Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Art of Accumulation

One of the drawbacks of living in a small country is that certain activities cannot be done if you don’t want the whole town mocking you or, by the ricochet effect, mocking your family. Consequently, one of the few things I can complain about is that I’m not allowed to go junking or foraging for castoff items when I leave the safety of home. When my husband sees me eyeing rocks (for my garden) from the car, he says sternly: “Do NOT go take those rocks from that dump.” Ok, ok. 
Then there’s the shop we drive by regularly that has old doors, windows and wrought iron in all stages of decay—very tempting.
However, the owner will inevitably ask ten times the normal price when he sees my pasty white skin and blue eyes that mark me as a foreigner. Even with bargaining, I would still pay a higher price than a Tunisian. This I know from experience and it’s annoying to be swindled.
     There is a silver lining: Tunisians of my husband’s generation—and older—accumulate. That is, they find it difficult to throw out anything because it might be useful…someday. This character trait probably developed during colonization when the colonized population tended to be poor, and continued after independence because of laws regulating currency and tight restrictions on imports. Thus, one could never count on stores to carry regular stocks, especially of imported items. Tunisian currency simply did not (and does not) carry clout on the international money market. This explains why I have a small collection of useless miscellaneous items that includes old radios, fans, and irons.
      TRUE story: a French woman married to a Tunisian neighbor (for semi-rural zones a neighbor is anyone living within a 2-mile radius) decided it was time to clean out their basement, which she could barely get into because of the boxes of accumulated paraphernalia and odds and ends. While her husband was absent on a business trip for several days (obviously, she knew him well), she hauled the boxes to the closest garbage pick-up site on the main road—and was quite pleased with herself.
         Unfortunately for her, the garbage pick-up is not a daily occurrence.  When her husband drove home, he spied the boxes overflowing with his possessions sitting by the side of the road. He screeched to a stop, loaded up the boxes, and returned home with the whole kit and caboodle. His wife could only laugh. Can a leopard change the color of his spots?
         Although I do not have a basement, the garage (and the house, for that matter) contains an accumulation of "stuff" that would delight anyone who likes to repurpose and recycle. So, taking into consideration the look of pain on my husband’s face every time I have attempted to toss out something, I have adopted a new version of “use it or lose it”: it is simply “use it.” And this forces me to be creative. Examples:
Small, hand-woven wool rugs became pillows when they frayed and wore out.  The table is the sink hole from a bathroom marble counter and the feet are a beat-up stool painted black. The hooked rug belonged to my grandmother. 
I was told that these particular flat weave designs are no longer produced, so I am thankful I didn't toss them--could this accumulation character trait be rubbing off on me?
The patio table (shown in a previous post) is made of an old portable radiator and a house step removed during remodeling
The hanging wrought iron pieces with grape leaves are the legs to a small table that fell apart. The legs are attached together with wire. Nests, seashells, and rocks--including foot-shaped rocks that have walked across my path--decorate the table and seem cat-resistant.
         Final thoughts about the art of accumulation: The younger “consumer” generation does not seem to accumulate because laws controlling currency and imports have loosened, allowing a flow of goods into Tunisian markets—to the detriment of the Tunisian economy and to the benefit of corrupt leaders. With the Revolution, Tunisians must face the reality of a faultering economy in which unheard  of shortages now occasionally take place. Items that have always been available in abundance have been disappearing for periods of time from store shelves, such as bottled water, sugar, and pasta. The art of accumulation may take the upper hand again.

Of course, I still have a mountain of “stuff” to work through so I don’t really regret not being able to junk; many a happy hour of creative thinking and play await me. Right now I'm trying to figure out what to do with a bidet removed from the bathroom during remodeling. The makeover could be blog-worthy, so stay tuned...

30 comments:

Karen said...

I have inherited a slight accumulation habit. Both sets of my grandparents lived through WWII, and both my parents were born just this side of it. Of course during the war you didn't throw anything out because everything was hard to come by. So now there are lots of things that other people would throw in the bin but I don't because "it might come in handy one day".

Having moved house many times in my adult life, I've had to get rid of a lot of stuff, but if ever my parents comment on how much stuff I have, I just tell them I learnt it from them LOL

Although I don't have anything as cool as those old irons you have!

Sujata said...

I enjoyed reading this post so much! The story of the wrought iron doors sounded like people would do in India. As soon as they see a foreigner, the price will sky rocket.
Love your way of reusing your collection in and around the house! I am almost green with envy:)

Frieda said...

My husband and I also accumulate. I think it not an inherited trait as all three of my boys throw things out regularly.
I always say I want to use up all my fabric before I dye because the boys will just give away what is left. The wifes are not sewers, yet.

ACreativeDreamer said...

I thought accumulating beautiful items, especially to create even more beautiful things from, was normal. it always has been in my life anyway. I do wonder if my children will have the same habits, or if it will drive them to have much less?

Your scenes are just lovely... the pillows are beautiful. I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Connie Rose said...

Delightful post, Nadia, thanks. Looking forward to seeing how that bidet is repurposed. Sounds like an ideal pot for plants. I can see it mosaiced...

claudia becker said...

I loved to get to your blog, share similar ideas and deeply appreciate his style (until the plants have grown some equal here). Very good to know you! "

Hugs from Brazil

Sarah said...

Oh wow! I would so love to be able to do that. I'm "an acquirer" myself but my man throws it out or just nags me to absolute distraction until I do. It really bothers me!! I love that things can have a second life if you just find the right thing for them.

Tonya Ricucci said...

you have some beautiful items and have done a great job displaying them. but you must get your husband (or someone local) to go buy those blue items. those are incredible!!!! love them, want them. sigh...

Radka said...

A lady of my own heart! I accumulate... You never know....
I love your cushions, by the way :))

Gracie said...

This is a compelling post. It is so interesting to hear about the shifts in the Tunisian economy, both of late and during the post-independence period- it makes one wonder about the future. And your photos of the accumulated doors and gates are so beautiful, and so illustrative of something important to me: the ability to imagine how these could be put back to use! Lovely inspiration today, thankyou.

Katie said...

What a wonderful post--I really enjoyed all the ways you are repurposing things. The pillows are great! And those tables, and on and on! I wish I could load my car w/ all those doors and iron gates. Glad to know it's not just Americans who hoard! Ha! I often look around my garage in awe-most of those boxes are filled w/ stuff from grandma and mom...and it's cool stuff...maybe I should do your "use it" words of wisdom and get to creating new things with it all. (some of it IS in my art). Take care. See ya soon.

Carole said...

Nadia, you repurpose everything so wonderfully! I really enjoy reading your posts. Your life is so different than mine. Your grandmother's hooked rug us so pretty. I would love to accumulate all those beautiful blue doors in your photo. Take care.

Sandra said...

Get on accumulating! Love the pillows. Regards from the Netherlands

CREATIVE MIND said...

waoo..very nice and interesting detail!! i like the gates too..nice stuff :)

deanna7trees said...

I just love those pillows. great post.

Teodo said...

My dear I'm like your husband....my prefered hobby is to accumulate, I love your butterfly on the patio-table,
I love your old irons and your old radios and the doors too.
ciao Linda

paula said...

dear god did you do all of these 'make overs'? the pillows are gorgeous....the radiator table...i'm speechless. your blog is beautiful :)

Mary Zeran said...

I loved this post. You are so lucky to have all those beautiful materials to work with. The fans and pillows are some of my favorites!

aracne said...

you should see what my mother has in her cellar, accumulating might be a trait of the mediterranean populations... I admire your creativity in recycling and
those little handwoven wool rugs have amazing patterns

JennyPennyPoppy said...

Enjoyed reading your post & seeing all your neat pictures. Those blue doors look fabulous & your pillows are wonderful. Makes me think that I don't collect enough stuff :)

Michele said...

Great way to reuse the rugs! I wouldn't have guessed that you didn't buy them in a nice store! Interesting thoughts about accumulating things.

Pat said...

I love the pile of blue doors and gates - divine color!

Sue said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! I'm glad it led me to yours, I'm enjoying reading it. I can relate to the "collecting", I would be in real trouble if I had more space to store stuff and more money, ha!

Jodi said...

I just found your blog and what you write about is fascinating! Love your repurposing, love your Revolution quilt, your mosaics, fabulous all! And your grandmas' quilts - absolutely lovely! Glad to be following now!

isathreadsoflife said...

How interesting to read you, Nadia ! I understand this need of accumulating things just in case of... My Dad and husband are like this too. Since I read Dominique Loreau's "The Art of Simplicity" I tend to do more clearing... when my husband is off somewhere. I must say it feels good. But I do admire the way you solve your own problem : with great creativity and talent. I would have kept those carpets/cushions too. Well done!

Nifty Quilts said...

I enjoyed this post! Living in America, it is depressing to see the waste. Imported items are so inexpensive, that very few people save and repurpose anymore. If a button falls off a shirt, toss it and buy new! I love your spirit of using what you have. Very inspiring!! Of course, the economy here seems to be faltering too. I hope we'll go back to valuing our possessions more.

Notjustnat said...

Lovely collection of everything. Enjoy and keep going - Hugs Nat

lyric said...

This is the most beautiful "use it" I've seen. Beautiful things worked well into your every day life.

Linda A. Miller said...

Recycling at its best...I love how you reinvent and give new life to the things around you. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Mom, it was seriously amazing seeing the cute wrongs in the hallway where I grew up turn into beautiful pillows. Btw, it is RARE to find that art in Tunisia now, as they make the rugs a lot thicker. The pillows I have here which I bought at the Souks of Tunis are def. not as pretty! I am SO jealous for your ability to come up with creative things with ALL the junk dad holds on so tight to. Remember when you had to go back to the dumpster coz he found something he wanted in it and had a fit??? ::)) good ol' dad, you guys are too funny! As you know I'm very sad the creativity gene did not get passed on to me, however, it has been passed on to granddaughter # 1, so thank YOU for that gene!