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Gather or scatter?

I grew up in a long line of people who felt they needed to save things. I’m fairly sure the concept of saving was created by my grandparents, who survived the Great Depression along with many of you and your ancestors. It affected many folks in many ways. For us, it meant we would never run short of anything ever again.

That’s right ... my grandparents gathered things they might need if ever the Great Depression repeated itself. What that means is that we usually had at least two of everything — often even more than two. My mom, who was a child during those years, still abides by that practice. Never can she buy just one can of green beans or one box of elbow macaroni. After all ... you just never know ... which translates to the concept of buying one can of green beans for now and one for later — just in case.

OK ... let me set you straight right away. We are not hoarders. I’ve watched those hoarding shows too, and trust me, we’re not even close. But we are savers, gatherers. We gather things for safe-keeping ... for the unknown ... for a rainy day ... for tomorrow ... for whenever the world changes and we might not be able to have what we need. It’s ingrained in us.

As an adult, I’ve attempted to change my family’s gathering ways, and I have made strides in the right direction. I don’t gather food, though I did buy five, one-pound bags of Gevalia coffee the other day because it was on sale. I don’t gather clothes anymore. OK ... I still will buy shoes, purses and jackets only because I can’t resist something that catches my eye, but I’ll never be like my grandfather who died with about a dozen packages of unopened underwear and just as many new shirts, hankerchiefs and socks. And I’ve just about quit going to antique stores because I want to gather up all those pretty, old dishes and take them home with me — even though I have no room for one more pretty, old dish.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. At my age, it just doesn’t make sense to keep gathering things and tucking them away for that proverbial rainy day. That’s why one of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to stop gathering ... and start scattering.

That’s right. After the chaos in my life right now settles down, I’m going to start going through cupboards, cabinets, dresser drawers, closets, the plastic bins in the basement, the shelves in the study, the buffet in the dining room, the file cabinets in the studio, both garages ... you get the idea. I’m going to look at each piece and decide how much I really want it and then either put it back or start scattering each item to other people, The Closet, Goodwill or the dreaded garage sale box.

I’m actually kind of excited about the process. I think it will be a real eye-opener, and something about the idea of going through life lighter is very appealing. That’s right ... I’m going to scatter some of my stuff away, and I’m perfectly OK with the concept.

Now my family would say: “That’s just crazy talk, Terri. You never know what catastrophe is lurking around the corner. Better hold on to some of that stuff.”

But I’m through with that kind of thinking. If the Great Depression No. 2 hits tomorrow and I’ve scattered all my things away, I’ll have to just figure it out.

And here’s something else I’m hoping this exercise will teach me too. While I’m scattering things here and there, I also plan on scattering quite a few other things too — like seeds of kindness, generosity, love and concern. I have to believe if I travel through life a little lighter, I’ll have more of an opportunity to focus on what’s really important ... OK, I might have to buy a new purse now and then, but then I’m drawing the line.

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com.

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