Things You Wouldn’t Move
Posted by Victoria | Filed under Victoria
A couple of my friends in Halifax got jobs outside the city and moved this summer. Several of our mutual friends were out of town, so I got to inherit a number of the leftover things, mostly from the kitchen.
There’s something fascinating about receiving the disregarded odds and ends of someone’s life. These are the things they liked enough to keep, but not enough to move.
Take spices, for instance. I was given by one friend a series of spices, some of them totally unusual, ones I’d never even heard of before, let alone used. The friend’s wife is of Egyptian descent and likes to cook, so I presume a lot of the spices are near or middle eastern; some I recognise vaguely by name, like asafoetida; I’ve had sumac because my dad likes to experiment, too. Some of the others, though, I have to look up, and still don’t know how to use.
Or, from the other friend, pickling salt and sugar cubes. These are sitting in my cupboard awaiting some flash of brilliance (and the arrival of small cucumbers in a farmers’ market near me), some great architectural folly built while trying to solve a mystery, something like that.*
It’s not just food, though rather than the random grab-bag of kitchen ingredients I got to pick and choose the other leftovers. This is where we have to be a bit more careful, for this is the sort of stuff one would find in a yard sale or a thrift shop (which is where, indeed, the things I didn’t want ended up), and, like in those cases, it’s very easy to say: ‘free! of course I want this!’ even if I already have two perfectly good spatulas and don’t need a third.
If we were all perfectly decluttered sorts, I suppose no one would have these things; we’d only keep the things that we like well enough to take with us. Every once in a while I go through a section of my apartment contemplating what I would and would not pay to move or store, and usually manage to find one or two things. (These then tend to sit in a pile somewhere, but, well, no one’s perfect.)
This isn’t really so much about finances as it is about keeping house, but that is the root of the old word economics, which used to be spelled oeconomics — it’s the rules of keeping the oikos going well, and oikos in Greek means house. There’s a cost, we all know, to moving things; there’s also a cost to keeping it. I try hard to ask myself whether I would move it, whether I will want it before then. Do I need that cleaned-out plastic tub? Do I need that entire series of old magazines? Would I carry that bag of random fabric with me?
Often the answer in the past has been ‘yes’ — despite the extra costs involved. Sometimes accidentally, by not cleaning up properly before packing, sometimes just because the ‘what-ifs’ — the ‘what if I want that later’ — get to me. Usually at one point some family member reminds me of a story from when I was about twelve and we moved from Alberta to Nova Scotia.
For this particular move we had a very short period to pack up the house and go. We all hastily cleared surfaces and packed boxes, and when we got to the other side of the country we discovered a box labelled Top of Fridge. Sure enough, along with the clock that we wanted to keep were a pile of dead batteries and several egg cartons, and also a fair amount of dust.
I’m trying to get better.
*The reference here is to Strong Poison, a murder mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers.