Observing life: Overcoming my inner clutterer at a Dubai flea market

The proof of being caught in the web of consumerism couldn't be more pronounced than than when at a flea market with people haggling for even the most faded pair of pants and almost obsolete electronics.

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The two sizes too big jeans from a few years back come out of the closet, and then almost instantly go back in. A battle rages in mind between the mild hoarder and the declutterer. There's always a clear winner in this ongoing conflict every spring cleaning season. The rationale of the clutterer is: What if I gain weight in a few months, or a few years? I'd save myself a lot of hard earned money shopping for an entire new wardrobe wouldn't I? The meek practical voice tries to assert itself raising valid points about space constraints and even throws in a 'make room for more pretty things' in there, but fails miserably. My dilemma with accumulating stuff goes down to stocking empty food containers because you never know when life will throw a curveball and you'll have all those saved cans at your disposal to deal with it. The habit hasn't reached compulsive proportions that inspired the US documentary series Hoarders and even a recent episode of Big Bang Theory where the lead character Sheldon Cooper reveals that he rents a storage unit for everything he has ever owned, ziplock bags included.

And while there is a medical treatment for those with severe tendencies, I recently found a solution for my urge to hold on to things. I became a seller at a flea market.

A friend suggested we sign up for a table at the Dubai Flea Market recently and, though reluctant at first, I agreed only to get my mother to stop nagging me about the mess at home. The struggle to part with my belongings continued as a I filled bags and suitcases with oversized shirts, old books and jewellery that I had never worn, but the hope of making a fast buck with my sales skills was tempting.

On the weekend of the market at Zabeel Park, we arrived at the crack of dawn to nab the table with the most visibility and also one near the restrooms (Tip for newbies). We arrived to a huge queue at the registration booth and, shockingly, to sellers who had truckloads of second-hand items they wanted to part with. And there I was waiting in line with a tiny suitcase with everything I thought needed to be given up.

My friend is a pro flea market seller and had managed to weed out a great deal of unwanted gifts and purchases that she no longer fancied for sale that day, enough to make her a sweet Dh1000 profit. She methodically went about revealing her stash to flea market buyers in batches and after gauging the crowd. I followed suit. We began with predetermined rates but also knew when to drop them and throw in additional items at discounts when sales dropped. The group of sellers next to us were selling everything from children’s toys to discarded crockery.There was a buyer for absolutely everything there. The proof of us deeply caught in the web of consumerism couldn’t be more pronounced than at a flea market with people haggling for even the most faded pair of pants and obsolete electronics. One of the buyers who stopped by our table expressed it accurately: “It’s like a vicious cycle. My wife’s over there selling stuff we don’t need and here I am adding to the clutter. We’ll just be back to go through it again.”