Hello, my name is Woodie Anderson and I’m a hoarder.
The good news? I’m not living, unkempt, in a collapsing tunnel of National Geographic magazines, empty shampoo bottles and uneaten girl scout cookies. It’s not an HAZMAT situation.
The bad news? I think this tendency might be hard-coded into my DNA or something. It’s not like I haven’t learned these lessons before. Still, I have to keep telling myself over and over: use the good linen. Use the “good silver”. Enjoy it while you got it, girl!
Maybe it’s because saving the best for a special occasion was a big part of my past. When you don’t have much, you make do with what you’ve got. You find new, inventive uses for things. And, you save the best of what you do have for those emergencies you know are coming.
When you’re 8, you save the new wrapping paper for the times when using the funny papers or the recycled wrapping paper, with its “invisible” tape and map-like creases, would be too embarrassing.
When you’re 13, you save that tiny sample test tube of White Shoulders perfume for that special date (that never happens, but that’s another story) until one day, when you’re pawing over your jewelry box full of special things, you notice the tube is empty. It’s gone. Evaporated!
When you’re 11, you save up all your paint-by-number paint so you can paint one big, awesome painting once you have enough collected, only to find bugs have eaten it all, right out of the sealed plastic cases! Bugs eat paint? Yes, they do, and it broke my little, 11-year-old-heart.
The lesson of using what you got and enjoying it now: it can be a hard lesson to learn, and I’ve learned it many times, my friend. The most emotional scarring (if I may a little dramatic here, and I may!) episode involved my “Little House on the Prairie” dress. Any girl who was as obsessed with the life of Laura Ingles Wilder, can relate to hope, the fervent wish, for a prairie dress, just like Laura’s. I had the cotton bonnet. I had the ribbons and the braided pigtails. I longed for a dress to complete my covered-wagon fantasy.
When mom finally made me “the” dress, it was perfect. The sweetest calico pattern with tiny white flowers on a rusty-brown field. Pointed yolk at the waist. Flared skirt with three ruffled tiers. Sleeves that fell perfectly, lady-like, just below the elbow and puffed at the shoulder. How I loved that dress. How beautiful and adventure-ready I felt when I had it on. I lived in fear that I would ruin my one, perfect dress, so I kept it in a place of honor in my dresser and wore it only on special occasions.
I bet you know what’s coming next. Can you say growth spurt?
The dreaded day-of-hand-me-downs arrived. I tried on my dress to prove it still fit. It didn’t. I can still remember looking down at my bulging forearms, straining the delicate calico. I looked like a demented, nine-year-old, cowgirl version of the Incredible Hulk. I was forced to hand over my perfect, little brown dress to my delighted little sister, next in line, who wore the thing plumb out. She wore it morning, noon and night. I have a photo of her from back then somewhere, dashing about our front yard wearing my precious dress paired with striped tube socks and tennis shoes. Lesson learned. Again.
A few weeks back, I’d been spending my mornings looking over the “life list” I’d started and abandoned almost a year ago. I decided to add to my list and make it public, as a form of commitment to myself and so I could share it with friends and family.
Each day, as I went about my errands, I mulled over the old list, adding things to it, making grand plans. During this time, while sorting though closets (also on my life list) I happened on some vintage napkins in a stack of thrift-store finds. Printed with strange little orange owls, their quirkiness delighted me. I’d had them for several years, tucked away, thinking I’d screen print on them, incorporating them into an art project of some kind. But every time I went searching though my art supplies and found them, I always rejected the notion of using them for a project.
This project, they didn’t make sense for.
That one wasn’t special enough to merit using them.
Here we are, years later. This time, as I fingered the fabric, I imagined their little owl faces peering up from a dining room place setting and felt a big smile on my face. These little feathered friends belong on my table, cheering me up every day. So, now, they nest in the linen drawer, not the storage closet, and I set the table with them whenever I need little a pick-me-up. They are glad to oblige.
Oh, yes, I know the perils of hoarding, but for me the struggle is still there. There’s something to be said for special occasions and the festive feeling you get when you unpack those objects you only see once or twice a year. I think those moments are special, too, and we can’t discount them. It’s a good feeling, when all the memories tied to that special, holiday object come flooding back. You don’t get that feeling if you touch that object every day. The newness and specialness is lost. But, let’s face it. Paper burns. Metal rusts. Fabric rots. Likes and interests, our friends, our lives all change.
Let’s resolve to use the “good silver” more often.
To me, that means: enjoy and celebrate the things and people you love RIGHT NOW. Find excuses to break out the “nice” plates. Use the crystal wine glasses for your orange juice, once in awhile. Pull out those funky, vintage owl napkins when you set the table tonight.
When I sit down to dinner and fold that colorful owl napkin into my lap I know who I’ll be thinking of. Those two little girls, way back when. The one who saved her dress for the special occasions really missed out on some quality romping. Lesson learned. Romp away.