were to make a patchwork or appliquéd quilt. I suppose I could make a series of tote bags, but I already have too many of those, or I could make every scrap of fabric into gift bags.
That will probably be the fate of most of them. Yes, there is a limit to the number of gift bags I need to have on hand (and the basement wrapping area is already overflowing with gift bags from the past—because the whole point of them is that they are re-usable). The trick to getting rid of fabric through gift bags is to make up a collection of bags in various sizes and coordinating colours. You then package them, neatly ironed and folded, into their own gift bag and give them away. Each recipient then gets not just one but half a dozen gift bags as the actual gift. What they do with them becomes their problem, not yours.
Did I mention the yarn? The two toy-chest-sized plastic tubs of yarn? Do I knit any longer? No. Each fall the urge will take me to knit scarves, and I usually manage to finish three or four before I am totally bored. At that rate of usage, I have enough yarn to last until 2050, and it's pretty doubtful that I will be around at that time, with or without knitting needles in my hands.
I'm trying to imagine what else is causing the walls of our house to bulge. So many items, so much stuff. I'd like to say that this year, for sure, I'll start working on it seriously. But then I think of a different project that would be a lot more fun than sorting junk. So maybe next year.