With spring comes spring cleaning. I approached my garage yesterday thinking it’s time to make space for the bicycles and garden tools that have been hidden away all winter. The garage is the place where time hides out, too–ours is filled boxes of clothes that the kids have outgrown, half empty paint cans, projects forever on hold, plus all the other stuff that accumulates over a winter spent indoors. But what got me thinking was all the bags-of-bags that for some reason I have had a hard time discarding. Part of the problem is that now, at least here in France, when you go into a grocery store you bring your own bag or buy one of theirs – to bring back the next time. That’s not really a problem of course, it’s good for the environment apparently, but if half the time you forget to return with a bag, you accumulate dozens and in my case, millions of bags. What most people do, including me, is stuff one bag in the other (again and again) and toss it in the garage – so you have one when you need one. I have millions, and not just grocery store bags, I have bags of bags from Ikea, and plasticized bags from every shop in Paris. You never know when I might need one… My garage was starting to look like the Pacific Ocean garbage patch.
It was a personal challenge to throw out a very solid colorful Disney store bag with light blue fabric cords: I’ve been holding it unconsciously since my daughter was 5, she’s 16 now. We bought an Ariel figurine. I remember her euphoria and how crowded the Disney Store was on the Champs-Élysées. We had developed the habit of taking a walk along the Champs on Saturday mornings when the weather was nice. Ariel was irresistible. Bags have a history and despite the fact that they’re just bags, they try desperately to maintain value. They don’t want to be discarded. If I mention to my daughter that I threw out an Abercrombie & Fitch bag, now containing the Disney Store bag (which contains others), I risk the wrath of an adolescent girl. So I hid them – at the bottom of the garbage can. Au revoir, bags. You held a lot, even empty it turns out.
–Jeff Hildebrand lives in a 400-year-old stone farmhouse in the French countryside. He trades futures and options, and blogs about it at Brandnet.com. He worked as a developer in New York’s Silicon Alley in the 1990′s.