I hate clutter, which means that getting rid of things is rarely a problem for me. I routinely go through my possessions, ruthlessly culling the items that are no longer useful or desirable. No matter how many times a charity calls for donations, I can always produce at least one big bag of used clothes, household items or other items. And that’s not counting the carload of stuff we donate each year to the rummage sale at my mother’s church, or the stuff we give to my daughter to take to the local resale shop.
Even my most precious possessions–my books, my Christmas ornaments and my photographs–aren’t immune to my tendency to downsize and minimize. I rid my bookshelves of books that no longer interest me, and I gave each of my kids a couple dozen of my Christmas ornaments when they moved out and started decorating their own trees. And when my photo boxes get too full, I go through them and toss out the occasional photo or two. (Especially when I have no idea who is in the picture.) I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “saver.”
Which makes it all the harder to explain why I have several poinsettia plants on the window seat in my family room that are well past their prime. The newest addition is two years old, and none of them sport the pretty red leaves anymore. They are now green and spindly, require frequent watering and drop dead leaves all over the place. But I can’t make myself throw them out. I’ve tried, but I can never get past the idea that they are still alive, and I would be killing them for no reason other than I find them inconvenient. And so they stay, taking up space and cluttering up my window seat.
I don’t have a rational explanation about my inability to get rid of unwanted plants when I can so easily give away just about anything else that’s in my house. It’s completely out of character, and I doubt that anyone who knows me would believe that I have a window seat full of straggly poinsettias left over from Christmases of several years ago. And yet I do.
And I don’t think I’m all that unusual. Yes, hanging onto old poinsettias may be unusual, but doing things that seem out of character is actually rather common. I believe most people have odd quirks and have done things that would surprise their friends and family. I also believe that most people hold certain beliefs which seem at odds with their usual viewpoints. Because the truth is that most people are much more complicated than they seem.
Of course we like to slot other people into categories that make they easy to identify, but those categories are rarely completely accurate. It’s not uncommon for a liberal to hold a conservative view on a particular subject, or for a city dweller to have a passion for country music. Animal shelter volunteers can own purebred dogs, and the grown son of a dedicated gardener may prefer his vegetables canned. It’s all okay. Because real people are complicated, and they are allowed to harbor all sorts of contradictions. It’s just part of what makes us human.
And the reason I’m hoping no one gives me another poinsettia for Christmas this year.