Hidden Addictions

“Hi. My name’s Katharine, and I hoard tote bags.”

There are collections, and then there are collections. I actually have a couple of things I choose to collect (like unusual and handmade Christmas ornaments) and they are the only things I would pay to store. Then, there are the accidental collections. They are the collections that you think: “Oh, I must have six or eight of these things.” But you use them, right? So you don’t start wondering just how many you really have.

I just moved. Worse, I moved from 2000 square feet to 900 square feet. And when you move, you find all kinds of things in closets. I found not one but multiple hangers and drawers carrying “gimmie bags.” You know those nice bags you get at conventions? Sometimes they’re called book bags? The ones that can start breeding like cookie tins and coat hangers?

Yes, I’m talking about those kinds of collections. I have bags from major SF and Fantasy conventions. I have them from artists, like the neat denim bag with the heat-impressed heron on it from Gwen Frostic prints. I have them from Trader Joe’s, from groceries like HEB, Meijers, Whole Foods, Central Market – maybe half of them are grocery bags at one point in time. The rest really were book bags, gym totes, beach bags, bags reflecting a hobby you can store in a bag. Designer bags! Some are bags friends gave you containing books or clothing to read or to pass on. It’s only when you attempt to return the bags/tins/hangers and are told: “Oh, no, keep them, I have tons.”

I used to give away fancy handmade cookies in tins I bought for the occasion. I don’t buy tins anymore, because my friends have tins coming out their ears, and always return them. (In fact, with several people it’s become a gag – they give me back the tin, which I refill next year.) I was a big McCann’s oatmeal eater at one point. I had all these steel tins with vintage designs on them, and there comes a point when you just can’t keep any more tins. So instead of buying, say, vintage Quaker Oats or Nestles’ tins, I used the oatmeal tins to give away spiced nuts.

And — the Universe will back me up on this – no less than three different couples took aside my then-SO and said: “Why did Kathi give us oatmeal?” None of the nuts got stale waiting to be eaten, but still. After the year I gave tennis balls in socks for holiday gifts, you’d think they’d know to investigate. (That is another story, but to sum up, it was the most puzzling, and when explained, most appreciated gift I think I ever gave out.)

The tin collection is being phased out, and I’m trying to get a grip on the books and artwork. But the bags… I just found ten more bags.

And I’m not done unpacking.

If only I could separate them into male and female bags, maybe I could get a handle on this. (Can there be purebred bags…?) How do you treat tote bag addiction, anyway? Start asking for paper sacks with handles? You know, paper sacks with handles can become an obsession, too, because they are good for so many things, like holding recycling and — .

Fortunately, single stream recycling exists. I make weekly strikes on friends’ recycling, since my new digs’ recycling options are slim and none. But you need to watch yourselves. Just when you think you’re safe, someone gives you another funny button, or a towel with cats on it, because you like linen tea towels and –- .

For a person who is not into material things, I have a lot of interesting stuff squirreled away. I think I’ll go push the tote bags off the bed and lay down for a while.


About Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Cat Kimbriel is working on a a contemporary fantasy about curses, ecological change, and very different ways of looking at the twilight worlds. She's still working on a short Nuala piece and mulling over a new Alfreda novel. You can find her fantasy & science fiction, including free samples, at her Book View Café bookshelf. These books can also be found at major online booksellers. Her personal blog is here, and you will find her on whatever social media currently interests her. Cat builds worlds that contain compassion and justice -- come join the journey.


Hidden Addictions — 3 Comments

  1. Okay, I admit it. I too have a collection of swag bags from every convention I’ve gone to since Norwescon in ’92.

    My collection is increased by the fact that my husband goes along on these junkets with me, often as a co-GoH and so I have two of everything.

    Fortunately, I have kids in school who think those bags are the greatest things since Dr. Who and who appropriate them for everything from textbook bags to catchalls for knitting, embroidery, writing journals, and toys. I use a lot of them too for collections of books for different purposes … which has led to me forgetting occasionally which bag has which books in it. I have arrived, for example, at an interfaith event with my Duckon bag only to realize that the holy books are in the Westercon bag and I have imported a half-dozen books on Egyptology…

    Ahem, I shall read this evening from the Egyptian Book of the Dead…

  2. Yes, I know about the wrong bag at the wrong time. The list I want isn’t there, or the library books were in the BoucherCon bag, not the Lone Star bag…but a lot of them do get used!

    My SO had a bunch, too, be we didn’t have any enterprising children to help make those bags work for their living.

  3. I commend Freecycle to everybody trying to de-clutter. Giving a still-useful item away to somebody who will use it is excellent karma.