In Defense of Being a Keep-a-holic
Closing Thoughts

In Defense of Being a Keep-a-holic

Chana Shapiro relays the benefits of being a Keep-a-holic.

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

I recognized the benefits of my keep-a-holicism a few days ago when a friend called me. This woman volunteers at a homeless shelter, and she agreed to serve as props manager for an original production written by the residents. That means that my friend (let’s call her Ruth) has to acquire the costumes and other items for the stage, without spending money on them. So Ruth called me.

Over the years, I’ve attained official “go-to” status with Ruth, because—how shall I put this?—I happen to possess items other people don’t value. When I get a call from Ruth, I know she’s looking for props for a show. And my record’s pretty solid. Over the years I’ve only let her down a couple of times, once when she requested a beekeeper’s head covering (you’ll be happy to know that I have one now), and once for a pair of men’s wading boots (no, I don’t have those).

I love these challenges, so I was happy to get the call to help again. That’s because I’m a keep-a-holic; I have loads of stuff and I love to share.

One of the characters in Ruth’s play is a ghetto big shot who has stereotypically flamboyant trappings of power. Ruth asked if I had a fake cigar. The presentation was in a community center that had a strict fire code, so they couldn’t use a real one. At the same time, because the audience would be seated close to the stage and could see everything clearly, the cigar couldn’t be the easily-sourced party-favor kind. It had to look real and it had to light up. You guessed it: I had one.

A few days later, Ruth requested a plaid man’s vest, a gray fedora (with garish feather and striped band) and a silver-tipped walking stick. I had the vest and fedora, and Ruth conceded that my cane with a brass handle would do.

Note to reader: If you have a silver-tipped walking stick, I’d be more than happy to take it off your hands. Happily, I’m not there only for Ruth. I’ve be able to provide our grandson’s class with three dozen pieces of groovy colored cardboard and large reproductions of the grand master artwork they were studying. Our granddaughter’s class benefits from ethnic fabrics and vintage clothing (Anything from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s is a treasure!).

Tablecloths and napkins for simchas, with coordinated vases, are a slam-dunk. My most fun contribution to a worthy cause was colored glass costume jewelry for an acquaintance who was interviewed on network TV. Everyone agreed that the necklace looked exactly like the one Martha Stewart wore when she was arraigned for insider trading.
I know what you’re thinking:

“My dear Chana, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but perhaps you should reconsider the use of your basement and attic, places where other people have luggage (but not 13 pieces of it) and a futon (but not with two dozen assorted pillows).

“The closet in your guest room would be great for, well, guests, and the outdoor shed would be ideal for lawn equipment rather than three croquet games and several sets of golf clubs. (Chana, if you played golf, it would be a different story).“Chana, admit it, you’re a borderline hoarder, and we’re worried about you!”

Fret not, concerned reader. Piles of newspapers aren’t blocking halls and doorways. I don’t have stacks of tattered sheets and towels filling my closets. Weekly, we recycle plastic containers and cereal boxes. Our chairs and sofas are available for seating. Our magazines and newspapers are current.

No, I demur. I’m a keep-a-holic, a sensitive curator and intrepid guardian of useful and interesting things.

I have a neighbor whose home is zen-like in its refined minimalism. But when I saw empty space in her hall closet and a completely barren shelf in the den, I was stunned. What if one of her grandchildren needs a pair of bright fuchsia gloves or a neighbor requires six matching folding-chair seat covers? Thank goodness I’m right down the street.

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