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I’m keeping it for a Rainy Day

Are you the kind of person that never throws anything away?
I am trying not to to be a bit more selective, but I suspect – and a fair amount of scientific research supports it – that there is certainly something in my make up that insists that I should hoard things. Whether that is genetics or learned behaviour – or as with many things, both – is less interesting than the fact of it.
Sometimes I find it intriguing when the same thought turns up in different conversations over several days. Not the same conversation with different people you understand, but something that kind of joins up multiple conversations on that common theme.
Recently I had an empathic conversation with a fellow Wrest Park volunteer in which she was bemoaning the amount of stuff in her mother’s house. Her mother had cupboards and chests of drawers full of everything, clothes, kitchen and household items long replaced by something more modern and my personal favourite retained item – keys. Keys that you have no idea where they fit or if the lock they used to fit even exists. But you still keep them for some reason.
Maybe it is just me and her mother.
Anyway, the conversation reminded me so much of my own, terribly missed, mother. Mum was just like that. When she passed away, we tried to help my dad by going through the house and clearing out a lot of the less personal things. It was a bigger effort than we ever thought it would be. Not only was every major storage spaces stocked with anything you could imagine, she had collected every Christmas and birthday those big decorative biscuit or chocolate tins, and filled them with the detritus of the following year.
And then she would put them somewhere safe.
We are still finding them and my parental home is only a bungalow. Of course we, well, my dad, would talk to her about it and ask ‘do we really need to keep that?’ and the answer would indeed be (and I am sure you can see this coming) ‘well, it might come in useful, some day.’
Annoyingly for my dad, sometimes that would be proved true.
I have to say though that I suspect that many of the boxed items could never be found again even if they did ‘become useful’.
So where was the second link this week?
This week I took part in a surprisingly enjoyable session for work equating low grade bush craft skills with business in a wood in Hampshire (no one died and marshmallows were toasted which equates to one of the more pleasurable work experiences of the last 20 odd years).
One of the instructors was a charming chap who had a definite interest in pyromania (one many people seem to share, there is definitely fun to be had lighting fires using interesting techniques you’ve never thought of – batteries and wire wool was my personal revelation and I won’t look at Vaseline again without a certain degree of suspicion). But it was not so much the techniques for lighting the fire as much as the comment about how when people were living outside more – and being able to light your own fire was a life or death thing – how hoarding was much important.
In this specific context it was the need for dry kindling – stuff that was flammable and had a large surface area, such as bark and, oddly, Clematis seeds. Stuff that if I was living outdoors and saw them it would be to pick them up, whatever else I was doing and store them away, literally for a rainy day. So I could still get that fire going. Of course this applies to food as well but I had not thought about it in this context. Something my lovely wife has mentioned recently is that you should not go for walks in the autumn without a bag; to collect the blackberries, elderberries and sloes that are abundant and just waiting to be collected.
So I go back to my mother. Well, she had a box of buttons. Whenever some piece of clothing was thrown out, the buttons survived to go in the box. Did she use them? Yes. On numerous occasions as a kid lost buttons were replaced by the nearest alternative in the long plastic box that was the button storage facility.
So hoarding is a natural activity. In times of plenty, store stuff away. But – and as an inveterate hoarder myself (I assume now by both design and experience) – I am going to try and limit to it – mostly – to useful stuff and most importantly, make sure I can find it again when I need it.

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