MISC: Everyone's favorite four-letter word. This is a self-evident truth because almost everyone in the English-speaking world has had, at one time or another, at least one box full of it. Or so they think. It is my assertion that MISC does not exist.
MISC is an abbreviation of 'miscellaneous,' which means that something consists of various types of things or comes from different sources. The word most commonly is used on file folders and moving boxes. This means that it refers either to 1. Papers or 2. Household objects. To my way of thinking, the term MISC is worse than redundant; it's obfuscating. It's almost like it's not a real word at all, but a hex written in arcane symbols. It might as well be a piece of parchment labeled 'ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.' Puny mortal! You think you can defeat this box of miscellany? Stronger and braver fools than you have tried and failed! Tremble before the power of MISC (the dreaded misc)!
Boxes are objects of power. There is something about a moving box that doesn't get unpacked within the first month after a move. Chances are that it will remain intact for years, perhaps even a lifetime. Boxes in storage units? No question. The majority of people who pay for a storage unit seem to have no firm plans for ever emptying it and reclaiming their cash flow. I often wonder whether the average renter of extra storage space could sit down and write an accurate inventory of what's in there.
That's the incredible thing about boxes. We keep them around and forget all about them. We forget what's in them. We have no idea, until we open those boxes and see the items again, at which point they become newly precious. I see this in my work all the time. Maybe ten percent of the time, an object will turn up, and the owner will have no memory of it, no idea from whence it came. The rest of the time, it's like, "Oh yeah! So that's where that went!" Usually it goes right back into the box, because, as awesome as it seems to be, it's...
If it's in a box, it's not getting used. That makes it, ipso facto, useless.
Exceptions to this are items of seasonal use. For example, I still have our wedding cake topper, even though our eighth anniversary is coming up, because I want to reuse it at our twenty-fifth. My husband put on magnifying lenses and carefully hand-painted the blonde female figure's hair brunette, and I guess he'll have to do it again and add in some gray. Anyway. We're allowed to keep things. It's simply that they should justify their existence. The reason we have them should be relatively self-explanatory.
(Just because you don't understand why I have a machete doesn't mean I don't have an explanation).
Okay. Back to the misc. Most people have collections or agglomerations of accumulated objects that actually are useful, but are not sorted or stored in a way that makes much sense. Take the typical kitchen junk drawer. Usually a kitchen junk drawer includes: legitimate kitchen utensils; hardware, tools, and garage-type items; office supplies; parts to things; old electronics; things that need repair; papers. When we put it that way... A kitchen drawer may be the most logical place to put all of those things, and a lack of alternative spaces forces them to be strange bedfellows. Cut some strips of cardboard and make some drawer dividers. Pull out one category and put them in an empty pickle jar. Something. Don't be like me and ram metal under your fingernail because you're scrambling around in your junk drawer looking for something. Be kind to yourself, spend 15 minutes, and sort it out. If you have three separate junk drawers, like I have seen in a few kitchens, it will take longer, but you can have a tool drawer, an office drawer, and a repair/to-do drawer.
MISC in boxes is still the worst. Every home visit I have ever done has had a box like this, and usually a dozen. The box will be 80% one category, like books or kitchen wares, and the rest will be a mix of other things. Almost always, it's receipts, junk mail, hardware, office supplies, and a coin. If there are kids, add in a LEGO and a crayon. Taken one at a time, we know what to do with all of these things. Put the penny in the penny jar. Put the crayon in with the other crayons. Throw out the junk mail. Look at the receipt, realize all the ink has faded and it's effectively blank, and throw it out, too. Take the paperclip and the pencil with no more eraser, and put them with the other office supplies. Or, guess what? You're actually allowed to throw that stuff away. A rusty paperclip is no good to anybody. You can recycle it. There is no obligation to wear every pencil down to an inch-long nub. (Although I used to do that every year in college, as a good luck charm). My solution for avoiding MISC during a move is to label boxes by room, and not mix items from more than one room in the same box.
The answer to most boxes of MISC is that we don't need them. We don't need a single item inside. If we did, we would have torn the house apart looking for them. Even the truly important stuff, like our passports and birth certificates and social security cards, can be replaced for a nominal fee. MISC as a word is nothing more than a code for "I'm not sure what to do with this and I never realized I could just get rid of it."
Just for fun, here are some categories of common household objects.
Books and magazines
Craft tools and supplies
Clothing and accessories
Decorations and art
Paper files: bureaucratic, academic, reference
Active papers: schedule, contacts, action items
Cash and equivalents (checks, gift cards, lottery tickets)
To be repaired
To be returned to owner
Garbage, recycling, compost
If it doesn't fit in one of these categories, what the heck is it? More importantly, what have you been doing with it?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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