Opinion Column

The mostly true confessions of a clippomaniac

By Patricia Anne Elford

This just in from an anonymous writer who wants to share her story:

My name is Willow Hadson* and I confess, I’m a “clipper.” On every newspaper, each flier, every magazine, I highlight and I circle, with the nearest writing instrument. I also initial the top of the newspaper page so nobody will put it into the blue bin by mistake. If, as has happened, my special supply of highlighters, gel pens and HB pencils disappears, then chalk, lipstick, an eyebrow pencil or my husband’s woodworking stylus will do.

This clever move reminds me to remove items later. I can rip along a straight edge, cut out neatly or use a seam ripper kept by the coffee table for this purpose. If especially eager, I score with my fingernail, then free-tear the latest discoveries. Some potentially valuable information has been lost to the fireplace or recycling because I didn’t earmark or remove it immediately. So great is my enthusiasm, I don’t always wait until other family members have finished reading before I remove each piece.

Information is so intriguing! There are clippings about education, social issues, health concerns, ethics, global warming, the arts, business, theology, family relationships, sports and philosophy. I clip interesting recipes, cartoons, witty sayings, inspiring and amusing poems. There are pictures for workshops I present, photos of local people whom I know or might teach or interview. There are innovative articles and columns about household chores and maintenance. There are sewing and craft ideas, church service seasonal hours. There are compatibility quizzes and suggestions for sexual success. I save career change possibilities and “glass-ceiling-shatterers”. There are “buy, sell and trade” ads.

You could say I’ve inherited the clipping gene . . . I even have a huge treasure-trove of clippings that I found when I cleared out my mother’s house after she’d died. The creamy tint of age adds to their appeal. I’ll work my way through them, someday. Some are brittle, so, of course, I put them into those plastic page protectors.

Sorted and unsorted little piles of useful information lurk in every room, in drawers, in containers. Some are stored next to my “You Never Know When It Might Come in Handy” collection of oddments. (You know, keys that must fit somewhere, one earring, a tiny screw that you’ll later discover came from that special clock, a puzzle piece for which the puzzle is, at present, missing. That kind of thing.)

Some clipped gems are filed in a special book, some are in file folders with labels such as, “To Think About” or “Background for Articles” or “Potential Book Research” or “The Good Old Days.” Some are fastened to my study door. Drier maintenance guidelines adorn the front of the drier. “What Your Cough is Telling You” is posted beside my bathroom sink.

Almost buried in clippings and magnets on the refrigerator there’s an item about frugal food-buying. “A Guide to Solving Computer Problems” hangs by my printer. A cat cartoon and “Fight Litter Box Odour” suggestions are pinned above the litter box. The inside of the broom closet door and the cupboard above the washer each sport countless hints about easy household cleaning. Mind you, I don’t often find time to use them; my work and my clipping collection keep me very busy!

An unselfish person, I share the wealth. This has been true for many years. Clippings are sent to friends and casual acquaintances. My teenaged son arrived home from his advanced-level class to discover “Helps for Studying” thumb-tacked to his room’s door, “Internet Warnings” tucked under his mouse pad, “How to be Popular without Losing your Individuality” slipped among the comics on top of the toilet tank,

, and Guides to Dealing with Acne” by the bathroom mirror. (You never know when he might be afflicted!)

My husband, who did most of the shopping, cooking and household repairs, while I worked in an office, would find “How to Keep the Air Conditioner Humming,” “Calorie Counts to Keep You Slender,” “Aging Gracefully,” “Chicken Casseroles to Die For” and other related articles and recipes by his placemat, on his desk, or fastened to his computer copyholder. Each day, as a loving cat offers her latest catches, I brought him new surprises. I do like to be helpful.

One week, my husband and son suddenly acted like madmen! They turned on me, labelling me a “clippomaniac.” They took away my cutting tools! They wouldn’t let me near the papers or even my own magazines unless I promised not to circle, cut, or tear out a single thing, not even death notices! What happened to the loving males for whom I’d spent so many years caring?

Hurt and numbed, I just sat on the floor, sifting through piles of clippings I’d already amassed, mumbling and sorting, then scanning, pasting and filing.

“They” won’t let me give them any more articles; say they’ll just tear them up or burn them if I do! (Don’t tell them, but I’ve saved a special folder full of those I know would be really helpful—the ones I intended to share. You never know when the guys might need them and be really sorry. I can be a very forgiving person . . . I’ll just smile wisely and share at the time.)

I recently found out that some libraries will give you newspapers and magazines after a certain time period has passed? Now, that’s worth knowing. I go to some meetings at the library. I could take along my little nail scissors, just in case they’re throwing some away. That isn’t exactly the same as cutting things out of the papers and magazines at home, now is it?

The fellows have suggested I form a Clippers Anonymous Club. They thought there may be others like me out there. If you’re interested in becoming a C.A.C. member, simply clip and post this article to remind you to contact me, c/o this newspaper. I promise I’ll print and save your email and I can send you some really helpful articles about dealing with obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

* name changed to protect the family

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