Ron Colone: So much for the rule of thumb

Ron Colone: So much for the rule of thumb

We used to do this drill at baseball practice. We called it “situation.”

The coach would set up a situation; i.e. “runners at second and third with one out,” and then he would hit the ball somewhere into the field, and the player fielding it would have to throw to the correct base, or depending on the situation, to the cutoff man. The key was the coach told you what the situation was, so you knew or were supposed to know where you were going with the ball if it was hit to you.

As the deadline rapidly approaches on our move out of the place we’ve lived for the past 30 years, I find myself thinking I probably should have played the equivalent of “situation” with our possessions.

The rule of thumb, which a surprisingly large number of people are more than eager to share with you, upon finding out that you’re moving, is if you haven’t touched it or worn it in a year or two years or five years, you should get rid of it.

Maybe that’s good in theory, and maybe it’s helpful when it comes to clothes and trinkets, but when it comes to things that occupy the space in our hearts and minds, it simply doesn’t apply.

For instance, what about the robe that belonged to my wife’s mother, who died when my wife was only 16 years old. There are times when my wife can barely even remember her mom’s voice or face. Tell me you’re going to get rid of that.

Or the footlocker that was my dad’s in 1938 when he was in the Civilian Conservation Corps, working in the forests of Northern Michigan. It has his name and identification number on it, and I know, from having interviewed him on video for posterity’s sake, that those years in the CCC were probably the happiest, most carefree time of his life. No way am I getting rid of that.

As far as what’s inside the trunk, the tools my dad used for doing tile jobs, that’s a different story, although when it came down to it I ended up keeping those, too. For now.

Then there’s the matter of what to do with the stuff you decide to get rid of. Ideally, you want to get it to someone who can use it, but it would seem the world is becoming less and less interested in what I have. Like the electronics. I used to take old computers and cassette decks to the high school for their Regional Occupation Program, so young kids could gain experience refurbishing such things, but they’re not interested anymore. Or the books. We have so many books. The thrift store doesn’t want them and the church doesn’t have room, so I end up throwing many of them into the trash, especially technical manuals or textbooks, because you can find all that information online now.

But there’s this one book, hardcover and protected in plastic. I’ve never read it and probably never will, but I also won’t get rid of it. Why? Because of the person who gave it to me. He’s been gone for 20 years, but it was important to him, so this is one of the ways I keep the memory of him alive. It’s a keepsake, and by definition that means we keep it.

The whole thing is really a lesson in non-attachment. Another word for attachment is connection. The task is to realize and embrace our connection to all living things, while breaking free of our attachment to material or inanimate things. But what of memories? Are they not living things, or at least mechanisms for keeping people and experiences alive? So, to heck with the rule of thumb.

What are you going to do when the ball comes your way?

Ron Colone can be reached via email at


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