For years, i have always thought that my father was the main culprit for the clutter in my parents house.
At restaurants, he would pocket as many toothpicks and wet towels as he can. He would come home from Sunday markets or trade fairs with stuff that we didn’t need.
Although i must say that on his business trips to Japan, his penchant for buying oddball stuff and the latest electronic gadgetry did whet my appetite for technology and made me quite popular is secondary school.
When i got married, and the wife and i traveled with my parents, i had to warn my wife to make sure she showered as soon as we got into the room. Only in this way could we prevent my father from pocketing the free soap, shampoo, shower cap and occasional comb.You see, he would only pocket items that were still in its wrapping.
At home, his drawers were full of matchboxes, wet towel packets, toothpicks, shampoo, soap and other hotel toiletries. It did come in useful though when i had to go on school outings…sometimes, in all the clutter, you would get lucky and get the 3 in 1 packs..i.e. soap, shampoo and conditioner…and i wouldn’t need to bring my own personal stuff.
Soap, shampoo and hotel toiletries were the tip of the iceberg. From the Sunday markets and his overseas trips, he would come back with vases, clocks, books and other odd and bulky items. He had more than 10 parangs, 7 standing fans, 8 coffee tables and….you get the picture…
My mum on the other hand, was the direct opposite of him…she lived to throw stuff out…She could and would even throw out brand new stuff if she didn’t like the way it looked or smelt or felt…when it came to my father’s stuff though, she knew her boundaries…his stuff was off limits…no matter how many toothpick, used or unused, lay on his table…she could not throw it away…just in case he needed it to dislodge some food item stuck in his teeth, ear, nose or other body cavity…(yes, i know..that’s my dad)
When my mum wanted to do some spring cleaning (i.e. throw some of his stuff out) , we would have to plan it around my father’s overseas business trips…we had to do it between Mondays and Thursdays just in case the bin man didn’t come around on Friday. Then the stuff we had thrown out would be exposed at the rubbish bin in front of the house throughout Saturday and Sunday, when he would normally come back…if caught out, it would mean carting back the disposed items and the pleasure of another dinner lecture on how disposing of usable items was synonymous to throwing cash into the bin…etc etc.
My father is 85 this year and my mother 80. After 2 years of cajoling, we finally managed to get them to agree to sell the 4 storey split level house they have lived in for the past 30 plus years and downsize to a double storey house with a room on the ground floor.
Now any elementary school kid can tell you that trying to fit in items and objects from a 4 storey house into a 2 storey house is impossible.
They just finished moving house yesterday and i can tell you a) my mum is not in elementary school and 2) she is not who i thought she was….
My mum thinks we can fit everything in from the old house and my mum has become my father. We were not allowed to dispose of any major item.
My mum has moved 4 separate sofa sets , 2 dining tables with 8 chairs each, 5 coffee tables, and about 16 suitcases worth of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s style clothes from the old house into the new house.
My father’s stuff on the other hand, has mostly found its way to the rubbish bin. My father is not so mobile anymore and we didn’t want to stress him out with the move. So we left all the packing to my mum and the maids. Naturally, she took the opportunity to “Spring Clean”. The fact that a lot of the electronic stuff my father had bought was now useless helped the process a lot.
Strangely, my father’s old suits and bush jackets which he has not used for the past 5 years have somehow met and exceeded her disposal standards and found a place in their new wardrobe. Go figure.
My sister and i now bitch about how it is actually my mother that does not want to throw things out and wonder about the time wasted in planning and executing “Spring Cleaning” of yesteryear…or ….maybe as couples grow older, they assimilate the personalities and characteristics of one another and ultimately become ONE.
My mum is my father is my mum.
Thank god i am neither……honey, don’t throw that toothpick away, i’m not done with it yet…