The other morning at the breakfast table, Saffy looked up from her zhee cheong fun and said, “I have way too much underwear!”
I buried my face deeper behind the newspaper. A silence settled over the dining table and after a while, even it felt a little embarrassed.
Saffy drew in an audible breath. “I said, I have way…”
“Saf, we heard you the first time,” Amanda interrupted, not once looking up from her Blackberry.
“Well, thank you for making the effort to reply!”
Amanda sighed, clicked her Blackberry one last time, put it down and turned her luminous eyes on Saffy. “Yes, what about your underwear?”
“I have too much of it and I’m wondering if I should donate some of it to charity or something! What! I saw that look! I’ll have you know that there are plenty of people out there who would be grateful for a pair of my Marks and Spencer’s lacey thongs!”
“Name two!” Amanda shot back.
Saffy’s jaws clamped shut.
“I thought so,” Amanda said smugly.
All of which made me think about how much stuff I’ve got. For starters, I have an entire wall of books, nearly three-quarters of which I’ve not read. I’m the sort of person who will innocently walk past Borders and suck up three books in my wake. I’ll take these home, put them up on the shelves, stand back to admire how they look and then walk away. Ten years later, they’ll still be up there, gathering a thick layer of dust and turning mottled with age and humidity.
Meanwhile, Amanda has an entire wardrobe of clothes that still have their price tags dangling from the sleeves.
“And don’t get me started on my shoes,” she said the other day as she stood in front of her shoe cabinet and stared lovingly at her Jimmy Choos. “Why do I have so many pairs when I can only wear one at a time? Well, I know why. I love shoes. And that’s all there is to say about it!”
“It’s all rather obscene, don’t you think?” I said. “Not just about your shoes, I mean, but in general. We just accumulate so much stuff!”
“Which brings me back,” said Saffy, “to my point about giving the extra away! Really, could you both please keep up?”
“Saffy,” Amanda sighed, “there’s a big difference between giving away Jason’s unread copy of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and a pair of your frequently worn panties!”
Saffy remained stubbornly unconvinced. “I bet I could sell these on Japanese eBay and make a fortune! Oooh, maybe I could rent one of those vending machines in Tokyo! How fab would that be?” she cooed, her impressive bosom straining with effort.
That evening, as I looked at my bookshelves, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve spent a lot of money on things that I either don’t need or don’t use. I can only read a book at a time, wear one pair of shoes at a time and use one pen at a time. So, why do I have ten pairs of black shoes and at least 20 pens that I’ve swiped from hotel rooms around the world?
More to the point, why have I allowed so much clutter to build up in my life? Because, in the end, it’s all clutter. If you’re not using it, it’s clutter. So, why am I still shopping?
Leave it to Sharyn to put this existential crisis into perspective. “Aiyoh, you, ah! If you only buy what you need, then you might as well curl up and die, right? Life so short, why you stress yourself? For what? If you want to buy, buy lah! I love to shop!” she added happily. “To the day I die, I can still shop, I tell you! I’m very Singaporean!”
Meanwhile, Saffy had culled her underwear drawer to ten pairs of panties and ten bras. “I can wear a new one every day for a week and a half. That’s all I need!”
To which Sharyn said, “Eeeee! How like that? You must change a new pair in the evening, right? Udder-wise, whole day wear same underwear very chao, you know!”
Which, of course, sent Saffy into a big panic. She rushed downstairs to the rubbish bin to forage for all the underwear that she’d thrown down the chute with such happiness just a few hours earlier.
Upstairs, the phone rang. Saffy’s tinny voice sang through. “Oh. My. God. Someone has taken the bag I threw away! I knew there was a market for my underwear! This world is full of sick people!”