PLACES TO PUT STUFF By Ellen Campbell

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I’ve always liked the old neatness saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Yet it’s been seldom in my own life that I could apply it. In my childhood with a large family, it was not possible, and in my own home after marriage, the house has always been too small to store everything. We’ve always had a certain amount of clutter.

But there are places like the rag drawer to consider. I’ll bet in this era of cleaning with sponges and using paper towels to wipe away messes, lots of people don’t know about rag drawers. My mother kept a large lower kitchen drawer for rags from discarded clothing, threadbare towels and such. In those days the term “dishrag” applied to an actual rag we used to wash dishes. We used them to wash windows, scrub the floor, shine shoes, and wipe up spills. The first time I was in an aunt’s home and saw boughten dishcloths, I was amazed.

My sister Margaret made ragdolls with rags from the drawer, and clothed them with scraps from the sewing bag. I think she had well over 50 of the dolls by the time she grew up enough to leave that hobby behind.  The dolls were cute, sewn by hand and with embroidered faces. She kept a few, but if she had hung on to them all until now, she might have sold them as primitive art and cashed in a nice amount.

I, too, have a rag drawer, and we go to it often. I remember attending a bridal shower long ago where, in addition to another gift, one woman gave the bride a pile of neatly folded rags and said “Everyone needs rags, and you won’t have any for a while because all your things are new.”

And there were other places where we knew to put things. One was the wrap pile. Behind the kitchen door there were about three coat hooks. My dad’s sheepskin jacket hung on one of them, and maybe some chore jackets on the others. I seem to remember the clothespin bag hanging there too. All the rest of the everyday coats were piled on the floor underneath. Here in Central City, several of us used to walk the perimeter of the community room before we had the fitness center. One of our number was Elmer Blauhorn and, even though there was a long coat rack with hangers there, he threw his jacket on the floor. I was delighted to see that he, too, had grown up with a wrap pile.

In the days before adequate refrigeration in farm homes, we had special places. My Grandma Jacobsen had a little building in the base of their windmill with a concrete cistern inside. When the windmill pumped up the cold water from deep in the ground, it flowed through that cistern and Grandma kept her milk, cream, butter and other foods in it. In winter, nearly everyone had a cold place where food could be kept from spoiling, maybe a spare unheated bedroom. Jello would be placed in there to set, and perishables of all kinds. In our case, it was an enclosed porch. The washer and tubs were stored there, and the freezer after we had one, but it served as an overflow place for our small refrigerator. And, much to the disgust of my sisters and me, when Daddy butchered and not all the meat would fit into the freezer, he kept a hog half on the old wooden table on that frigid porch to cut off meat as needed. We always hoped no company would come and see that. Anyway, these cold rooms fit the description of a place for one kind of thing, and those things went there, no question about it.

Also, there was the junk drawer in the kitchen. I have one now, and I suspect most people do.

It’s the place for odds and ends like the kind of string once used to fasten flour and sugar bags
(Now we have to ruin fingernails trying to open those bags that are glued tightly shut). There might be rubber bands, paper clips, pliers or can openers that no longer work, spare flashlight batteries, nails and screws, small electrical or plumbing parts, and the possibilities go on. So if no other place can be found to store small items, the junk drawer is the answer.
So, for those of us who simply do not have storage space for everything in the house, there is comfort in these few familiar places to put stuff.

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