I’m starting to throw out nonessential stuff from cupboards as I go now, You know, the cluttery stuff that gathers in corners of drawers and cupboard shelves.
There’s usually one “junk drawer” in every house and it’s usually in the kitchen. Is that a global thing, or just the UK?
Half finished makeup, unused carrier bags, old elastic bands, pencils with broken lead, bits and pieces of old toiletries, spent batteries, old emery boards and nail varnish, shower caps from hotels, bendy straws and plastic shot glasses from parties long gone.
Ah, are the last two just my house?
I’ve just found some Beechams Flu Remedy tablets that must be at least 10 years old, judging by the state of the packaging.
Why do we keep this stuff?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot now as we are clearing out everything and I’m struggling to let go of the strangest things. You may have seen the Gardening Gloves post!
When Steve died, because he never got around to making a will, his Mum was his Executor. His Mum and Sister had to go and clear out his flat, so they could give notice to the landlady. They kindly invited us around so we could have our pick of his stuff, anything that meant something to us. It was not a fun occasion.
I remember being struck by how little is left when a person dies. It’s their personality and soul and energy that makes a person present in a place, not their belongings. When all that leaves, there is just stuff left.
But still people buy things, things that are not worth a hundredth of what we pay for them. All my books, bought over the years and carted round from house to house, originally costing £7 -15, now worth between £0.00 and £0.10. Tragic.
All those people with houses stuffed full of antique furniture. Big heavy furniture from days gone by.
My “oldest best” friend Kim’s houses are always beautiful, usually quite large with gorgeous old furniture and objects anyone would desire. She makes them beautiful for herself, for her own pleasurein her surroundings, not to pass on to her kids.
But most people live in little flats or houses, with modern furniture, not antiques.
So why DO we keep so much?
Steve was a total minimalist, everything in his place was white, or black, or brown. Very neat. A right “lad’s pad” it was.
Everything meaningful was online where Steve was concerned. So no shelves of books, no piles of DVD’s. Just a few great cook books, one tiny folder of personal possessions like a couple of birthday or christmas cards, a couple of certificates, a few very old photos. He had his clothes, some golf clubs and a bike.
Much as we loved him, we struggled to find anything to take away to remind us of him, that we would actually use.
My son Nelson asked for a silly stuffed moose that sat on his office window-sill. The return of said moose had already been requested by it’s original owner, so he could give it to his children to remind them of Steve. Fair enough, we all agreed, so Nels got a nice chunky silver necklace that Steve wore rarely, but Nelson now never takes off.
Where HAD that necklace come from? That’s lost in the mists of time…
My daughter got the Jeremy Hoye chunky silver bracelet I erroneously bought him one early Christmas (Steve hated Christmas with a passion and that bracelet nearly as much!). She also chose some kitchen utensils as we remember Steve being at his happiest in the kitchen, cooking for everyone. We nearly blew ourselves up with his coffee maker the other day, using the wrong kind of coffee in it.
But at the end of the day, there was very little there, now Steve was gone.
Think about all the stuff in your cupboards and corners. The photo frames, the ornaments, the stuff lurking in that cupboard under the stairs or in the spare room.
Why do we keep it all?
As I see it now, the small clutter, I’m just scooping it all into a carrier bag and throwing it away. Every time I do I feel a little bit lighter. A bit less “here”.
There’s the clue. I think that’s why we keep stuff.
It makes us feel more real, somehow. Less likely to just float away.
Our stuff makes us feel more substantial.
Grounded, tied to the earth with the weight of it all.
Do you think that perhaps deep down, we all have this real sense that we are all ethereal beings, here on earth for a very short time indeed?
Perhaps ultimately we know that…
“We are of the Earth, constructed from a ready supply of chemical elements, forged in the stars” Professor Brian Cox, “Forces Of Nature”, BBC.
And that, someday, we’ll all be going back there.