If you have ever moved or reorganized, you have noticed that the number of boxes, bags, and baubles you can stash into a 36x24x18 cabinet tend to expand exponentially when you remove them. Some items might have been hidden in the back for so long that they seem like a new gift when they see the light at the front of the counter.

Recently, I decided to downsize.  Clutter that I have been keeping for decades “just in case,” had accumulated into an obstacle course controlling my waking hours.  My sleep was disturbed with dreams of suffocation beneath bolts of fabric and school supplies.

Thirteen years ago I converted from coffee to tea.  Like most coffee drinkers, I had a few Red Rose teabags, a box of chamomile, and a hundred grams of dusty Red Zinger for the odd tea drinker. Like new converts of almost anything, from yoga to Paleo, my conversion zeal knew no bounds. I purchased black, white, green, and oolong tea in bulk. I eschewed the common tea bag for a tetsubin, an in-the-cup steeper, a special thermometer, a timer, and a zojirushi five-liter water heater.  The water heater led to a Brita filter. Tea towels, tea cozies, tea tins, cute steeping balls, travel thermo mugs, and organically grown fill-your-own tea bags all found a place at my tea altar. Faster than a politician can spill a lie, I embraced everything tea and began converting others.

At my job as a high school English teacher, I served tea in my classroom every Tuesday. My students showed a clear preference for matcha genmaicha and oolong.  The lovely tradition of students gifting teachers at holidays (and midterm grading periods!) meant that l received hundreds of grams of exotic blends (lavender lemon spearmint thimbleberry black) and a dozen dainty tea cups with saucers.  I have an octopus tea ball, a shark tea ball, and a seal tea ball. In short, my own tendencies toward conspicuous consumption were enthusiastically aided by students, colleagues, and friends.

When I receive a gift of pu’erh or a twisty mountain oolong, I “save” it for a special occasion or guest.  The special occasion never occurs and that special guest never arrives. If I have opened the exquisite gift of tea to sample, I purchase more for that elusive special occasion.  Just in case.

My late husband and I practiced a tea ritual that anchored our days and cemented our regard for one another. When he passed, I vowed to uphold the tradition by drinking up the inventory. It might have worked if friends and family had not attempted to assuage my grief with gifts of tea.  Unable to find a grief therapist for several months, I indulged in “tea (shopping) therapy”, purchasing enough Earl Grey over the months to serve a fresh cup to every resident in Hood River County.

I thought I’d toss out the tea that was stale, which resulted in the mass extinction of several hundred tea bags, but none of the whole leaf tasted stale.  Not even the near-kilo of Nabob my uncle gifted me in 2007. 

Should I get a storage unit or build an addition? Does anyone else share this problem? Are YOU a tea hoarder?

Photo “Blue tea cupboard” is copyright under Public Domain License to the photographer “freestocks.org” and is being posted unaltered (source)