Who lives in your house?
What do you do when two polar opposites co-inhabit a house? What if there are two on one side and only one on the other? Who wins each battle?
Let me explain. I am the Mary Kondo of my home. I lean towards minimalism when it comes to home decor, furnishings, and things around the house. I say lean towards it because I am not above ordering a shiny, new cooker although we have 2 already. Nor can I resist colorful cushion covers and bedspreads. Did I mention curtains? And footwear? Yeah, so I only claim to lean gently towards minimalistic decor. We are not even going to broach the topic of a minimalistic lifestyle. It is too early in life.
But, and here’s the big but with a single ‘t’! I don’t keep the packaging that stuff arrives in. I don’t hang on to 100-year old bills because! I don’t hoard.
The hoarding and storing behavior is actually deeply cultural. Indians are brought up on a strong base of reuse. We hate to throw away things because we believe they can and will be used someday somewhere. We don’t throw away disposable plastic containers — although they are called disposable. We store them. One packet of Ziploc bags lasts for months in our homes. We wash them, dry them, and reuse them until the ‘loc’ stops working.
So when something comes home from Amazon in a cardboard box, you can imagine the trauma involved in the decision to throw the box away. It goes against our DNA. My daughter proves it each time.
We have 2–3 space-consuming cardboard boxes sitting in our spare room right now. Every time I see them, I have this uncontrollable urge to chuck them out, rip them to shreds, clear the space — you get the drift.
The kid has come up with the brilliant excuse that our hamster would love to play inside those boxes. She argued that they make fascinating toys for the hamster. The boxes have been home for months. The hamster has played inside them thrice. Yet, I dare not throw away those boxes. The scene that might play out when the kid discovers them gone is worse than the sight of those boxes. So I sigh, lock up my inner Kondo, and get on with life.
I am not a waster. I squeeze out the last drop of milk and curd from their covers. I use my soap until it is an invisible sliver. Hey, I have those cultural messages imprinted on my DNA too. But I guess the print is just a little bit lighter.
I do not put body lotion bottles bottom-up for days on end in the hope that another two drops will squeeze out. I don’t try to iron tubes of toothpaste to make them last 3 more days. No. I draw the line a little higher than some others in the house. And right there is where the trouble begins. When the lines don’t meet.
I throw away things that I think have outlived their core purpose. Two others in the house can’t imagine that anything has outlived its purpose. They are not above checking the dustbin to see if I have surreptitiously thrown away something ‘valuable’. Smirk!
Sometimes I go on cleaning sprees and collect a pile of ‘give away’ stuff. I have another pile of ‘throw away’ stuff too. My family insists on inspecting these piles before I act on them. Apparently, free will is a thing of the past. The give away pile is treated with kindness. After all, someone is benefitting from them. But the throw away pile is checked and re-checked, and at least 2–3 things are confiscated and stashed away for, yup, future use!
During a routine inspection of these two piles, my daughter suddenly lost it. She was very upset about a few of the things that I was willing to throw away. She ranted and argued, and finally said,
One day you will throw us out too!
At which point the tension broke and all of us laughed until we had tears in our eyes. But I pretended not to notice that while we were laughing and wiping happy tears, a few of the throw away items quietly went into my daughter’s room. That room — sigh! It is packed to its gills with stuff like this.
So who lives in your house? The hoarder? The collector? The minimalist? And how do you deal with the differences?