Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch


My one household task of the day was one that always proves more exhausting to me than I imagine it will: cleaning out the pantry. Usually, there comes a point when I start relaxing my standards in the middle of that activity. Instead of zealously searching out items that are too old to trust, I look only for those that are obviously no good. This afternoon, though, I made it all the way from top to bottom without making any exceptions to the rule I had established.

To be honest, that task was rendered considerably easier by the fact that the bugs that sometimes turn up in our flour had managed to conquer, in visually obvious ways, a lot of new territory. There were cashews of relatively recent vintage that had been reduced to dust at the bottom of the package, for example. And I even think the bugs had been having a go with one bag of raisins, though I had previously been of the opinion that they have no interest in sugar.

Highlights of the process included mustering the nerve to dispose of a large, half-full jug of post-dated peanut oil, even though it did not seem to be spoiled; getting rid of all the wheat-free items that my mother left behind years ago, which, though they were clearly expired, I was holding onto for sentimental reasons; tossing out Skylar's play flour from when she was three, despite the strong impulse to preserve it for nostalgic purposes even in a degraded form; and deciding that I could dispense with the quinoa, even if it wasn't bad, because no one in the family besides me will ever eat it.

"So what?," you say. Well, in case you need reminding, getting rid of anything is harder for me than the pursuit of happiness. My efforts to pare down inevitably lead to tortured debates in which I argue with myself about whether I need to preserve a piece of packaging because it is no longer current, or try to decide whether one of the hundreds of shopping lists for Trader Joe's that I've saved over the years really merits consignment to my archives. Today, though, I was able to avoid most of that needless mental exertion, setting aside only the box for Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, since Skylar's troop sold them, and a single, empty plastic bag that had contained Wild Oats's own brand of pasta, since we are all sad that Whole Foods has wiped out all traces of the former.

As I sorted, I found myself musing, with greater intensity than I ever did before, on the problem with keeping things too long. I'm not going to get rid of my archives anytime soon, but I am starting to wonder whether the impulse that led to its creation isn't an invitation to be "bugged." What once seemed to be an object documenting a moment of unbridled happiness can turn into one that reminds one, instead, of what came after the joy was over. I think intimate relationships are especially likely to lead to this sort of metamorphosis in outwardly inert items. I have whole boxes of material that I am loathe to open, simply because they make me melancholy. It's important to remember, I suppose, but I'd rather sift through flour that isn't maculate with predation.
Tags: analysis, archive, autobiography, everyday, home
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