This Side of the Pond – Sept. 11

By Sarah Pridgeon

Have you ever stored something in the safest spot you can think of, only to forget all about your hiding place, let alone what’s stashed inside it? It’s thanks to this ill-advised strategy that I am faced with a mystery this week: the Strange Case of the Unclaimed Spectacles.

In the confines of the Pridgeon household, we are at this moment preparing for renovations. Specifically, we will soon be converting part of the building into a bigger bedroom with a walk-in closet and space for a dressing table.

I am, as you might imagine, excited about this development. I’ve barely even encountered a walk-in closet before, let alone filled one with my own clothing. Spacious wardrobes are not all that common in England, where the majority of our housing was built before fashion was invented.

It’s also something of a relief. While our apartment was plenty big enough for a newly married couple, fast forward a couple of years and things have become considerably more cramped.

This is despite the fact that I was forced to discard two thirds of my belongings on the journey over from England. Everything I owned was shipped over in an enormous crate that took an even more circuitous route than I did, finally arriving three or four months later.

As you might imagine, relocating an entire household over thousands of miles of ocean is an expensive business, so I pared down as much as I could. My poor father, who was tasked with preparing the crate for its journey, remains adamant that I threw out absolutely nothing.

This is not true: everything from bedding to boots to bowls made its sorry way towards the dumpster. It’s just that I am emotionally incapable of discarding books.

I owned so many, in fact, that over the years I successfully built a paperback fort around my mattress. The meager pile of novels that I passed to my neighbors for safekeeping represented probably two percent of the total, and even that was a mental stretch I should prefer to never repeat.

Despite my courageous clear-out, every drawer in our apartment is now overflowing. I’m not sure if this has happened because we’re pack rats or represents proof that I have reached my secret goal of replacing every single one of the items I threw away.

While waiting for construction to begin, I have kept myself occupied with the complicated process of whittling down what we own into a slightly more manageable pile. Aside from anything else, it would be nice to open the closet without everything inside it falling on my head.

My slightly-later-than-spring cleaning must be tackled in a pre-defined order so that drawers can be repurposed and closets emptied without resorting to stacking everything up in the middle of the floor and hoping for the best. Fortunately, as my husband will tell you, there are few things in life that I enjoy more than drawing up a list.

The aforementioned Case of the Unclaimed Spectacles presented itself while I was clearing out a drawer filled with empty jewelry boxes and watch cases that didn’t have any watches in them. These are the kind of things I can throw away without too much of a pang, so it’s always a good place to start.

At the bottom of the drawer, I came across a set of women’s eyewear. This created an immediate conundrum because I have 20/20 vision, the husband was able to present both of his pairs for inspection and for the life of me I can’t place the case.

I immediately assumed that they must belong to the bespectacled bridesmaid who travelled across the pond for the honor of escorting me up the aisle. I sent my friend a quick email to let her know that I had located her missing glasses and that I would find another safe place for them until I next see her.

I followed up with a second message to let her know I would probably forget about the new safe place just as quickly, so she might want to remind me nearer the time.

Unfortunately, I was mistaken. Her response assured me that she didn’t mean to accuse me of constructing the world’s most abstract lie, but that she hadn’t actually owned a spare pair of glasses at the time of the wedding.

They couldn’t have been her main pair, either, because she was sure that she’d have noticed being blind within an hour or two of leaving. She suggested that they must belong to somebody else and that I would have to never give them back to that person instead.

I now find myself in an even more puzzling situation. As far as I can recall, she is the only female to have entered our apartment wearing spectacles who has not returned a second time still wearing that same pair of spectacles.

This either means that I have failed to remember an incident in which a pair of glasses was lost, or that I have forgotten about one of my friends. If the latter turns out to be true, I do hope I haven’t stashed her in a drawer somewhere – it could be years before I feel brave enough to clear her back out.

The lesson I have learned during this time of de-cluttering is that the Spartans had it right in the first place. If I kept my belongings to a minimum, I would not find myself with unidentified eyewear and I wouldn’t suffer from weekly concussions while foraging for shoes in the closet.

The trouble is, I almost certainly will not learn from this lesson. After all, in a few short months I will have all sorts of drawers and cupboards in my brand new bedroom and I’ll be needing plenty of knickknacks to fill them up properly.