The curious case of the clothes-pegs

I once wrote (in one of my many posts on clutter):

[M]ost of my clutter is not made up of things I’ve made a choice to own. Most of it is actually composed of gifts from other people.

The most recent “gift” I’ve received is perhaps one of the strangest. My next-door neighbour said: “I’ve got something for you,” and disappeared inside her house to fetch something. I was hoping it would be something vaguely nice or useful, but it turned out to be lots and lots of plastic clothes pegs, lovingly packaged in a Bargain Booze carrier bag.

“You know those wooden ones with the spring?” she said.
“Yeah…?”
“Well, some of these are like that, but plastic.”

Right. Right. But why? Her explanation was that she’d got herself some new clothes pegs and so didn’t need the old ones any more. The reader might ask why someone who already had a perfectly good collection of clothes pegs would buy new ones . How exactly are the new ones better? Have there been amazing advances in clothes peg technology that I don’t know about?

However, I think the reality is actually stranger. For reasons I won’t bore you with, there is currently no boundary between our garden and this neighbour’s garden. Even before the boundary was removed, I could see into their garden from our upstairs window. So it’s been hard to avoid noticing that they don’t seem to have either a clothes-line or a rotary drier. I don’t know how they dry their clothes, but I assume it’s all done indoors. So it makes sense that they’d want to get rid of their clothes pegs…it just doesn’t make sense that they’d own clothes pegs in the first place, still less that they would replace them with more up-to-date clothes pegs.

Of course, the being-able-to-see-each-other’s-gardens thing works both ways, so they will be very well aware that my household regularly dries clothes outside. What I don’t get is why that would lead to the assumption that we don’t have enough clothes pegs already.

My partner thinks that our neighbour might be under the impression that we’re short of money, because we don’t have a car and because we cheerfully accepted a previous gift of some garden furniture they were going to throw away. (They did actually give us the option of saying ‘no’ first.) But how skint do you have to be to live without enough clothes pegs in the hope that one day someone will give you some as a gift?

I gave up on wondering why she gave us the clothes pegs and moved on to trying to work out what to do with them. The first person I offered some to (with almost zero hope) said yes! Coincidentally, she’d used up a load of her clothes pegs on garden tasks and had very recently noticed she needed more for actual laundry reasons. Success! Well, sort of. Obviously she didn’t need the whole Bargain Booze bagful, because nobody in the world needs that many clothes pegs. But she took a few.

Next, I tried with someone else. Coincidentally, she’d just noticed that she didn’t have quite enough clothes pegs. I gave her a handful.

Emboldened, I tried with some family members and got the response: “Oh my god are you telepathic?…Yes please!” This person had realised the previous day that they’d mislaid absolutely all their clothes pegs.

My usual experience of trying to give away unwanted things to friends and family is that they almost always say no, even when the thing I’m offering is valuable/useful/appealing. So getting three takers for a pile of crappy clothes pegs is astonishing.

But even though the process of trying to get rid of the clothes pegs without just throwing them in the bin has been much easier than expected, it’s still one of those gifts where

the person who gave it to me put a lot less thought into the gift than I’ve put into working out what to do with it.

It’s pretty easy to tell if the gift you’re about to give falls into this tiresome category. If you’re asking yourself “Who can I give this to?” rather than “What can I give this person?” you’re not really giving a gift, you’re passing on a chore. Sure, maybe the person will still like the thing. But why not try giving them the option of saying no?

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2 Comments on “The curious case of the clothes-pegs”

  1. Julieanne Says:

    They are basically passing on a problem for them, onto you. They clearly didn’t want them, for what ever reason, (maybe the quality isn’t great?) and rather than trying to offer them to their own friends, they passed all the work onto you.

    I have someone who often tries to give me things I don’t want. I mostly am very strong about saying no, but occasionally I say yes because I don’t always want to be the one to say no. In this & your case, as you said, they are thinking about themselves, not you.

    • gryphon Says:

      It makes sense to me that they wouldn’t want them when they have no use for them, but there are still two mysteries: why they had them in the first place and why they said they’d got some new, better clothes-pegs.

      That’s like me turning up on their doorstep with a multipack of Pedigree Chum and saying I’ve switched to a different brand of dog-food so I don’t need it any more…only makes sense unless you don’t already know I don’t have a dog!


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