Friday, March 21, 2014

Hoarding No More

I developed an ugly habit while we were in Albania. Hoarding. Yes, hoarding; the compulsion to accumulate as much of an item as possible because I feared not having any. For me, food and other household consumables were my compulsion, or more specifically a well stocked pantry filled with everything and anything I could even need to cook a meal. By my own admission, the pantry was well stocked and shocked more than a few people who witnessed it. "Why do you need so much stuff?" was the most common question I was repeatedly asked by visitors. I found it hard to explain the why. But in my defense, despite what others said, I came by this habit honestly.

So why did I hoard? Simply put because there were so many items that I just could not buy in Albania. Or if I could buy them locally their quality was substandard compared to what I was used to. But I knew this before we even arrived in the country. That didn't mean I feared our starving while there; rather if we were going to continue to cook and eat the way we enjoyed, I was going to have to find many of my ingredients elsewhere. (If items met certain size and consistency parameters I could buy them online then wait weeks for them desired item to arrive through our mail system). And that is what I did. I spent the weeks before our departure scouring the aisles of the local grocery stores buying every item I thought I would need over the next two years. Sugars, flours and speciality baking items were purchased by the case. The same held true for favored sauces and must have condiments. Anything that derived from either Asian or Mexican cuisine was shipped in as well. But the items went beyond food stuffs. Ziploc bags and trash bags --items that either couldn't be found or whose poor quality essentially rendered them useless-- were like gold and rationed out slowly over the course of our time there. One tube of toothpaste wasn't enough; two dozen might cut it. The same went for saline solution for my contacts, shampoos, conditioners, preferred soaps, and the list just goes on. Fortunately our Albanian house had a huge pantry which, much to our housekeeper's horror, we immediately filled with case upon case of imported products. Standing back and looking at our impressive stash of items I felt comforted knowing that we wouldn't run out of an item. Ironically enough, the most of the stash lasted us through our entire tour with my only having to give away a few illogically purchased items.....a case of A-1 Steak Sauce anyone? I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I made that purchase!

But oh how times have changed. Here in Belgium I now have ready access to just about any ingredient I could ever need. If I can't find it on the local shelves I can order it online and it will arrive in my mailbox in approximately one week. And for old time's sake as I finish unpacking I am finding stashes of items that I had long forgotten about--six bottles of a favorite shampoo felt like Christmas. But more importantly I now have what I consider to be the world's smallest pantry. With only a few shelves I simply no longer have the room to buy multiples of everything. But then again, there isn't the need to buy in bulk. Whereas I never ran out of anything in Albania on occasion, here I am finding myself out of an item here making me rue the fact I didn't buy a second container.  Although it is surfacing with less frequency, on trips to the grocery store I do still find myself loading my cart with multiples of the same items before pausing then removing all but one of them. Its taking me a while to break this habit but out of sheer necessity I am. And do you know what....if feels good.

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