I once produced a television segment about de-cluttering your life. Actually, I pulled together four such masterpieces – breakfast TV is a Groundhog burial site of repeated content (there’s only so many questions you can script for a candid in-studio chat with Elmo, but the shameless media whore keeps visiting Australia anyway).
In any case, brekky TV was often about becoming a brief, unwilling expert in a topic I couldn’t give two shits about – the salt content of cereal, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, the reasoning of climate change sceptics … the annoying part was always the information I’d retain. But no matter what, the rules of de-cluttering wouldn’t stick.
I’ve never been good at throwing things out. Nothing proved that more thoroughly than packing up my life recently to move overseas.
There was an alarming range of inexplicable, dust-gathering crap. I’m not talking generic crap, like every magazine I ever bought, or several large boxes of miscellaneous seashells – it was character specific, to say the least.
I’m a jeans girl by nature – in fact I’d say there are some people in my life who’ve only ever seen me sporting god’s gift to trouser material. But my heart isn’t made of denim, it’s made of dreams and aspirations (and, on a biological level, some other stuff I’m sure), which explains why I found two separate piles of jeans labelled with these post-its:
|'Fits, but not comfy' - thanks for the heads up Past Self|
|'Aspire to Fit (what the hell was I thinking?)' - now Past Self is trolling me... such a bitch|
Yes, the piles were substantial, there were far too many pairs of pants… several of which had never been worn. But there was also the belief that those post-its were so important to their accurate storage that they stayed with them when I moved inter-state two years ago.
Those weren’t the only notes addressed to me that I held on to – I had also stored every abusive missive anyone had ever left on my car windscreen. I don’t know why… some of them have awful spelling, which was probably amusing at the time.
Still, I’m glad I did, because this particular message….
...helped jog the memory regarding the mysterious can opener in my collection.
Which I now recall purchasing in a fit of whimsy and leaving on my dashboard whenever I parked behind that same car. Because there’s no higher former of comedy than a prop-based gag targeted at one person you’ve never actually seen, on the off-chance they’ll see it, remember something that pissed them off enough once to leave an angry note… only to be charmed by this jesting response.
That’s how my brain works sometimes.
Of course selling my car as part of Operation Hemisphere Change meant saying farewell to a wide array of novelty items I’d avoided throwing out for years.
I don’t know what I’ll do without that pen from that New York bar I got wildly drunk at once in 2007. Will the Yaris even start without the hammer that lived under the passenger seat (in case the vehicle veered off a bridge and into a body of water)? And who would even bother owning a car without keeping a monkey* and a top hat in it?
Eventually, the nostalgia of magical, but admittedly worthless objects from every moment of adulthood gives way to a brutal rhythm. When trying to distil your life into a single suitcase, culling gets real. The strange rat king of necklaces that has been slowly growing for 15 years goes in the bin, along with the hand soap from a bizarre little ghost hotel just outside of Bologna, and the yellow folder so optimistically labelled ‘Ideas’ that has remained empty for its entire existence.
|As void of contents as the day it was made|
Then there are the things that shouldn’t be hard to throw away at all. Yet, when it came to my leg and arm braces, I paused. Briefly, ridiculously, I wondered if I might still need them somehow.
At the very least it felt like they needed a ceremony. Or a bonfire. Instead they got a wheelie bin.
The things we hold on to often make so little sense. Like the clothes worn to a funeral – bought on a frantic, blackly comic shopping spree because I hadn’t packed anything mourning appropriate. I’d consciously chosen not to. I thought it would be bad luck. Because that’s also how my brain works sometimes.
I know I’ll never wear them again, and yet they were put in storage.
We accrue so much traveling through life. Even when you know it would be better to let it go, it can still be hard to truly leave some of it behind. Especially when it’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t need to be accounted for with removalists or airline baggage limitations.
Often you don’t even notice you’re carrying it. Some things will be with you forever. And sometimes it’s a broken hairbrush you’ve had for 14 years.
* = Fyi, the monkey’s name was Jo. I know that would have been a burning question.