Do you ever worry that after you die, your children and grandchildren will go snooping through your home, searching for heirlooms and other valuables? They’ll open a closet and be knocked to the ground by all the junk you’ve collected over the years. Then they’ll realize that, just as they’d suspected all along, you really were quite unstable and they should probably go ahead and contest your will. You don’t worry about that? Well, I do, and for good reason.
People looking through my home now think I’m unstable. Recently a friend reached into my kitchen cupboard for a glass and burst out laughing. “I didn’t know you were a collector!”
I am not! The way I see it, there are collectors and there are disposers. Collectors spend their lives gathering items for their estate sale. Disposers spend their lives giving stuff away, often to collectors. Usually they marry each other.
I fancy myself more of a disposer. Maybe when I’m retired, I’ll wish I had a spoon collection to polish, but right now I’d like to downsize.
Still, even as I denied it, I realized that not only am I a collector, I’m, the worst kind of collector: the accidental kind. A failed disposer. Real collectors are driven by interest in the objects of their collections. Most of what I’ve collected has come to me the way tumbleweeds gather on a chain link fence and litter collects in a road ditch.
I certainly didn’t set out to collect drinkware. And yet, along with my set of ordinary drinking glasses, I have a fancy set I never use and a dozen canning jars I do use, but not for canning. I also have a dozen plastic cups from convenience stores all over the state. I love that they can be refilled and I’d love it more if I remembered to take one with me when I go to a convenience store.
Rounding out my glass collection is the dozen or so beer glasses with logos from the establishments they came from. Apparently, paying more for a drink so you can keep the glass it came in is seen as a bargain by people who’ve been drinking. I’m not much of a drinker, but you wouldn’t know that from my collection.
Unfortunately, glasses are not the only thing that collects in our home. Some things I keep because I’m afraid my husband will catch me if I try to get rid of them. He buys a new baseball cap everywhere we travel, not because he collects them, but because he forgets to bring one with him when we leave home. He now has more caps than the American League.
Some things I keep because I might need them some day. I have a cupboard full of lids that don’t fit any of my bowls and bowls that don’t fit any of my lids. And I have a bag full of widowed socks, some whose partners were probably lost in our last home. I’m afraid if I toss any of them, their partners will show up shortly thereafter, having taken 19 years to walk the six blocks from our former home.
Some things I keep because I don’t even see them anymore. I rarely open my cupboard that contains cookbooks and coffee mugs. Anyone snooping through my house would wonder why I have so many cookbooks when I cook the same six meals over and over, and why I have stacks of mugs when I don’t drink coffee. I wonder too. I suppose the mugs will come in handy if I ever run out of glasses.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several books of humor including I Didn't Know You Could Make Birthday Cake From Scratch, Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest .)