Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On Worldly Goods

Yes, I know. It's been a while . . . again. My excuse this time is that we've been moving. I won't say exactly why, but I will say that we didn't have a whole lot of time to do it. Between the first of June and the second of July we had to find a new apartment and transfer all our earthly possessions. (Thankfully, we had lots of help from friends). Then we had to unpack and arrange the furniture, which wasn't a trivial task. Unlike the old place, which was an attic, our new apartment has straight walls, so we have room for one more 28-inch bookcase, which we sorely need. Otherwise, though, it's smaller, and we really have too much stuff for this amount of space.

I've lived in apartments all my life (except when I lived in dorms), so I'm used to not having as much space as I'd like, and I've learned to view willingness to get rid of just about anything as a virtue. I guess that's why I was so ashamed when just about everyone involved (the old landlord, the new landlord, friends and family) expressed astonishment at how much we own.

We have gotten rid of things: a table, an armchair, a stereo; two old TV's we had piled behind our bed; some gifts we hardly ever use, like the large wooden candlesticks and the decorative glass dishes and the individual wooden salad bowls. I also gave away more than half my clothing, partly because it was in lousy condition, but also to prove to myself that I'm not a greedy materialist. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea — I hate shopping, and now I have nothing to wear. But I was trying to compensate for all the things I wasn't willing to get rid of, like kitchenware and books.

Actually, that's about it — kitchenware and books. But oh, what a lot of that there is. The cookware overload is partly a result of keeping kosher (we have two sets of pots and four sets of dishes). But even for observant Jews our age we have quite a lot of cookware, and I'm not willing to give it up. Without a crockpot, we couldn't make cholent. Without crepe pans, we couldn't make blintzes. Without a 10-inch tube pan, I couldn't make 10-inch tube-shaped cakes. Without a 9-inch tube pan...well, you get the idea.

In defense of my book hoarding, I'd point out that I'm not nearly as compulsive a book buyer as most of my bibliophile friends. I'm aware of the limits of space and finances, and I try to bear them in mind when I decide which books to buy and which to take out of the library. With a few notable exceptions, I deliberately don't form attachments to works of fiction; I try to give my novels away as soon as I've finished them. So I think I deserve the books I've decided to buy and keep, even if they are taking up a large amount of wall space.

Still, I feel guilty.

I've tried to view this move as an opportunity for catharsis. When that didn't work, I tried creativity. We've created a printer stand from Sterilite containers full of Passover dishes — pretty neat, wouldn't you say? To make it less ugly, I covered it with a sarong I bought years ago at Venice Beach, so now it looks like a pile of Sterilite containers with laundry hanging on it. Okay, so that didn't really work. I'll figure something out.

Anyway, I'm going to try to stop feeling guilty about owning things and focus on more important matters, like feeling guilty about not making progress on my dissertation. Many thanks to those of you who helped move our accumulated detritus. If any of you are interested in large wooden candlesticks or size 6 1/2 suede shoes, come and get them before they collect the trash.


Anonymous said...

Fwiw, I don't think you have an unusual amount of stuff.

bakinghistory said...

I found your blog by chance, looking for a brownie recipe...anyway, I read your last two entries with much interest since they echo my own experiences both with Haymarket in Boston and with moving recently (and giving away lots of stuff except for cookbooks and kitchen "indispensable" utensils.
I will keep reading your very interesting blog. Good luck with your dissertation! (been there, done that, too :-))

elf said...

Thanks, and welcome. (My cookbook collection isn't actually as well justified as the rest of my library. I have a little problem.)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try to send you home with a bag of clothes tonight.
--The Enabler

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you're getting rid of those candlesticks! have they been claimed yet, cuz if not they're mine!!!


elf said...

You're in luck: I didn't go through with it. I actually took them out to the garbage and then took them back in and stuck them at the bottom of my closet. A good thing, since the following Shabbat I couldn't find my usual candlesticks, so I used those.

I do remember how much you like those candlesticks. You're welcome to have them when you get your own place.