Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Enough! vs “Just in Case”

As I unpack boxes . . . and boxes . . . and boxes . . . I find myself thinking “How much is ENOUGH??”

What is it with women and shoes? Just before we moved, I told you about our short trip to France and Germany when I bought some truly yummy shoes but now, as I am putting shoes away, I wonder how many pairs of shoes I really need. I have some – the French shoes – that I actually wear all the time, in fact some of them are old friends now and really need to go to shoe heaven but I keep telling myself “Just one more time!” before I send them on their way. Others, I have bought “just in case” and they are pristine. One actually still has the shoe store tags on them. I have a lot of these, and every time I consider giving them away, I think “but what if I need to wear that particular dress that those shoes go with??” and I hold on for . . . another move.

Moving often motivates me to part with my old friends, and even with some new friends (we’re talking about shoes here) that didn’t quite make the grade. Then again, as I am unpacking, I am wondering “will I really ever wear these again?” And – once again, I hang on to them, just in case I MIGHT need them at some hypothetical time in the future.

I have finally stopped buying dressy evening clothes. I have some really cool ones, so cool that when we go out to a rare dressy event, I usually wear what I love and feel comfortable in. If you have to sparkle, you want to know you look good! I always used to buy ahead – just in case – because the time to be buying a dress is NOT when you need it; when you really, seriously NEED it, you can never find exactly what you want and you settle for something that is not quite right and sometimes at the last minute you ditch it and go back to an oldie-but-goodie that you know works for you. For us, for most Americans, serious dress events seem to becoming fewer. Even charitable events aren’t as dressy as they used to be – partly, I am guessing, because of the economy, but it may be demographics. The baby boomers are getting older – they may not care about dressing up the way they used to.

I think my Mom still has a lot of her evening gowns from the days when she and my Dad went to balls . . . 🙂 but she still loves to go shopping when a family wedding is coming up.

I’ve actually done just fine with the clothes I brought with me. If not a single item of clothing had shown up . . . well, yeh, I’d have been in trouble. I would have needed a few things. I needed an evening purse for the Army birthday ball, even though I had thought to bring the dress.

The other item both AdventureMan and I have a real problem with is books. Even though I get rid of a lot of books, I pass them along, there are still a lot we hang on to, can’t seem to give them up. We haul a lot of books around, and we still have boxes and boxes of books in storage that we haven’t seen for many years. Is there such a thing as “enough” when it comes to books?

I think I am about a third of a way through the boxes. I conceive it as creating “islands of sanity” in the midst of chaos. My kitchen is always the first island of sanity, and there is always a path to our bed and the bed itself which is clear. Today, our bedroom became another island of sanity.

Little Diamond, the guest room is an island of sanity. 🙂

The Women’s majlis (the small living room downstairs) is an island of sanity.

Where is the chaos? We spend a lot of time in our upstairs family room; it is also our office; it is also an area of utter chaos.

Our living room – I haven’t even started on the boxes in the living room. It is a bedlam of insanity. Many of the boxes contain books, and I have to have places to put all the books before I can put them away. It may stay insane for a little while.

The lady who comes to help me clean came today, and I had a list of things for her to do which mostly did not include cleaning because you can’t really clean when things are chaotic. She and I work well together, she works in her areas and I work in mine with a brief chat-chat-chat now and then when our paths cross. As she was leaving, she showed me how she had broken down all the boxes, hauled them to a small room and stored them neatly, and put all the ones full of paper outside in another holding area . . . that wasn’t on the list. She is a gem. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I’m going to have to give her a bonus this month. 🙂 She also takes care of cats when people go away, even taking them to the vet if the cat gets sick. She is worth every penny.

I start every morning around seven. I quit around five, take a shower (I need it!) and clean up. I have about an hour before AdventureMan even thinks about coming home, so I thought I would take a chance to have a chat with you.

So I ask you – what does “enough” look like? When is it prudent to buy “just in case” and when does it become consumerism?

July 1, 2009 - Posted by | Books, Charity, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Moving


  1. moving is always chaotic …. best part is when you actually go through everything and are finally done then know where everything is …. the feeling usually lasts a week.

    Comment by KTDP | July 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. I so know what you’re talking about! Just this very morning, believe it or not, I sorted through my over-full clothing closet, realizing I don’t normally wear more than 20 percent of the things hanging there on a regular basis. What I almost never wear, of course are the “just in case” things that are beautiful and make me feel good when I get the opportunity to wear them. Some of them I haven’t worn for a couple of years but they are too “interesting” to get rid of. Having spent much of my life in foreign countries, I have an eclectic assortment of things I cannot part with, but that don’t always look right in just any environment.

    So when is too much too much? Well, my dear spouse says: When it doesn’t fit in the backpack anymore. He’s joking, but you get the idea.

    Since I spent much of my time at home in front of the computer I usually only wear what makes me feel comfortable. Still, I like to have the “security” of knowing I have some decent things in the closet to wear in case I have to meet the queen of Holland. Well, maybe not that decent!

    Comment by Miss Footloose | July 1, 2009 | Reply

  3. I just had another thought about all the stuff I have. Moving is always a good way to get rid of things, of course, especially in poor countries because you don’t have to throw it away, you can give it away and make people happy. Still, I have so much stuff.

    What came to me was the memory of the month I spent in Albania last year where my dh had a short-term contract. We were given the use of a very nice apartment that had the very basics of furniture in it, a good kitchen ,and a washer and dryer. Other than that there was a comfortable bed, a set of sheets, a couple of towels, 1 frying pan, a few dishes, a coffee pot.

    I had brought with me some clothes, of course, but not that many. And my laptop and books to read.

    It was amazing to me how very easy and comfortable I managed to live that month with almost nothing. The place looked a bit bare, so a bought a candle and a rosemary plant — dual purpose. I did buy one sauce pan and managed to cook decent if simple meals. Wine was available so no problem there!

    Really, I have too much, even with all the moving I’ve done. Maybe I’ll get a book about how to live a minimalistic life ….

    Miss Footloose, inspired now to get rid of more stuff!

    Comment by Miss Footloose | July 1, 2009 | Reply

  4. You can never have enough books! Books are our friends for ever and ever!!

    From a very sad bibliophile!

    Comment by revq8 | July 1, 2009 | Reply

  5. LLOOLLL, KTDP, you sound like an experienced mover. And yes, the good thing is that at the end of the move, you can see what you have accomplished – and yes, the satisfaction usually lasts about a week! We used to move about every two years, sometimes as little as eight months in a place. If we went beyond two years, I got restless and would start rearranging the furniture. Not anymore.

    Miss Footloose, I’ve been living like you in Albania, and you are right, you can be happy living with much less than we live with. It also occurs to me that this nomadic life helps us keep our lives pared down – people who live in one place still have to pare, but they have attics and storage rooms – even rent additional storage lockers – and have a very hard time passing things along. We are lucky here – when we get rid of things, we make other people very happy.

    RevQ8 – Yes! Yes! They are! And, like best friends, you have to introduce them to other people, and hope they will move on and lead an interesting life! Some favorites just sit in our houses and gather dust – what a pity!

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 2, 2009 | Reply

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