Saturday, January 8, 2011

Do you hoard?

I'm not talking about the wackos on TV who haven't seen the color of their carpet in years. I'm talking about those of us who believe we aren't wackos but who, perhaps secretly or inadvertently, collect certain items compulsively. I'm willing to bet that we have seemingly legitimate reasons for having said items, or at least we did at one time, and they probably aren't causing too much clutter in our homes. If they were that cumbersome, we'd probably be smart enough to give them up, but since we have the space, why not keep a slew of whatever it is?

Mine? Pens.

It might have started in 5th grade. I remember having a variety of colorful markers, highlighters, and pens because my friends and I would doodle and write notes to each other, and having a unique writing utensil was cool. This continued into middle school, and by junior high I'd become accustomed to having a variety of ink each day.

I used my book bag as storage for all my pens. I understood that I certainly didn't need a dozen pens with me each day; I just chose to keep them with me anyway. I didn't have a desk to keep all my spares at home, so I just stuffed them all into my backpack. In high school, it seemed practical because our lockers were basically a waste of space (they were never anywhere close to where our classes were), so the extra pens just went with me, and I was never caught without an appropriate writing utensil. I developed habits based on this, such as using a different color of pen for each day in my notes, so (I told myself) it was easy to see where one day's notes ended and another began.

Now that I'm a teacher, the habit is still with me a little bit. (I tell myself) I always have to have about 4 pens that are not blue, black, or red (for grading papers) in my stash, but I of course need blue and black pens for regular writing. I also keep a couple pencils around. I'm better about not carrying them all with me, but I'd say that in my bag at any given time, I have at least 4 writing utensils plus a dry erase marker. Right now, as I sit at my desk typing, I count 10 "spares" in my holder. That comes to 14 in my regular rotation.

Sadly, though, there are more than 14 pens in my possession. I keep a few in a kitchen drawer--not sure how many, but they seem to multiply without my consent. I also have one in my sudoku book in the living room. Then I think I have 2 in my purse and at least one in my car. And I just looked in a container with some extra paper and cards and found 5 more plus a purple marker. When I travel, sometimes I put a pen in my suitcase.

Just like before, I am completely aware that I don't need all these utensils. If I used just a few of them at a time until they were no longer functional, the other ones would surely run dry before I had a chance to get to them. Yes, having a pen with me all the time is not a bad idea, but clearly I have a problem. I just wrote 5 paragraphs on pens.

My point! Right! I'm going to get rid of my pens. I don't know what to do with them, though. I would bring them to class with me and give them to students, but classes don't start until Jan. 31, and I'd like them gone right now. Any ideas?

I've tried getting rid of pens in the past, but I usually end up just replacing them. I'm pledging to not do that anymore. Pens are especially tempting because they're cheap and sold in multiples, but I must remind myself that quality is better than quantity. I look around my house, and I think I'm pretty good about not accumulating stuff, but this is my one thing. I want to let go of it. By Feb. 1, I pledge to cut the number of pens and pencils I have by half or more.

Now I ask you: Do you hoard anything? Is there something you keep around only because it's a habit or because it offers a sense of false security? Can you let it go?


Elly said...

We need some pens! :) We've seriously thrown out a ton of black Bic pens because they just don't work anymore.

I think I lean towards being an anti-hoarder. My granny and my mother both keep (or kept) EVERYTHING. For Granny, it was living though the Depression- you kept what you had because you didn't know when you would be able to buy something else. I think my mother just picked that up from her mother.

Maybe one thing I keep would be ribbons and bows and bags for gift wrapping. So far, they all stay within the confines of their designated storage spot. :)

Domestic Kate said...

Elly, if only I'd known before I left California! I could have brought you guys my spares. As for storage, that reminds me of someone's blog recently where s/he said that common plastic containers for storage are basically just our way of justifying keeping a bunch of stuff we don't need. We stash it "neatly" so we don't look like we have clutter. I find this interesting because Rich and I have tons of plastic containers for stuff that we rarely use. I wonder if we'd feel different about our stuff if we had to spread it out on the floor for a couple days.

David said...

You write extremely well. So well to the point that you got me attachted to your pen obsession within 5 paragraphs. Needless to say I was a little bit upset when you said you were getting rid of your pens!

Anyways there are many reasons I like this entry. It speaks volumes about us as people if we hold on to things even if it is just pens. Letting go can be difficult.

I'd have to say that I hoard lighters and candles. I'll lose a lighter and buy new ones then shortly after will find the lighter I lost. So they pile up. Within the last year I've had a growing affinity for candles. Even if they burn out I'll keep them around because they will remind me of that point in time when the candle was purchased.

Everything aside, do you have anything published? You should if you haven't already, but I'm sure you've heard that before.

Domestic Kate said...

Thank you, David, for you kind comments! I'm not published anywhere, although I'd like to be. I'm not sure that my blog-writing would be easy to publish, but I am working on getting into screenwriting. Let's hope my talents translate to the big screen :) As for your hoarding, at least you can say that your candles have meaning for you. If they're scented, then your connection to them is probably even stronger. One thing I've had to remind myself when it come to holding on to things is that the memory is still there. I can access it whenever I want to. Yes, our memories fade over time, and it's nice to have objects that remind us, but then I think maybe there's a reason I've forgotten. Maybe I've gotten all that I can from that experience, so it's time to let the past be.

rockygrace said...

You could leave your pens in a library. Or a laundromat.

I tend to hoard twist-ties. Because God forbid I run out. :)

Domestic Kate said...

The library is a good idea. Since I've been out of town for a long time, by the time I get back, the semester will be near, and I might just give them to my students after all. The twist-tie thing is interesting. They do come in handy, but I always end up with far more than I'll ever need.

Domestic Kate said...

A quick follow-up. I've sorted my pens and have a cluster of 18 pens to get rid of in an appropriate setting. The pens that I have sprinkled around my life (purse, multi-purpose drawer, car, etc.) will stay, but now my stash is down to: 3 colored pens for grading, 3 pencils, and 3 black pens. I didn't plan the 3 thing, but maybe that's a good rule to abide.

c.a.b. said...

I have the same love for colorful pens and thin markers. Even now, I get so excited about buying them, and as much as I try to keep them in one place, I end up misplacing half of them. But when I do find them again, it's like finding money in a pair of jeans. I just love the colors.

Domestic Kate said...

c., I'm not surprised that you love pens too :-) It just might be dangerous putting the two of us in a room together for very long.

Update: I didn't get rid of my excess pens by Feb. 1, but I did get rid of them on Feb. 3. It's a relief.