I will admit this, there is a seemingly thin line between storing useful salvaged materials for use in garden and house projects and hoarding piles of absolute shite that will never get used. We are currently the stewards of some of this Stuff presently, and I have also seen piles of similar stuff in other backyards and houses, no doubt waiting for a day when they can unleash their outpouring of Benevolence on the world and become use-full.
My in-laws crossed the line. Completely, deeply, thoroughly – and here are my observations on the matter.
• The majority of stuff was probably hoarded with good intent. However, it was never realized into worthy, completed projects and the following ensued…
• A lot of the stuff was rather useful, but in the ‘heat of the moment’, if my Father-in-law could not locate a tool, or material or particular item from what he had on hand, he went and bought one. Usually from the same large, industrial-size toy-shop that many adults like to visit in here in Australia. This happened all to often and turned into a kind of epidemic in the sense that when I came to sort out The Shed there were numerous pliers, multiple hammers, several crescents, a lifetimes worth of nails and screws and obscure fastening bits and bobs.
• Delegated to a pile of disorganized masse, some things just got old and naturally, neglected. Tubes of stuff dried out, tools got water damaged and rusted, things seized up or got walked on or squashed or smashed. Timber objects started to decay. Pests moved in and destroyed stuff. I’m sure you get the point. Chaos.
• This scenario then becomes too overwhelming to deal with and its ‘forgotten’ about. In some sort of magical myopic trick of the eye and mind it becomes invisible. BUT, as in the case of my mother-in-law some things are not forgotten. A memory might get jogged while looking through a catalogue or watching TV. “Oh, we have one of those. I hope you haven’t thrown it out!’ We discovered many such items when tidying up. Ancient relics of bygone days that ‘would be worth a mint’ or deemed ‘irreplaceable’ if only they weren’t cracked, broken or completely buggered up! All of this through sheer neglect, largely by failing to store things properly and neglecting to administer gracious quantities of love on them.
• So, can you see that over time, this behemoth of unorganized masse started to grow and expand as extra items were brought in place of those that couldn’t be found? Hmm. Not good.
• Can you see that as these extra masse-expanding items entered the equation that they too contributed to a greater problem of not being able to find anything, thus contributing to further consumption and hoarding? A compounding phenomenon.
• I am sure this ever-expanding scenario and ever-present problem also had an effect on the mental health and happiness of my in-laws.
In dealing with this situation I am reminded of Bill Mollisons’ Five Categories of Resources.
1. Those which increase with modest use.
2. Those unaffected by use.
3. Those which degrade if not used.
4. Those reduced by use, and
5. Those which pollute if used.
The Shed and The House contained items from each of these categories. Some examples:
Those which increase with modest use. Disappointingly I found some old seed varieties. Had they been stored properly and used, collected and stored over time they would most likely have increased in value. But they needed to be used – and were not – and so were a loss. An ecological loss you could say.
Those unaffected by use. There were a couple of ‘hard’ items that fit in this category – solid metal tools, pieces of ceramic or glass containers etc.
Those which degrade if not used. An old refrigerator, various water pumps, bikes, tyre inner-tubes, pots of putty, car and torch batteries.
Those reduced by use. Cans of mechanical grease, fencing wire, bailing twine.
Those which pollute if used. Drums, jars and assorted bottles of Round-Up, Glyphosate and livestock chemicals. (Shudder…)
On the whole, the majority were all affected by being stored for so long and not used. Some of this stuff was donated to friends to use on their farm. Some was taken to the local tip. Some had to be dealt with and disposed of in a particular manner (and place). Some was taken to the local charity store. Other bits were recycled or actually used (as though the notion had never been considered and could be deemed a foreign notion!).
Some got stolen. Some ‘procured’ by people that should know better. A whole lot better. It was a crazy situation. A drain on time, finances, resources and health. And, it’s not fully over.
I can however see a day in the future when it will be, and that fuels the determination required to carry through with the impending further jobs that await.
I am on a journey with my family to transition as closely as practicable to a state of self-reliance in suburbia. I practice permaculture principles in our house, garden and community. We are on the southern coast of Western Australia. To our north is the rest of the world. To the south, Antarctica.
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