to keep

Posted on August 13th, 2009 by mountain girl  |  2 Comments »

I AM A PACK rat. A scrounging, hording, Templeton-like pack rat. I scavenge through curbside piles when junk day draws near. I have lovely ideas for everything I drag home (usually in the bottom of the stroller.) I can’t bear to see things wasted, and I almost can’t bear to waste a good deal. Sometimes, I confess, my collecting habits border on (eek) THEFT; enter Whole Foods bulk bins, salad bars, and sample trays. Hmmm…is it still considered sampling when your collective samples equal enough calories to count as lunch?  

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was of a boy who had to clean his very messy room. He had two big boxes: one he marked “To Throw Out” and the other “To Keep”. For each and every item that he started to throw away, he ended up coming up with a marvelously fantastical idea for its use, so that it would have been absurd for him to actually get rid of it. Needless to say, everything in the room ended up in the “To Keep” box. And it only made sense.

How could I have known that would become the story of my life?

My basement holds most of the things I’ve wanted to get rid of, but somehow rescued from my own trash can at the last minute.

Clothes that are too big might be priceless maternity clothes some day. Old magazines? Zia might become a collage artist, and how would I explain to her that I threw away all her potential subject matter? I just barely managed to get rid of a huge bag of newspapers that would have made tons of paper-mache sculptures, but only by dragging it to the curb minutes before the garage truck came by. I used the same trick to throw away the pile of nicely scraped and washed coconut shells that filled a shelf in my pantry…they would have made such nice bird feeders. Right now I have a growing collection of industrial-size cardboard toilet-paper tubes- because I’m sure there must be a good use for them somewhere in my life. And I’m quite sure there is- I just have yet to find it. (I don’t steal them from restrooms, by the way. We get toilet paper sometimes from our local food drop.)

So…all this to say I’ve come to the point where I’d like to NOT be a rat anymore, be it pack, or any other variety. (I hear you all cheering for me…thank you! I needed that.) But how to proceed? Should I join PackRats Anonymous? Should I get The Patch for packrats?

Well, I thought I’d ease into it fairly painlessly by getting rid of unfinished projects, since they constitute a fair amount of my clutter of possessions. And by “getting rid of them” I mean finishing them. The amount of work that will entail varies, since I have work at all stages of completion. Everything from blank canvasses still in cellophane to sculptures that just need a touch-up on their chipped paint or a final coat of gloss.

So the next few days will chronicle these projects, as I turn out a (hopefully) steady stream of finished pieces of art and miscellany to go find their place in the world. Or in my basement.

2 Responses to “to keep”

  1. Tracy Martin says on :

    Hi Mia,
    I wanted to applause you for being green. Yeah, there is a fine line between being a pack rat and being efficient, but it this day and age everyone throws out everything. I was smiling while reading your blog because I probably have about 20 cardboard toilet rolls waiting to be used for something grand….perhaps binocculars or megaphone? And we just finished a coconut and i was studying the shell, thinking this is really great, I wonder what I could use this for. Anyhow, we have a trash to treasures column in the newspaper and I am sure you probably do to, maybe a teacher somewhere is hoping some one like you has what she is looking for?

  2. mountain girl says on :

    Hey Tracy,

    It’s great to hear there is a kindred spirit out there! I do love taking “worthless” things destined for the trash and making them beautiful, or at least useful! My next objective is to quit buying (so many) new art materials and begin using found objects in their place.

    I am also loving Keri Smith’s blog: http://www.kerismith.com/blog/. A bit on the wild side, but very refreshing and idea-provoking! I haven’t read her books, but the reviews I’ve read of How to be an Explorer of the World make it sound like something the boys (and Alyssa) might find interesting.

    Good to hear from you- we think of you guys often!

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