Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nostalgia limited

Know what gives me a kick these days? Throwing out stuff I don’t need.

I didn’t always use to be this way. I was born a Hoarder. A genetically-ordained Packrat. I kept clippings. I kept papers, magazines, scraps, papers I’d scribbled interesting/abstruse illustrations on, poems, letters, cards, address books, every leaf and every pebble that meant something. I kept Sunday supplements of The Hindu till they took over the entire shelf. And when they started to give us Asterix once a week, I remember starting to put together Asterix in Belgium, so I’d have the entire book in a file.

Intervention came in the form of my mother, who HATED those Hindu supplements. Spring cleaning invariably signalled battles, where I held on but just. It often happened that I hadn’t looked at my stuff between one cleaning and the next, and the fifth or perhaps the sixth time that happened, it began to occur to me that perhaps she had a point: I didn’t actually need all this. The purging became voluntary but it was still an effort. I didn’t need to keep history textbooks from graduation, or that notebook from middle school even if it had scribbles in my best friend’s handwriting. Letting go took time.

Today of course, I rock at it. Anything that has outlived active use goes OUT. This isn’t as unfeeling as it sounds, and it doesn’t mean either that there is no room for record, or nostalgia – just, it’s not policy to keep stuff. For instance, mum herself keeps these tiny little pair of sandals that went on my feet when I was one. I can’t begin to tell you how cute they are, and of course, they stay. So do my French grammar books, and my billets-doux, but material from that seminar I attended four years ago that I couldn’t keep my eyes open in? They go, even if I'm hazily convinced I'll need to refer someday.

It clears up so much room for the present, it’s liberating. It tells me: what you have now is important, it deserves work space. Now it just remains to flex my hands and start to fill the present, so help me god.

4 comments:

Gayathri said...

Oh how this resonates! I'm both - a pack rat and a compulsive throw-out-er. Ruhi's blanket from the hospital, a letter a friend wrote to me when we were 11, that chemistry homework from decades ago that got the special purple stars, a pebble I picked up on a trek twelve years ago - those will never go. But emails from just days ago, a newspaper that's barely been read, clothes that haven't been worn for 2-3 months (esp when they belong to S), old tvs, microwaves - those get tossed with much glee.

ashiq awaara said...

arey i am pack rat type with emails also re bhai...enough is enough bolke i deleted some 600 emails the other day from only one of my many email ids..there are another 600 emails to go..

Sheetal said...

Gay: I knew this would strike a chord :). The trick seems to be to throw out stuff before they have the chance to hang about and gather significance.

Sheetal said...

Ashiq: Emails are the worst offenders. Pssst: do you know how many UNREAD mails I have in one account? Over 500! Mainly subscription types but still I quail every time I log in.