The other day, a pipe burst in my parents’ St. Petersburg apartment. Sad as it was to deal with the consequences of water rushing into our kitchen, the worst part of this experience for my mom was cleaning out the flooded klodovka - a small storage space jam-packed with “things that might be useful one day”. How do you toss decades worth of junk? And more so, the junk which is somehow packed with emotional meaning?

Russians are notorious for hoarding. Some say it’s because of the “deficit” days, when it was nearly impossible to find anything useful at the store, and people kept everything, including broken bicycles and deflated soccer balls, just in case. Plastic bags didn’t run the risk of ending up in the ocean because they were washed and collected in their largest comrade for future purposes.

Some of this “saving things” mentality is kind of neat - you might still be able to find some serious treasures in apartments of your Russian friends, especially if they live with their parents. My family probably kept a century worth of items, including a first-generation vacuum cleaner that looked like a mini-spaceship, so by the time I was raiding my grandparents’ klodovka, this stuff was legitimate antiques.

I still remember the special scent you get when you open a cardboard shoebox filled with old badges and postcards. It’s someone’s youth, and you put the lid back on it and put it back where you found it.

Less sentimental items usually go the route of klodovka - balcony - dacha (the summer house). Each stage of this journey can take years, sometimes decades, depending on the owners’ ambition and vehicle availability. The dumpster comes into this equation only when… well, never.

You don’t have to do it like a Russian. It’s spring (or it will be eventually), and if you feel like clutter is getting to you, there’s no better time to find it a new home. 

In Saint Petersburg, you can donate clothes, books and toys in large receptacles with a slogan “Спасибо!”. They will be sold in secondhand stores around town. If you have more unusual items to gift, check out Daru Dar, where you can also offer to donate your services.

If pro bono is not your thing, you can sell just about anything on the local Avito page.

After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

P.S. Enjoying your bite-size primer on Russian culture? Starting next week, we’re bringing in Russian words you need to know to fit in like a local. Shikardos!