April 13th, 2017 | Uncategorized

When I moved into my first apartment after college, in 1981, my friend Stefan gave me this can of water chestnuts as a housewarming gift. I kept moving it from apartment to apartment, house to house, throughout my twenties and thirties. I had a vague plan of writing a comic about it, as the one constant in all that flux, an eternal housewarming gift. It’s been kicking around my current home for twenty years.

Holly and I just did this massive purge of our books. I never thought I would ever get rid of books. When I read Mari Kondo’s “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and got to the part where she instructed you to toss your books out, I tossed her book out and kept all the other ones. But after a recent encounter with a hoarder, I can see that I really must let go of a lot of these books which are blotting out the sun. The can of water chestnuts got caught up in the purge. I’m going to open it now and see what nearly forty year old water chestnuts look like. Then I will compost them and recycle the can.

27 Responses to “decluttering”

  1. Alex Knisely says:

    Not too late, I hope, for an Easter stir-fry. Ham and water chestnuts?

  2. Zander Garden says:

    So happy to see you blogging again.Getting rid of old stuff just feels good once you get over the tug of attachment and memories.

  3. Peyote Short says:

    Mystery solved.

  4. martinet says:

    I read once that water chestnuts are like the only food item whose texture never changes, no matter what you do to them–heat them, freeze them, etc. I have to wonder if forty years had an impact on the texture. (Was there a date on the can?)

  5. I’m impressed. If only we could harness water chestnut preservation technology for the good of all humankind.

  6. Stephanie Lovett says:

    I’m about the same age as AB and am at a similar place vis-a-vis The Stuff. Some things seem less indispensable than they did 10 years ago; some things more. Purging is easier to develop theories about than to do, though.

  7. koby vanbeest says:

    tell me tasted one…

  8. No, I didn’t taste one but they really looked fine!

  9. Karen Elmquist says:

    Tossing out Mari Kondo’s book made laugh out loud loudly!!!! Thank you!

  10. Dirk Bergstrom says:

    I have a Joseph Schmidt chocolate truffle that I’ve been moving from fridge to fridge for almost 25 years. My wife has made her peace with it by now. It survived our Great Book Purge of several years ago, because it was hiding safely in the fridge.

  11. LizaLiza says:

    Great work! It will cause you to pause the next time you have the impulse to buy a book or anything that can’t be consumed or takes up space. The library may make a comeback in this tidying era!

  12. Pam I says:

    In a recent hardcore purge of the back of the larder, one victim was a tin of Colman’s mustard powder. Its price tag was 1/6d. We went ££decimal in 1971.

    I kept the tin. It’s pretty.

  13. Obscene Fire says:

    If the can was still sealed there’s not much chance of anything getting in that wasn’t in there already. I would just worry about whatever might have leached out of the lining of the can.

    (Clutter is my religion, by the way.)

  14. JewelD says:

    The brand tho – Companion!

  15. JayinMadison says:

    Hey, I’m only a year older than those! They have aged much more gracefully than I.

  16. Brooklyn Phil says:

    It was hard, but I got rid of 50% of my books, after reading Marie Kondo’s book. I donated most of them to my local library. I kept everyone of AB’s books, of course. 🙂

  17. Norma says:

    As soon as you opened the can I wondered what they smelled like, so I’m glad you told us.

    May all our friendships last at least as long as a can of Companion Water Chestnuts. In water.

  18. Glenn I says:

    I would’ve tasted the water chestnuts. A nibble at least.

    The can of nacho cheese soup that I kept for years? Who knows why I bought it in the first place. No, I didn’t taste it.

  19. Gail says:

    Alison Bechdel: I loved this story and that you threw the organizer’s book out. I, too, have lots of stuff to get rid of and have lots of boxes of books in storage. I guess I should go through them when I’m not in much pain and get rid of them at some point.

  20. Susie Bright says:

    I have a can like this, too— though not triggered to open it yet. I worked in a cannery in Alaska and this is a can of salmon off my line. I was 21 or something. I did put it in an art show once, but then it went right back in the cupboard. I love your little chestnuts and the friend who once gave them!

  21. Ann says:

    Highest and best use of an old spice can.

  22. That Companion can is beautiful, though. Companionable, really. And the type on the label is something I can imagine drawn in your hand. I’m really glad that you made a video about the farewell to the Companion can of water chestnuts after all that time.

    (Okay, and it is kind of weird and also kind of lovely, somehow, to me, the the water chestnuts seemed to be just fine. You got them for a housewarming present for your first apartment after college!)

  23. Aunt Soozie says:

    That’s inspiring Alison!! The older I get the easier it is to get rid of things. I once kept a small Tupperware of pot roast in my freezer for about eight years. It had a note taped to the lid, pot roast for one, in my mother’s handwriting. After she died I just kept it in the freezer… and I called it the memorial pot roast. I knew I’d never eat it… but I couldn’t throw it out. That’s not hoarding, much.

  24. freyakat says:

    Books are for me almost impossible to get rid of….But I pride myself that a month or so ago I finally got rid of a marzipan pig sealed in a presumably somewhat airtight wrap-construction. This piggie was brought from Germany to me by my brother roughly twenty years ago. It lived for these many years on the display shelf of one of my many bookcases.

  25. Jay L says:

    So there’s hope for my can of evaporated milk with a sell-by date in 1995? It’s moved a few times as well.

  26. 'Becca says:

    Canning technology is a wonderful thing! I would have been tempted to try eating one of the water chestnuts, but it does seem risky. I once drank grape juice from frozen concentrate made before I was born, and it was still basically okay.

    I remember a picture book about woolly mammoths in my kindergarten classroom, which said that scientists had found a frozen mammoth with flowers in its stomach that were still fresh after thousands of years. I think of it every time I encounter a sealed package of very old food.

  27. Andrew O. says:

    I keep trying to edit my children’s book collection, but am always stymied by at least one illustration in anything I think I can let go.