Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Case for Using Baskets


We use the expression 'basket case' lightly, to mean someone who is mentally not functioning well, usually they are stressed out, not focused, perhaps highly worried and anxious.  Out of curiosity I began to investigate the origin of that term and I may now be uncomfortable using it so lightly, or using it at all.  The term crossed my  mind today for a couple of reasons, both of which are much less horrific than the case of a soldier being without arms or legs and having to be carried in a basket.  The slang term apparently  changed but kept the general meaning of someone who is hopelessly unable to function normally.

origin of term 'basket case'

The term came into my mind today for two reasons, one being that my chronic illness  is acting up due to all my gallivanting last Friday, and this affects me mentally as well as physically.  I had difficulty lacing up my boots earlier today.  Sometimes I lose the ability to do tasks that have very simple steps and I get all tangled and muddled.  It's quite odd because at the same time as not being able to lace my boots, I can write this post.  The brain fascinates me.  Clearly boot lacing and blog post writing are not controlled by the same part of the brain.  When my brain is unable to effectively perform simple and step by step type tasks I do not drive.  So I had to ask my mum to drive me to the bank and grocery store to get milk.  She is the sweetest and best mum in the world so of course she did this.  It really wasn't very far, but given my physical limitations due to the same illness, I was in no shape to walk either.  While I did my banking, mum went and got the milk for me.   Today I was able to shower and dress and get out of bed.  Yesterday was a bed day.  Pyjamas.  No shower.  Tea and cottage cheese when I got hungry.

After managing this small outing, and coming home to make some coffee and contemplate what I might have for lunch, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote this blog.  My  kitchen table is a mess.  It is covered in jars of paintbrushes, tubes of paint, notebooks, books of interest to me, a calender, and assorted scraps of drawings, scraps of paper on which I have scribbled something possibly important, one or two coil notebooks I write in and a cat.  Of course I added my laptop and mug of coffee to this assortment.  I am, by nature, a maker of piles and in fact if it is in a pile it is probably valuable to me in some way.  I am not an organised person, or at least I don't think I am.  I have been amazed to discover some of my friends and acquaintances think I am organised but I suppose it is all relative.  In my mind I am taking life one day at a time, flying by the seat of my pants as the saying goes, and making piles.

I do like the piles tidy though.  I like neat stacks, I like messy thing out of sight.  This is not difficult to do with things rarely used or needed. So I need a solution to my tendency to keep myself surrounded by the stuff I want regular access to.  Or, I must confess, my inclination to somehow feel more secure if I am surrounded by the books and papers I want to read or write in constantly.  So how do I deal with my desire for tidiness and yet clutter?  Well, I am the proud owner of a large number of baskets.

Market baskets are my favourites, though rectangular baskets seem the tidiest.  I pick up baskets in thrift shops and in the regular shops when they are on sale.   One of my larger baskets contains things I am likely to want when I am not feeling well and having a bedridden day.  Just in case I relocate to the sofa, the basket has a handle and is thus a portable one.  I keep the book I am currently reading, a journal, a doodle book and at least one pen in there.  Other things may make their way in or out but it is my entertainment/creative outlet basket.  I used to keep my knitting in there but the cat kept  hauling it out to play with.  In the places where I am prone to piling things which for some  reason I deem not yet time to put away, I keep nice structured looking rectangular shaped baskets.  Messy piles of random things somehow look organised when plopped into such a basket and it reduces the visual clutter.

I do have to exert some control on my love of baskets and inclination to want to simply accumulate attractive ones. I also keep promising myself that I will buy a beautiful basket at the Ten Thousand Villages or at the Fair Trade Market that comes every November to my town, or perhaps something online like this shop instead of something cheaply mass produced.  Then, I confess, I balk at the price or worry about shopping online and suspect that it will only get chewed by my cat.  And while I am worrying here, I think back to the origin of that expression 'basket case' and think that going forward I will no longer be comfortable using it.  I can too readily picture the tragic and horrific circumstances under which the term was originally used and I cannot take it lightly.



  1. I never knew the origin of this saying however I guess sometimes although we are not physically without arms and legs we can feel like they have been taken away from us when we are overwhelmed ... therefore basket case would be the right term.

  2. Yes, I think that is how the expression evolved. It's quite fascinating but at the same time I feel a little bit disrespectful using it so lightly now. Perhaps I will get over that. ;-)


I love visitors and I love comments. I will try my best to respond to everyone! Thanks for stopping by.