It’s a small, cheap plastic caddy.
It sits on our fantastic old 70s-style metal desk that is too ugly and too huge to offload.
It is a paperclip holder–the kind with a magnetic ring around the top to hold a few clips within easy reach.
I found it when we were going through my grandparents’ apartment after my grandmother had died. My grandpa had gone a few years before, and the simplicity that had marked their lives together was only magnified as my grandma lived alone. They weren’t big on things or cluttering up space. But they were meticulously organized.
Their office space was vesitage to order with spare objects displayed. There was a cup with three pens and a few crappy dull pencils. A stapler. A lone notepad. And the paperclip holder.
As a young girl, I remember watching my grandpa file his paperwork, tidy up any loose business ends that needed tidied. His meticulousness kind of fascinated me; it was just part of who he was, a man I loved and admired.
So when the time came to sort through the few possessions my grandparents left on this earth, this delightfully simple plastic trinket jumped out at me. I wanted it.
I took it, set it on our desk and stared at it. It seemed peaceful, like it somehow belonged there–amidst our piles of receipts, half-used printer cartridges and random instruction manuals to God-knows-what (my own life is far from the sweet simplicity of my grandparents).
And then the big question came into play–could I use the paperclips??
You see, my mother was the stark opposite of my grandparents; her home was full and she loved finding new treasures. While I share her passion for delightful things, her tendency to hold on and keep instilled an almost paranoid fear of earthly objects in me. I become claustrophobic at the mere thought of obtaining a book through some other means than library borrowing. So I’m loathe to accumulate, to refuse to let go of things.
Also complicating my paperclip dilemma was that I lost my mother, my grandfather, and my grandmother all within a tiny handful of years–the same years in which I birthed both my children and we moved to a new home. So there was a lot of confusion about what I should keep or give away as we sorted through box after box after box…Would my daughter want that pair of earrings to show off her newly pierced ears in the years to come??
I gave away things I’m kicking myself for not keeping. I look at some of the stuff I saved and feel silly. I still have no idea if I’m being materialistic with what I cling to or foolish for what I toss away.
So I continue to stare at the paperclip holder. I have no idea how many are left in it.
Sometimes I get stubborn and cling to the little plastic-coated metal clips, hoarding them for future safety in a way that doesn’t make sense, but feels necessary all the same.
But also, I use them. I use them for things like clipping deposit slips and storing my children’s medical records.
It’s a careful, cautious balance between acknowledging the important and letting life breathe as it demands. While I continue to shoot for the balance, I’m going to keep shooting for that gorgeous meticulous organization, using the paperclips to help me as I really need to along the way.
And you know what? I think my grandpa would have liked it this way.