Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Stuff Is Our History - Not Clutter

I intended to write this weekend, but I didn't. Things just kept popping up, and I put it off. You've probably all read Dorothy Parker's quip: "Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat." I'm afraid no such application occurred.

Over the years, I've travelled overseas a lot. I don't mean flying visits, or three-week vacations - I mean MOVES. My kids are scattered around the globe, and I need to be near each of them at times, but I was doing this when they were still living at home, and dragged them, and assorted pets, with me. In fact, their living globally is the result of my own wanderings, so I can't blame them for being geographically inconvenient.

However, I have things that I must always take with me. Some of it is beloved furniture that I can't part with. Most of it is just plain stuff. You know, those little bags of memorabilia you can't quite part with, little ornaments the kids made in school, gifts (that you might not have chosen yourself) from friends and family, wonderful collectibles you found on yet another antique market expedition. And, of course, the essential book collection.

I've pared this all down several times (especially the books), restricting myself to a certain number of boxes, but somehow the number increases again after each move (I've even replaced some of the books I'd parted with). I still have unpacked boxes here, because my place is small and there's just nowhere to display everything.

This weekend, instead of writing, I busied myself going through these stored boxes and firmly removing things I thought I could relinquish, once and for all. A couple of empty boxes were set up to receive these, and I bubble-wrapped each item. My friend up the road had offered to sell them on his stall at a local spring fair next month. I felt quite good as the boxes filled up. This was on Saturday.

Yesterday I realized I hadn't done a list of the items for my friend. I took notepaper and pen, and unwrapped everything to begin the list. Like a badly-written mystery, you already know where this is going, right? I decided to keep everything. How could I give up the dear little brass bell I found at that shop in Bristol; the sweet crystal candle holders that a friend had no further use for; the silver cruet set which is no longer my style, but is so pretty; the brass bits and bobs; the small silver tray; the pretty bottles; the wooden boxes; the vintage tins; the this and the thats I've had for so long? I just couldn't.

Once more, I packed them up and stored the box away. Later I told my friend, who laughed at me, but who understood because he's a collector too. The difference is: he has this regular sale of his collectibles, and makes good money at it. I just can't bear the idea of someone haggling over a price for something that's given me so much pleasure.

It's a weakness in me, I know, and friends and family ridicule me about it, but these things represent my life. They are not clutter. They are evidence of where I've been and what I've done. They are my history.

Environmentalists encourage us to live lightly on the Earth, and I pride myself on doing this most of the time. My boxes beg to differ. If I must keep them, Green philosophy or not, I really need a bigger place to live.

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