Tag Archives: secondhand

I Can Dream of You

My new job involves sifting the clues of people’s lives.

It is a very calming, meditative occupation. I work through huge tubs of donated items for the business arm of a charity. We then resell the goods donated and the money goes to support the work that the charity does.

This sifting process is amazing, though. Some days as I work through what feels like a world of mysteries unwrapping in my hands, a gentle sea of static washes through my head. I’m free to mentally wander and run free as I trace the curves of czech crystal, cup the heavy roughness of Bendigo pottery and push my fingers into the dark crevices of handbags, digging for gold doubloons.

What I’ve found most entrancing is that I begin to imagine the stories behind the objects I’m handling. Rather than junk or sale items, I regard each lot as a fragile eco-system of nesting and personal history.

A sense of people emerges, more so when I encounter the rare photos album or wallet with pictures. I wonder if these are the souls who owned what I’m holding now, or someone who that person lay next to at night, cared for in some way – or never speaks to anymore.

Deceased estates are sad. The collections of beer mugs and love letters from an old man now gone into the ground; his worship of his wife in 1948 curling gently away from paper and into my misty eyes. I’m assuming my coworkers think I react to the dust and grime. At least, I hope so.

There are the geeks with mismatched china and bins full of computer parts; the women who are clearly so well-presented that their donated clothing and bags are still in excellent condition, but just out of season; there’s the quiet old lady who loves Mother Mary and obscure saints, with a large collection of biscuit tins and half-finished crochet samples floating in between good silver.

I feel such affection for all of them. They don’t know me, but I feel like I know them. I see the effects of their travel – their hand-painted plates from Dunkirk, their commemorative shells from Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, the china thimble from Gloucester.

I marvel at the people who will keep a pair of hair clippers, still new in their box, from the early 60s. There’s a frugality to those collections that I appreciate. It pains me to throw any of their possessions away, knowing how cautious they were in keeping them. Knowing too that it was probably a poverty mentality born of The Great Depression that fuelled it. It hurts me to disrespect that.

I wonder what someone will say of my possessions, one day. Everyone walks through our stuff and cocks their head, taking it in – whether it is because we’ve passed on, or if it is the gaze of a new lover in our bed who sneaks a look at how we’ve decorated, while we run to the loo. People look at the feathers in our nest and think on them.

We’re all anthropologists in this sense – we rush to a new friend’s bookcase, we admire their furniture, we look coolly at their collection of action figurines. We want to see each other’s stuff, get into each other’s landscape.

Perhaps we can’t ever see the whole picture, whether alive or dead – standing close or in my case, very far away.

Imagining another, however, is a wonderful mystery.


Haus Frau: why the cult of the domestic has me by the ovaries.

For A.T and J.M. Much love.


Fuck, I love bone china.

I recently acquired a teetering stack of mismatched tea plates from my local op-shop. Ten plates, one dollar each and individually wrapped in brown paper.

Yellowing at the edges where gold leaf slicked around, coloured a broadening milky paste across their centre, they were delightfully perfect in my gaze. They were pricked with riots of cornflowers and switches of grass, heavy headed pink buds leaning sweetly and nervously out of corners. Regency, Delphine, Royal Vale, Hammersley, Wedgewood and Windsor.

Mine. Mine mine mine.

The best part wasn’t buying the suckers, though that was part of the draw. The best part was getting them home. With excited, lamb-shaky hands, I pulled the paper away and dipped them slowly into a hot sink of suds. I watched the water suck and pucker and pull, and I washed them gently with a wide lemon coloured cloth. Everything in my house was still and hushed while I did this, and I did it with care.

Then I dried them. Put them away. Stood back and looked at them in the cupboard a little while.

It was like quiet worship – an inexpensive, humble connection with my sense of home. Such experiences border on the holy for me; some people have religion, and I have my nest, for which I flit to and fro collecting twigs.

I didn’t have a home of my own for most of last year. I lived in share-houses, which for many do feel like home (a truth I would never begrudge). But the tender thrill of acquiring and arranging objects in a space mostly you pass through, daily, is demarcated in my heart as that which is most home-like. Mostly I eat and laugh and cry and orgasm and read and curl and bathe and kitty-play and churlishly sulk here.

For me, curating my home has become an act of wilful feminism. The first home to which I attached was defined by the principles to which I attached it. I married very young, a maid with hope in her heart and daisies pinned up in her hair. I was cheeky and rambunctious as I am currently, though that was a foetal aspect of my now fully-fledged knowledge of who I am and may hope to be. Then, I wanted that white picket fence – I wanted every fucking post and I threw my heart and body and money and time at it without regard for where the divisions of all that lay, and what the cost of submerging my self would be. I took part in rites I had no hope of truly understanding, allowed ancient structures to become the frame for a picture I didn’t fit in. And from this place I built a home.

It was a good home, the one that I built. I did it sincerely. I believed in it. But anything built from a place of hopeful-aim and not arrived-at identity is unlikely to stand. And it did not, for me.

Attached too much to someone else, that house was.

But finally, finally, I have my own house and I live so well in it. I share it with my partner, but in a more radical way than I could have ever imagined in the past. We have separate rooms, and we kept receipts of all the furnishings and objects we acquired so in the likely event that we one day part ways – for few relationships last our lives long – I’ll buy out his share. Open discussion had led to autonomy. My cats live with us, but they’re my cats. Rather than feeling a sense of mercenary failure to merge, I feel joy at my newfound ability to stand unstintingly in the light of equality. Before, I would have felt deeply ashamed of that.

And every day now, I turn the key in the lock of place where I lay down and know myself. The twigs I bring here are ones I have chosen, for me, for my place, and I make the bounds of all that is around me come to life. My feathers rustle and fluff with smug pleasure.

I am not the lovely, innocent child in a bride’s dress anymore. But I am a woman with teapots and cats and a sea-foam blue tablecloth. Maturity in my domestic shell is not a cheat, nor is it a sadness; it is something I rise and shine to daily, enjoying where my step hits the cool tile of my bathroom, my nakedness surrounded by walls I pay for, I afford. This woman is a woman with plans, and each lamp and each mopped floor is a trembling ripple of joy on the new skin of her fully possessed life.

Oh, how I prefer her.

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