Button, button, who’s got the…

As I was getting ready the other morning, I noticed a loose thread on the button of my blouse. I pulled it, and just as I realized the button was unraveling completely, it fell off into the sink and down the drain. Bye-bye button.

Sigh.

As it was the critical “bra-hiding” button, I had to do something and didn’t feel like changing. Time to dive into that stash of button packets I’d been saving. You know, the kind that come attached to new clothes? After some thought, I remembered where I had squirreled them away: in the small chest of drawers in the vestibule, along with more candles than I’ll likely burn in my lifetime, and a dozen or so extension cords and extra-plug thingees (really useful at Christmas!).

All I needed was a simple white button with 4 holes. What I found was a tinful of memories.

Oh, that beautiful gray sweater. A gift from my best friend from high school. I wore it to death. Loved it; loved her. (Thanks, Annie.)


And that green silk two-piece dress — so pretty. Gave up trying to fit into it and gave it away some years ago.


That navy blue button-down sweater with the crest and the fancy buttons — I wore that a lot! Very nautical.

Of course, for every button or bit of thread I could identify, there were a half-dozen I couldn’t. And after all that, I still didn’t find a perfect match for my simple white button. So an ivory one (from something 100% silk according to the tag) had to do. I’m sure no one will ever notice.

But if I ever find myself needing crochet hooks or the hard contact lenses that were my high school graduation gift that I only wore briefly Freshman year before getting a weird eye infection and giving them up — I now know where to go.

Clearly, I have a thing for buttons. I remember playing endlessly with the buttons my mother collected in a few jelly jars. She told me “they” (she, my grandmother, my aunts) used to cut the buttons off clothes before discarding them. Since I can’t imagine them ever throwing anything away, the clothes must have been threadbare and beyond salvage. It was these same jars of buttons I berated my brother for throwing away a couple years ago when we were cleaning out the “junk room” at my mother’s…the same jars I dug through piles of trash waiting on her porch for garbage day to rescue. Sure, I was afraid she might miss them — we never know what odd thing she’ll pick to fixate on — but part of me also wanted to “inherit” them someday. (Those same jars are still sitting in yet another junk room at my mother’s…it’s a sickness, no, this hoarding gene I fight and win, most times.)

I also snagged a large Necco Wafer jar of buttons my mother-in-law had slated for donation when she and my father-in-law downsized and moved a few years ago. That (no doubt highly collectible) jar is living between the armoire and radiator in the living room.

I did, however, sort through them and put aside some favorites for some still-undetermined future project — those buttons are living in the armoire. ūüôā

Seriously, though, clever people do such cute and creative things with buttons — embellishing sweet little pillows…dressing up lampshades…decorating picture frames. Someday I’ll do that too. Really.

In the meantime, if you feel like passing along any buttons you are physically able to live without, I’ll have a jar ready and waiting. And if you should need a button, you know who’s got it.

Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.
~ Austin O’Malley

More

Maybe you caught one of the shows Oprah has done on hoarding. Or maybe you’ve seen accounts on the news or in the paper of people who literally cannot open their doors or move about their houses because of the floor-to-ceiling stacks and piles of stuff — aka rubbish, trash, junk, garbage.¬†Some people even hoard animals — much to their detriment (the animals’ and the people’s).

Hoarding is considered a real malady related to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). And while researchers aren’t sure why people hoard, they think genetics and upbringing play a role, as they do in OCD.

Genetics and upbringing? In my family that means one thing: holy crap. 

While I don’t¬†think we actually qualify as psychologically disturbed (at least not when it comes to hoarding), we definitely have those tendencies in our genetics and upbringing, thanks to my mother’s side. We recently had to clean out one room in her house — a sunroom (what we always call the sunparlor) about 10′ by 16′. It took 4 of us about 3 days. For one room. Granted, it was a bad one — with only the smallest of spaces to stand amidst old furniture, magazines, scads of plastic take-out containers, books, games, bags of old drapes, a rolled up carpet, a 4¬Ĺ foot statue of Jesus (don’t ask), and more. It was a junk room gone mad. The house also has an absolutely¬†insane 3-room attic, a berserk cellar, and a few nutty bedrooms.

Our task this week is to take advantage of the dumpster on site for the construction project to transform said sunparlor into a bathroom and small bedroom and get rid of as much of this accumulated madness as we think we can get away with without my mother noticing. It won’t be easy — like all hoarders, she’s extremely attached to her things. But, regardless of mama’s wrath, go it must, and go it will. ¬†

I’m hoping to use the dumpster opportunity to get rid of some hoarded trash chez moi as well. (Nothing compels a woman to action quicker than the¬†thought she is¬†turning into her mother.) Unfortunately, I’ve married a hoarder (though he doesn’t think so), so there’s only so much I can do.¬†But I’ve taken real steps to break my own pack rat tendencies. A while back, I actually threw away a couple shoe boxes full of old cards and letters from my childhood. It wasn’t easy — that postcard from Beth McVeigh from her 4th grade family trip to Florida…the letters from my sister when I was 10 and she was 20 and away at¬†college (15 minutes away)…30+ years of birthday cards. But I did it, and I was proud of myself.

I still have a problem with boxes — empty boxes. I’ve moved half a dozen times, and finding moving boxes is such a struggle I have a hard time parting with a sturdy box. Right now, we have dozens of boxes, some flattened, some not, stashed all over the house. I also have “collections” that I have no idea how to part with — I paid money for these things on eBay, at flea markets, and at antique stores, and am loathe to just give them away. But who hasn’t seen Aunt Minnie’s 47¬†adorable raccoons or¬†Uncle Al’s beloved salt & pepper shakers languishing on the¬†10¬Ę table. I can picture a similar fate for my treasures.

In the meantime, I’ll collect some good karma by pitching someone else’s “trash.” Maybe that’s the key — to let someone else do the pitching for you in methodical, detached fashion. Preferably someone with good sense and good taste. Hmmm….any takers? You declutter my house, and I’ll declutter yours. Chances are neither of us will walk away empty-handed.

You have succeeded in life when all
you really want is only what you really need. 
                                              ~ Vernon Howard