Women are like that

By Devi

Last week, on the train, a co-passenger was holding faith on how his wife was like a magpie - a born collector of things. He was saying that she just couldn't resist a piece of string. "I bet my wife has a hundred miles of string" he said. I was at once reminded of my aunt who, every time she opened a parcel, would spend an hour undoing each knot, wind up the string and put it away. She used to say you can never tell when you will need a piece of string. Across the aisle another man said, "my wife keeps boxes, shoe boxes, chocolate boxes, cigar boxes, she even keeps big boxes to keep little boxes in it". I piped in, with how my mother kept the paper that things were wrapped in. It has come to such a pass, that nowadays when I give her a present, I don't wrap it but give the wrapping paper separately. Even as we were talking I noticed the man whose wife collects string, bend down to pick up a pin. I asked him, "Why are you sticking the pin on your pocket flap?"  "You never know when you'll need one," he said.

Every woman is a thing-keeper at heart.  Men are thing-keepers too, but they keep only sensible things like lapsed driving licenses, or the key to the front door of the house they lived in ten years ago. As far as I can tell, the reason women keep things is because they hate to throw them away.  My mother for instance has a collection of things in her fridge which is the envy of thing-collectors anywhere.  The last time I looked in, there was a plate with a spoonful of mashed potato, the cup of fruit salad I didn't eat last Sunday, a thimble full of chutney, milk in three different containers and flowers in boxes.  She also has a good collection of things in the medicine chest-like an ointment jar without a label (for itching) a box full of white pills (must be for something) an assortment of bottles with brown stuff caked in the bottom and sheets of capsules with the expiry dates going back to the dark ages.

My husband, an avowed-hater of clutter fills the lumber room with crafts of all sizes and the thermocol packing in which  his precious computers come wrapped. There is no one to beat my daughter-in-law's mother whose cupboards overflow with children's school uniforms (the children are all now in their thirties) and other cast off  clothes.  She just can't bear to discard anything, consequently the clothes used currently lie in stacks on chairs and beds, while clothes 20 years old take up all the cupboard spaces.

I have taken an inventory of the things in our house and in the houses of friends and made a list :

1. Things that go on things - tops of jam bottles, caps of bottles, saucers (old broken cups) which can be used upside down etc.

2. Things that come off things - buttons, buckles (which we hope to stitch back but never do) nozzle of the garden hose, screws that fall off including those from the car.

3. Things that other things come in - paper bags, plastic bags, cartons, round tin boxes (absolutely irresistible) empty coffee jars.

4. Things that are a shame to throw away - pack of cards with just two cards missing, one of a pair of socks (we may find the other one).

5. Things in the garage - old fridges, trunks not opened for several years - lawn mower which needs to be repaired, garden hose full of holes.

6. Things too good to be used - the lovely old lace table cover never used in twenty years for fear of staining it, the Royal Salute bottle saved for a special occasion.

7. Things of sentimental values - old faded photographs, wedding cards, school certificates.

Thing keepers have their own devices for storing the things they keep - some of them baffling.  When it comes to putting things away, women follow a plan which is a cross between a squirrel storing nuts for winter and a city road map.  Objects used once a year are kept right in front, while things used every day are tucked away at the back, behind some boxes. My friend for example keeps her woollens carefully wrapped, on which are written abbreviations like "THWG" or "FKLM-SI".  She usually breaks the code by poking a hole to see what is inside.

It is in the kitchen that the art of thing keeping reaches its height.  The wife has her special system which a mere male can never understand. During his wife's absence, an intrepid husband tried to cook his dinner.  He discovered that the tin marked salt contained sugar, while the coffee tin had tea, the bread box was crammed with old recipes and so on.  He finally went out to the restaurant and had dinner.

I am not like that of course.  My method of placing things is a model of order and precision.  There is never my problem of finding anything.  The only thing is,

Now where did I keep the last page of this article?


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