Friday, July 22, 2011

Hoarders: Buried in Seoul

This is not our apartment, but it feels like it.

"Culture and possessions, there is the bourgeoisie for you." - Thomas Mann



I know that you, my readers, will be relieved to hear that, after weeks of incessant whining eager anticipation, I finally have gotten exactly what I have been asking for:  the opportunity to challenge all the laws of physics.  By this, I of course mean that our furniture finally arrived and Mr. Logical and I have been busy trying to find places to put all of the stuff we packed to send to Seoul 6 weeks ago when we were back in our house in Texas and clearly delusional.

Now of course, Mr. Logical and the children are perfectly happy.  The boys, because they now have desks and chairs (it takes so little to make a child happy, doesn't it?)  Mr. Logical is happy because he now has not one, but TWO bicycles and all the tools he needs (plus extras in case of extenuating circumstances) to dismantle and re-mantle both of them two or three times a day, should he so desire.  

My astute readers will note that, while I pointed out that Mr. L and the children were happy, I did not include myself in that number.  And this is why:  I am in  the midst of a crisis. A crisis of my own making.

Those of you who were reading my blog back when we received our air freight may recall my consternation when, upon opening the boxes, I realized that they had clearly been packed by an imposter, because it was unthinkable that I could have been in my right mind while blithely choosing NOT to pack pillows, silverware, or trash cans.  During the dark and troubled weeks that followed, I comforted myself with the thought that the rest of our belongings would soon arrive, and that once again, order would reign.  Of course, I was mistaken. There is no possible way that order will ever reign here.  Ever.  We might as well just resign ourselves to two years of living like the people in that "Hoarders" show: sleeping in nests of fast-food wrappers and traveling on little paths through our musty warren full of outdated issues of People magazine, McDonald's Happy Meal toys, shoes belonging to deceased relatives, and  mummified cats.  

Of course, I am exaggerating.  We do not have a cat.

But we do have an inordinate amount of stuff, and as far as I can tell, during those last feverish days in Texas,  the conversations between me and Mr. L must have sounded like this:

Me:  Darling, what do you think? Should we bring the 4-foot didgeridoo that Son #2 made for his Australia project in 5th grade? It's such a conversation piece.
Mr.  L:  Sure, why not? We can lean it against the wall.

....and this:

Mr. Logical:  Hey, honey, what say we go ahead and bring the china cabinet and all the best china, even though we don't have a dining room in the new apartment?
Me:  Oh, absolutely! We can put the didgeridoo on top of it!

All right, the conversations weren't really that extreme (we stored both the china and the cabinet,) but I think I'm making my point, which is that we were both clearly certifiable when making packing decisions. The upshot of the matter is this:  we have an apartment full of things that:  1) we will probably never use and 2) are unlikely to need in the next 2 years.  The question is, why? Or, more accurately, what the hell were we thinking?

 I also have to admit that, while 50% of my dismay comes from wondering where in God's Green Earth we will ever put these items, the other 50% comes from wondering what exactly the choices I made reveal about the precarious state of my sanity.  I offer as evidence the following:

-43* bath towels.  That's right, 43. I counted.  For a family of four.  Now, I am all in favor of  being prepared, especially if you:  a) are a practicing midwife or b) have a lot of company, but neither of those descriptions apply to me at the moment.  So why did I bring 43 towels to Seoul?  We don't even have a linen closet.
16 blankets. This does not include the duvets already on everyone's beds.  Yes, I know Seoul gets cold in the winter and we've been in the Southwest for a long time, but it looks like I was expecting  to winter in the High Sierras in a log cabin with nothing but the livestock for warmth.
-all (yes, all) of the fake instruments that connect to the "Rock Band" video game.  My children do not play this game any more.
-a set of pate' knives with handles shaped like little turkeys, nestled in a green velvet-covered box.  First of all, we rarely if ever, eat pate', and, if we do, no one we know would have a problem with serving themselves pate' with a butter knife.  Now, I grant you, there is nothing in the world to prevent us from using them to serve Brie or spinach dip (we're rebels that way), but again, a butter knife would do.  Besides, to my mind,  the turkey on the handle really limits the season of use.  So we have pate' knives for pate' we don't serve  (but if we do, we can only serve it in November or December.)
-shish-ke-bab skewers;  20 of them, stainless steel, approximately 18" long.  We do not have a grill. 
-8 skillets.  Why 8? I use 2- maybe 3 at most - regularly.  Why didn't I put the other 5 in storage? And while I was at it, why did I bring a dutch oven (which I have used only 6 times in 20 years of marriage) and a deep-fry turkey thermometer? And two stock pots? What was I expecting? A chili cook-off?
-A pair of buffet lamps that stood on our dining room sideboard.  We did not bring the sideboard.
-8 coffee cups with matching saucers that are part of a china set that I no longer own.  These are the kinds of genteel cups you have coffee in after dinner when you've had people over, not normal robust mugs that hold normal amounts of coffee.  Needless to say, most of our friends would rather finish off the wine after dinner anyway, so we haven't used these things in years.  In fact, I don't even know where the packers found them.  On the other hand, our renters emailed us to let us know that all of our wine glasses  had been left behind on the top cabinet shelf in the kitchen.  There's some irony for you.
-a derelict CPU from Son #1's previous computer system that is of questionable vintage and/or function and has no monitor.  It has become an end table.

You'll notice that I have refrained from throwing Mr. Logical under the bus mentioning Mr. Logical's penchant for packing and storing large amounts of outdoor/extreme sports gear.  This is because I have learned, after 20 years of mostly-harmonious wedded bliss, that it is best not to expose your spouse's little fetishes idiosyncrasies in a public setting, but rather, practice forbearance.  So of course, I did not include on my list his ice-climbing boots (complete with crampons:  try fitting those on a closet shelf without hurting yourself), the 40-foot climbing rope, the cross-country skis, the three pairs of cycling cleats (must have the extra pair for mountain biking) the squash and racquetball racquets, and the full set of golf clubs.  The main reason I did not mention these items (besides the obvious desire for marital harmony) is because, unlike my 43 towels, 16 blankets and the shish-ke-bab skewers, Mr. Logical's sporting equipment  may actually get used.  However, storing it all has been challenging, to say the least.

But you can't fault the man for wanting to be prepared.

Of course, once the dust settled, I did what any right-thinking woman would do:  I started making piles to take to Goodwill.  I am probably the first (and only) woman in history to move hundreds of pounds of belongings to the other side of the world, only to immediately pack them up and get rid of them.

On the bright side, however, the problem of the pillows has been solved.  Did I mention that I packed 14?

*As of this afternoon, the count is up to 58, due to Son #1 having just now gotten around to unpacking a dresser and discovering yet another towel cache.  In my defense, at least half of them were hand towels.  That is all.  













10 comments:

Hails said...

Oh, good grief. Hahahahaha!! I actually choked on my coffee because I was laughing so much at this. Sorry, I know that's not exactly sympathetic, but it is one of the funniest blog posts I have read in ages!

When I came to Korea, all I had was a small suitcase containing 6 books and a few worn-out items of clothing for each season. If I remember correctly, I didn't even have a towel. Your situation is unfathomable to me, as an extreme minimalist! And all the more amusing for it. ;) Good luck with restoring order!

MsCaroline said...

I think when I was your age and BC (before children) I was much more of a minimalist myself. In fact, between me and my husband, I am definitely the one with less 'stuff' for sure. I am probably one of the only women in the world whose husband has more clothes and shoes than she does. My weakness is most definitely books,though, and I do collect them (and read them) with a passion. If I hadn't gotten an e-reader before we moved here, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. However, as far as the kitchen stuff goes...I have no excuse except insanity....

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

You're right - you are completely bonkers! 16 blankets?? Pate knives with turkeys on them?? Mind you, I've had the best laugh in ages.

Over here a 'dutch oven' is when you fart in bed and pull the duvet over your spouse's head!

MsCaroline said...

The strange thing is, I am perfectly lucid now and aware of just how bizarre these choices are. What I still can't understand is where my sanity was when I was making those decisions. I suspect that a lot of it was last-minute panic, but really...I've got no idea.
Oh, and re: the dutch oven: I'm not saying that your version has never happened in my household, but in this particular situation, I was referring to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_oven

Marion said...

Ha (and oh my goodness!) You can drink wine out of the delicate coffee cups, although I recommend using more than one cup. How on earth did you even collect 58 bath towels to start off with? I don't think we have that many (and that includes the requisite 8 that the kids need to bring to camp each summer (8 total, not 8 each). Be careful what you get rid of, I find that the week (or day) after I get rid of something, I am frantically looking for it (although I don't think you are in any danger of that in this particular circumstance!). Wish I was there to help you sort through the piles (mountains) of stuff.

nappy valley girl said...

That is hilarious. 43 bath towels! How on earth did you collect so many? Pate knives sounds like something my parents might have had in their accommodation in Hong Kong - I remember them laughing at the house inventory once because it listed 'ice cream spoons'.

When we were packing to come here, we decided that less was more, but we keep realising we don't have things we really quite liked, and having to go out and buy new ones. So when we go home we'll probably have everything in triplicate.

Karen said...

LMAO here in RI, as usual! Also roasting it off while trying to pack for NH in 100+ degree heat and God knows what humidity. Taking a break in the AC bedroom for a few minutes before plunging back into the heat. Have to confess that as I neared the end I was thinking (or not thinking as the case may be) that you would need to rent storage space. You had a much better idea (Goodwill)! End the madness now! BTW you are not the only woman whose husband has more clothes and shoes....that is the case here as well! Even now, as I throw away stuff as quickly as I can get away with, hubby is just as quickly gathering more! Hope it all works out and you come to a happy medium between camp chairs and chaos!

MsCaroline said...

@Marion: no, of course Mr.Logical has already gone out and bought more wine glasses. The cups and saucers are in the 'donate' box. I still can't think why I brought the pate servers....and I do very much wish you were here! How are the Keens? Are they ok, or is the toe driving you crazy?

@Nappy: When I was growing up, what with all the international moves, we had quite a selection of things, too, and often had multiples. Part of the problem in this case was that I was on my own dealing with work and the children up until 7 days before the actual move, so I admit to a certain amount of hysteria.
As far as the towels go, you have to keep in mind that our last house (being in Texas, you see) included four full baths. It also included teenage boys and a dog. So I had a rather ragtag supply of 'everyday' towels for each bathroom, plus dog and kid emergency towels and then 'company' sets for each bathroom, which I kept put away so that, should I have last-minute company, I could pull out a set of clean towels at a moment's notice. In several of the bathrooms, I had two sets of 'company' towels, (since it was not unheard of for us to have quite a bit of company at one time). Add to this the fact that I had quite a few towels that probably should have already been demoted to cleaning rags but I just hadn't gotten around to it. I also had 3 linen cupboards (one for us, two for the other bathrooms). As best I can tell, I packed up ours, and the packers did the other two without me having a chance to go through them first.
However, I realize that still doesn't satisfactorily explain all those towels and I can only plead insanity.

@Karen: HA! This is yet ANOTHER eerie parallel in our lives! I have one of everything, Mr. Logical has 5 of everything. If I were not such a loyal wife, I would have posted photos of the rows and rows of shoes (all his) in every storage space in this apartment. Hope it's cooler by the water in NH - I know the heat's been brutal!

elizabethm said...

I am reading your blog with a glass of champagne to hand (I know, I am so classy!) and you just made me laugh so much the champagne came down my nose (not so classy now). Fab blog as usual. I am even more stupefied about the towels now that I have read the explanation mind you.

MsCaroline said...

@Elizabeth: I like the idea of champagne being drunk -even if it does exit oddly - while someone's reading my blog. It adds a certain cachet, don't you think? As far as the towels go, I am going to stick with 'stress' as my excuse, since it sounds better than 'insanity.'