First the inventory, then the point.

In the smallish cupboard below our built-in micro-wave and regular ovens there is the most interesting and curious assortment of stuff. There are two white plastic baskets, same size, side by side. The left-side basket is completely unremarkable and thus uninteresting: Plastic bags and small paper bags awaiting re-use. But the contents of the right-hand basket are worth delineating.

Pumpkin carving kit (hey, I might use it again, someday). Box, assorted white plastic cutlery (plus three zip-lock baggies of assorted plastic-ware). Four purple plastic bowls (adult-sized).

But also: 27 large-caliber drinking straws; Toddler utensils (two forks, one spoon); Two plates – “Barney says ‘Strike Up the Band!’ ” One “Peter Rabbit and Friends” ® bowl, and one matching cup (single-handled).

Also a great assortment of drinking utensils: Three Tupperware plastic glasses, with fitted sippy lids; one bottom weighted sippy cup (two-handled); insulated Playtex ® sippy cup (no handles). A plethora of other unbreakable plastic glasses, some with fitted lids.

Two Baby Mickey ® bowls. And a few assorted other things. But you get the picture.

Now the point. This basket of stuff has been resting comfortably in that cupboard for at least ten years. And of all that stuff, the only items my wife and I use regularly are the four purple plastic bowls, and – if those are all in the wash – the Baby Mickey ® and Peter Rabbit ® bowls. And we have to almost get down on hands and knees to retrieve those! And put them back when clean.

Now – all this stuff was there for when three toddler-sized boy grandkids were in the house. (Low cupboard for low-rise kids.) Again, like a decade or more ago. At the time, my daughter, who lived/lives in Vacaville, about an hour away, had a job in the Sacramento area. She would regularly (once a week, say) drop the boys off at our place for Poh-poh to watch. (“Poh-poh” – Cantonese for “maternal grandmother.”)

And we have lived with “the rest of the stuff” in that right-side white plastic basket ever since. Three inches above floor level. We haven’t examined the basket’s holdings. Or if we have, so far we’ve done little or nothing about its amazingly-outdated contents.

Maybe it’s nostalgia: If we leave that toddler stuff in there, the grandkids will stay little. Hasn’t worked: The oldest now has a learner’s driving permit. They now have a four-year-old younger sister. And now, when we get roped into watching said little sister for a day (willingly of course), we drive over to her home in Vacaville.

This is not the only un-examined basket of stuff in our home of almost 20 years. Don’t even get me started on my garage! And there are a number of boxes of things we’ve not looked in since we hid them in a closet in an upstairs spare bedroom in October of 1997. But I digress.

At the moment I’m much more interested in the figurative baskets of useless old stuff I have stashed in my mind. If and when I take a break and do a mental inventory, I’ll freely admit that I discover pockets of stuff – memories, angers, opinions, attitudes, regrets – useless stuff that I should have dug out years ago, sifted through carefully, and discarded most of it.

But as so often happens, I’ve been happy using the two or three useful items from those mental baskets, and ignoring the rest. Maybe it’s time for some serious mental clean-up.

How about for you?

Larry Mitchel

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