I did something the other night that I've done only three times before in my life, mainly because I have a phobia associated with it.
I’m talking about cleaning out the junk drawer (also known as the catch-all drawer) in the kitchen.
My phobia stems from the fact that during my past junk-drawer explorations, I have found some pretty frightening things, like the sticky lint-roller that had so many paper scraps, threads, thumbtacks, pieces of wire and buttons adhered to it, it resembled some sort of Medieval torture device.
This time, however, the drawer was more puzzling than frightening. Too often, I found myself scratching my head and muttering, “What the heck is this?” or “Why on earth did I keep this?”
For example, I found a loose CD that had so many scratches on it, it looked as if a cat had attacked it. And when I put it into my CD player so I could hear what was on it, it skipped so much, it sounded like the guy who was singing was being jabbed with a cattle prod.
I also found a key ring with about 10 keys on it. I knew in an instant they weren’t my keys because I never use key rings. I keep my keys loose so I can shove them into my pocket, my change purse, even into my shoe…which probably is why I lose about 200 keys a year. I’ve had so many replacement keys made, the minute the guys at the local hardware store see me walk in, they head straight for the key-making machine.
Then there were four pairs of eyeglasses in such hideous styles, I couldn’t believe I ever wore them. One pair had bright-pink tinted lenses that were so huge, when I tried them on, the only thing that showed was my chin. Another pair looked like something Granny Clampett wore on The Beverly Hillbillies.
I leafed through a stack of coupons that were so old, they included 25 cents off a typewriter ribbon and 50 cents off Purina cat chow. The last time I owned a cat, I was wearing a mini skirt and go-go boots.
There was a tube of cement that had leaked and was permanently attached to a deck of playing cards that had pictures of U.S. presidents on the backs. But it really didn’t matter because there were only 44 cards in the deck anyway.
I found countless doodads and doohickeys my husband had put in there at some point. He had a habit of ordering every tool and gadget advertised on TV. Then when one would arrive, he’d put it away and say, “This will come in handy someday.” But “someday” never arrived for the majority of his stuff.
I guess that’s because there never arose an occasion when he needed a hammer onto which nails magnetically attached themselves, or a battery-operated laser tool that projected a straight line on the wall for accurate picture hanging.
I remember the time I wanted to toss out a package of house fuses I found in the drawer. I made the mistake of asking my husband if it was okay.
Had I told him I’d just found a stack of 100-dollar bills I wanted to shove into the paper shredder, he couldn’t have looked more appalled (note: if I ever really did find a stack of 100-dollar bills in a drawer, it would mean I was in someone else’s house).
“No! Don’t throw out those fuses!” he’d said. “You never know when they might come in handy!”
“But we haven’t used fuses since back in the 1970s when we lived in the mobile home! And we have circuit breakers now.”
“They’re still brand new and in the package,” he’d argued. “You should never toss out anything that’s new, no matter what it is.”
“Then I should keep this still-sealed pack of cigarettes I found tucked in the back of the drawer?” I asked.
My husband had quit smoking about 10 years earlier.
“Darn!” I heard him mutter under his breath. “So that’s where I hid them!”
But with the most recent cleaning of the junk drawer, I felt less obligated to keep things, even if they were new, now that my husband is gone. So I tossed out an assortment of door hinges, screws, nuts, bolts and cabinet pulls.
With my luck, one day something in the house will break down and the repairman will say, “You’re out of luck. It needs a Rickenhoffer size .01 screw that isn’t made any more – so you’re going to have to buy a whole new (insert any expensive appliance here).”
And the screw will just happen to be one of the ones I just trashed.
I have to confess I also found a few TV-advertised gadgets I’d thought were must-haves back when I bought them, like the plastic bottle-tops that snapped onto soda cans, so you could turn soda cans into bottles and thus, screw a cap onto them to prevent de-fizzing.
The only problem with them, I discovered, was you first had to open the can before snapping the bottle top onto it. Otherwise, once the top was in place, you’d have no way to open the can. So I opened the can and then tried to snap the bottle top onto it, which, I soon discovered, took near-Herculean strength. I ended up squeezing the can too hard and causing a geyser of soda to spew into the air.
Which explains why the drawer has five of the six bottle toppers still in their package stuffed in there.
I did manage to get rid of quite a bit of clutter in the drawer, so I feel better about it now. Although, there probably still are a few things in there I should have tossed out.
But heck, I never know when I might need a dozen dried-up rubber gaskets or a headband that has a peace symbol and, “Make love, not war!” on it.
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