When I was in my early 20s, I was always impressed by people who had things spare.
Not giant things like spare houses and spare cars; just enough to make a visit to their house not a human rights violation. Like a spare duvet to sleep under. And a spare towel to dry yourself with. And, on a more basic level, a spare set of crockery for you to eat your dinner off, and a spare mug to drink out of.
I had none of these things. I made my visitors sleep under a dressing gown (or bring their own sleeping bag), and drink out of the bottle, and eat their ready meal straight out of the tray. They couldn’t shower unless they were willing to air dry, because I had nothing with which they could dry themselves.
I was a useless hostess, and not only was I making my friends malnourished and uncomfortable, I was making a mockery out of the Brownies for willingly giving me my “hostess” badge all those years ago.
But my excuse was that I was young and a bit useless and just hadn’t had the time and money to acquire enough stuff to have things to spare yet. It was kind-of valid, in a slightly wonky way (you had to ignore the fact that I chose to spend my money on Blossom Hill rather than new bath towels).
And so, my brain made “having things to spare” the ultimate marker of being an adult. One day, I thought, I’d wake up and realise I had spare stuff and that would make me a proper grown up capable of having guests to stay without almost killing them.
And it kind of did happen like that; I one day, very suddenly, had a whole buttload of spare stuff. But it wasn’t because I’d suddenly become overwhelmed with the urge to visit the John Lewis homewares department (that was yet to come); it was purely because I’d moved in with my Farthing Wood Friend, and suddenly we had two of EVERYTHING.
So we just had a great big fight about whose things were better (which he almost always won, because, if I’m honest, his stuff was mostly kitchenware and useful things, and mine was DVDs and old plates), and then designated things “spare”.
And so the obsession with “spare” truly began.
Because suddenly, I didn’t need to worry when people came to visit anymore. I could offer them a choice of towel, and different duvets depending on what the temperature was like, and I could let them pick one of about 10 different Eeyore mugs. I WAS A HOSTESS, and the Brownies were vindicated. And it felt good.
But having spare stuff for when people visited wasn’t enough. If I was going to be a proper adult, I needed to have some JUST SPARE STUFF. I needed spare shampoo in case there was a sudden follicle catastrophe which called for all of the lather. I needed spare cleaning products, and spare washing liquid, and spare toilet roll because I was an adult and adults did not run out of these things. I needed spare keys – nevermind the fact that I hadn’t worked out who to give them to – and spare batteries and spare jumpers FOR NO GOOD REASON.
And since we’ve had the house, it’s just got really out of control. I have even more room for spare stuff now, which obviously just means that I should buy more of it. Last night I found myself going through the shelves in the bathroom looking for things that are running a bit low so that I can go and buy a spare of the spare. Because obviously having one night cream waiting for use just isn’t enough.
So maybe it’s time to step away from the multi-buy offers and stop stockpiling crap. Or to at least introduce a “spare-buying rule”; no replacements until the original is half-finished. Otherwise I’m just going to go too far the other way and end up forcing my guests to wade through piles of crap. Which might just make them wish for the dressing gown.