Chapter 4 – Their Other Halves

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It wasn’t because I was stir crazy. The snow and frigid temperatures that had turned Day #6 of no shopping into a housecleaning day didn’t have anything to do with it. I had a meltdown on the coldest day of the year because of plastic.

My Facebook post Saturday afternoon:

If ever I needed proof I have OCD that’s deeply closeted, it’s right now.

I’m in my kitchen, matching plastic containers to lids, and having extra lids and containers makes me anxious because that means I have to throw them out. Unmatched.

Which means they aren’t complete, they don’t get closure, and for some reason that brings me to tears.

I’ve actually been talking to them, asking where their other halves are. Don’t worry, none have answered — yet.

If they’re #5 and can be recycled, I feel a bit better, but obviously I have tremendous unaddressed issues regarding feeling complete and finished vs. feeling useless and abandoned.

All this from Tupperware and some takeout containers. All this from cleaning house.

I thought writing this would make me feel worse, but when I see it in words, I see it for what it is — a big slice of crazy.

I needed a break to get away from the anxiety. Explaining this lets it go.

Funny how I’ve been teaching this writing thing for a while now, but it really works.

GOING AWOL

My husband points out that when it comes to home projects, I’m an 85% kind of gal. Housecleaning, decluttering, reorganizing — I go at it with gusto until I am almost done; then, faced with one final push to accomplish my goals, I fall apart, can’t cope, wander away from my post.

If domesticity were the armed services, I’d have been court-martialed for going AWOL repeatedly.

On Saturday I experienced that. I had to leave the kitchen, sit on the family room couch, and post the above. I could not stay there because the classic symptoms of avoidance were at play: extreme fatigue, inability to focus, a tidal wave of sleepiness crashing down on me.

I knew this in my head, but I couldn’t rationalize it away.

PLASTIC HOARDING

When I came back, I just took all of those lids and bottoms and put them in a box near the door to the garage.

Instead of counting my losses, I photographed my win: an orderly shelf with just enough plastic ware inside.

Running out has always been my fear; I had a daughter who routinely took food to work and left the containers there, so they’d disappear for a while then reappear by the dozen, dirty in the sink. Once she moved out, I couldn’t blame my plastic hoarding on her anymore.

But I can blame Tupperware. Truthfully, I only have a few pieces of ‘authentic’ Tupperware, but it lasts and lasts and the plasticware that’s sold in the stores doesn’t compare. Problem is, you can only get Tupperware at Tupperware parties and who has those these days? (I doubt LuLaRoe will be passed down from mother to daughter; people are dumping it in droves already.)

I have my mother’s prize pieces of Tupperware: the large cake-sized round container, a multi-compartment one (sort of like a bento box) that holds paper clips, thumbtacks and staples in my junk drawer, and a square one that’s the companion to the round cake one. Those two are so big they sit on a high top shelf, and I use them maybe once a year, but I can’t get rid of them.

I just can’t.

QUESTION OF DESIRE

Before Tupperware, didn’t we just use Saran Wrap or Reynolds Aluminum Foil to cover our plates and bowls before going into the fridge?

That’s the logic I used when I got rid of a few extras and worried but what if I run out? Well if I did, why not just cover a bowl with plastic wrap or a plate with tin foil? That’d work fine, right?

Which then made me ponder the question of desire. Why do we need plastic food storage containers? How did this stuff come into our lives in the first place?

From the Independent:

[Earl] Tupper, a chemist, was experimenting with plastic, which, back then, was new and unpopular. It was brittle, smelly and ugly and no one had worked out what it might be good for.

Tupper arranged for his employer, DuPont, to sell him their remnants in the form of polyethylene slag. It was black and hard and, yes, it smelt, but Tupper turned it into a mouldable plastic that was flexible and durable.

BROWNIE WISE

Yet when these plastic storage containers hit the stores, they fell flat. Nobody wanted them.

It took a woman named Brownie Wise (really, I’m not kidding), a home sales guru back in the day, to help Earl Tupper move his Tupperwares. She was something of an icon as a successful woman, and home Tupperware parties became a way for women to earn income for the family.

This story of early home-based female entrepreneurship has me torn.

While I celebrate it, I also see the uglier side: the aforementioned LuLaRoe. In an article on Quartz examining that latest craze, it’s clear the company takes advantage of its salesforce: women who are least able to invest but do so and end up skirting financial disaster.

LEGGINGS AND LIDS

All these musings put my silly OCD panics into perspective. I’m not struggling to get rid of thousands of dollars of LuLaRoe inventory I’m stuck with; I’m just fretting about a couple dozen mismatched plastic pieces.

When you don’t shop, you have time to ponder the larger questions: leggings and lids. And also make much ado about nothing.

I say that tongue in cheek, but despite the anxiety, not spending money curtails desire because there’s no sense ruminating over what you can’t have.

And as I post this at the end of Day #7, I didn’t buy anything and I didn’t have the urge to.

Which is encouraging, considering there’s another 51 weeks to go.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

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