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Useful one day, forgotten the next

A friend of ours recently pointed out how, at various times in our lives, we use and rely on certain items in our homes again and again. Then something changes, and the item sits idle, retires, collects dust.

This is the type of object we use for an often brief period of time, but when we need it, we really need it.

It might be a stroller. A handy tool. A kitchen gadget. Even a tuxedo.

I remember years ago when my husband and I -- in home-improvement mode -- installed wire shelving organizing systems in several of our closets.

In one of our 137 trips to the hardware store, we purchased some heavy-duty clippers that cut the shelving to the desired length in a snap. These clippers saved the day. It made the entire job a breeze -- well, almost -- but we haven't used those clippers again since.

We have, however, loaned them to friends -- but not before letting them know how glad we are that it is their home-improvement project rather than our own.

Many of these hardworking but sometimes short-lived items are related to children. You use this stuff a lot. Then, one day, you realize that the umbrella stroller, the Diaper Genie, the sippy cups, the little towels with the duckie hoods and the baby bouncer are no longer needed.

These things don't disappear overnight. Sometimes it takes a while to see that you haven't used the baby monitor in months. Bit by bit, you look at these items you once so much depended on and donate them, pass them on, pack them away.

Technology and upgrading enter the picture, too. You buy your first dishwasher, and the dishpan sits idle. You buy a leaf-blower, and the rake and push broom get shoved to the back of the garage. You hire a snowplow service, and the snowblower takes a long winter nap.

Fads and trends also come into play. I know many women who once had close ties to their curling irons. At one point in their lives, they used one every day, gooking it up with hair spray. Their curling irons hardly had a chance to cool off. These days, these women are more likely to opt for a rounded brush and blow-dryer, if they use any styling tools at all.

Most interesting to me, however, is how certain items represent the stages of our lives. I see a wok and think post-college years, recalling casual gatherings with friends where meals weren't served before 9 p.m.

Electric blenders remind me of two things -- a college friend who loved her daiquiris and also a period in my early 20s when I took to whipping up a healthy breakfast drink on my way out the door. As I recall, it had yeast in it.

These days, I pass on the yeast but would not want to consider life without my Dust Buster. Same with our essential single-serving plastic food storage containers. The soup pot. And, I'll admit it, my cell phone.

Then, of course, there are the items we forget about until we really, really need them. The jumper cables hanging on a peg in the garage. The flashlights. The manual can opener. The October storm reminded us of all that.

With the holidays here, think, too, of the tools, equipment and dinnerware that you drag out once or twice a year -- and forget about the rest of the time.

The cranberry bowl. The chafing dish. The nut crackers. The champagne flutes.

That reminds me, I haven't seen my wooden cheese tray in a while, and I'll be needing it this weekend. And where did I put those spreaders?


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