Monday 11 January 2010

"Bits of string too small to be of any use" . . .

There was an article I read recently, about "old" people and the make-do-and-mend mindset of WWII, where a collection of the "bits of string too small to be of any use" had been put on one side in the attic by an old lady. Being a 1950s child, I inherited such tendencies from my parents, who had lived through it, and my husband (who is a child of the 40s) did too. We are both magpies. We wear clothes for best, then around the house, then to garden in, and finally until they are only suitable for rags. We mend furniture and clothing. I can understand what drove the old lady to hang onto that string. We still find it very hard to throw stuff away, even things we have had all the time we have been here and in some cases it moved here with us from the old house and we still haven't needed to use yet. You can bet your bottom dollar though, the minute we do reluctantly decide to recycle it, burn it, get rid of it, a couple of weeks later it is EXACTLY what we need.

When we wander round the car boot sales (or better still, fleamarkets and antiques fairs) we are always looking out for stuff which might come in useful for other projects. My husband in particular CANNOT resist those dreadful piles of rusting old bits of machinery, knobs, locks, etc which I trot past. I try to stick to books I never knew I wanted until I found them, or bits of damaged china which beg me to take them home, as they were much-loved once . . . but I do TRY to be practical. Thereby, my collection of 10 or so beautifully-crocheted wool blankets which only cost a pound or two on the car boot stalls, have come into their own this bitter cold spell and instead of being a cat bed on the back of the sofa have been cat beds on our laps! The 1940s eiderdowns which cost me £1 and £2 respectively and my husband thought I was QUITE batty to buy, have kept our bed warm this winter and take me back to my childhood.

Those ex-Army long johns of my husbands', gathering dust in an old tin trunk under the eves, are now keeping my legs toasty and I wish we'd remembered them earlier! The balls of string my mum had for tieing up tomatoes and chrysanthemums are now perfect for tieing up little tinfoil bowls of fat and seed for the birds. The little tinfoil bowls were saved from Morrisons' pies on a quick-meal-Monday . . . I have quite a stack of them!

I know that sooner or later I will find a use for the little scraps of coloured felt saved by another old lady and which came into my possession along with her rag-bag of sewing bits and bobs, recycled zips, buttons, scraps of lace trimming, masses of bias binding etc . . .

I know we have to get to grips with the stuff we really DON'T need to be taking with us, and the charity shops will be getting lots of surplus clothing which was passed on, mainly to my daughters, and now no longer needed. OH is going through his pile of wood for turning, which moved with us from Dorset, and is DEFINITELY only firewood now as it is far too hard to consider turning on the lathe (even if it were warm enough out in the workshop). We have some hard work ahead of us sorting it all out!

I wouldn't be at all surprised that when I have shuffled off this planet, my kids will go through my belongings, tut-tutting and saying, "What on EARTH did she keep THIS for?"!


  1. Must admit I'm not a hoarder but my mum always saved pieces of string, brown paper bags and unwrapped each birthday and Christmas gift very carefully so that she could fold the paper and use it again. Like your mums it was a habit she had learned during the war when things like brown paper bags were scarce and if you wanted your fish or meat or whatever wrapped you had to take your own paper or bag with you. Hope you are managing to keep warm, I gather you are due for another lot tomorrow.

  2. Hullo BB,

    tsk, Tsk......

    Not downsizing anytime soon then.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Cheers.....Al {lol}

  3. Errr--I understand this dilema only too well, even though I am TRYING TO REFORM! It has been confirmed that we have a sale for our adjoining lot which [unfortunately for us] has the old barn and storage shed where-in untidily are stashed boxes, tools, books, more boxes--STUFF too numerous to mention which now must be sorted, discarded, repacked. I've been down there many times hunting for some item which I may have donated to the thrift shop two years ago--pawing through this old, but useful clutter. Now we have no choice but to deal with it!

  4. This made me laugh as I am exactly the same.I have so much "stuff" that will come in useful one day. It usually does in the end. When we cleared my parents` house we found Dad`s amazing collection of sugar packets and sugar lumps from every cafe, train, boat or plane he had ever been on. It is still here."Bound to come in useful one day!"

    Re: the coloured bits of felt. Keep that in a box for doing collages with those yet-to-be-born grandchildren......

  5. After my (hoarder)Dad died, my Brother (throwaway kid) cleared his sheds. As he marched past with bundles of canes and endless wood, I said half joking, "You better hope HE's not watching you from somewhere".The very next day, there was an almighty storm with lashing rain and wind. My Brothers own shed blew down (hee hee).

  6. I will be really GOOD, I promise, and as soon as it's warm enough to venture away from the fire, I am going to have a good old sort-out! As long as someone locks up my OH, as I have put stuff in the dustbin before now, and come in later to find it Back In The House . . .

  7. I understand the sting too. Pffffft at "old people". I hope you're staying snug and warm over there. We've seen a lot of the road closures and snow drifts here on the news. Take care.

  8. I agree with you Rhonda jean - I'm not going to get old, just fall in a heap! We're getting to the stage of getting FED UP with the snow now and more than fed up with the cold. It's been bitter here and I've never had to wear 5 layers AND my outside coat and a hat INDOORS before . . .