But then my wife decides we have too much ‘stuff’ and decides to have a clear out of her clothes, presumably to make space for new ones! Oh well! My son-in-law mentions he is off to the Council tip to empty out his garage. How sad! Isn’t that what garages are for, to store long unused but memory-stirring junk. I laughed at him and then felt guilty because it was only a couple of Summers ago that I made seven trips to the tip (we do have a long garden with a number of sheds in and sheds are the next best thing to garages for storing all that “might-get-used-one-day” stuff.)
I think it was comedian Jimmy Carr who did a brilliant routine based on the things we keep in the drawer in the sideboard, things we just might need one of these days. Embarrassment forbids me to tell you the things we keep in our sideboard drawers but there are three things I know about them, First, I’m sure there will be a use for every item some time or other in the future. Second, I’m sure that none of those items will see the light of day for a long time, and third, whenever in the past we have played Kim’s Game with the children, it has been so easy to find thirty different things to put on the tray. You don’t know Kim’s Game? Read Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Kim’ – you put say thirty items on a tray and let the contestants gaze at it for a minute. Then you cover it up and they have to write down as many of the items as they can remember – not so easy as it sounds. Probably a good exercise for those of us of more mature years to exercise the little grey memory cells! Also fun at Christmas.
I’m not sure the younger generation have this same insistence on hanging on to things. Perhaps it is because they live in a day when mobile phones, iPads etc. etc. are updated regularly and became the next “must have” thing. For them it is a failure of status or a failure in belonging if they don’t have the latest whatever.
For us in the older generation, it may go right back to our childhood when we lived through a period of shortages in the post-War years. For many of us, this glut of things gets pushed to the fore when we find ourselves in a home that is now too big for our use and we ‘downsize’. At which point nostalgia gets forced out the door by necessity. Sad times.
But you would think that living in these days of possessions and things so easily available that we would become safe and secure and at peace with life. No way! We were away on holiday and came back to an empty fridge that needed restocking, so a visit to Tesco’s became obligatory on the day before Maundy Thursday. The place was seething. “People getting ready for the weekend,” from the girl behind the till. Being a little tired from travelling, I forgot a number of things (we needed more in anticipation of family being around). On the Thursday I made what I hoped was a quick early-morning foray there again. Again the place was seething. “People getting ready for the weekend,” from another girl behind the tills.
What is it about Bank Holidays that we all go into panic mode? It’s not as if the shops are completely shut then! If you want to see this panic mode set in at its best, just start a rumour that there’s going to be a shortage of loo rolls or sugar and watch the shelves clear. So here we are, in a day of affluence and plenty and we still panic. What a crazy lot!
A sad thing I have observed over the years is that true value is only put on many of our possession when we die. Having observed the deaths of a number of elderly people, and watched the families going through the house after the funeral, the truth is that for most of us, most of our stuff is just going to end up in a charity shop or on the council tip. The things we hang onto, the next generation groan over.
I know there is great interest in the Antiques road-show and other house clearance TV programmes, but most of our stuff is pure nostalgia and isn’t one of those pieces of pottery that will fetch two thousand pounds. The trouble is I look around the room in which i am sitting at this moment and I am sure I could get rid of 95% of what is here without any loss to quality of life, but what if......
Having mentioned teaching already, years ago, four of us teachers occupied a small room that had four desks and filing cabinets and shelves to the ceiling which were filled with all our files. We got a new boss who moved us out and said we could each have a small filing cabinet and three feet of shelf space on which to store materials you have used in this past year. You should have heard the comments. There are years and years of research materials on those shelves, what if I needed it again? Did we bin it all? Not likely it all went home!
Smart characters rumble on about this being a sign of insecurity. Maybe they are right, but there are a lot of insecure people around then, especially in older generations. We rationalise it: all of this is a reminder of the years so how can I let it go? Well, OK, don’t, just let the next generation deal with it when you’re gone. With that, I think I’ll go and check out the garden sheds and see what it is that I don’t want to throw away.
Quote: “If you’re going to hold onto stuff, at least put it in a scrapbook to make sense of the past. If it’s too big for a scrapbook, use it to nurture your soul with thanks for the past.”
15. The Love of Things
Years ago I used to teach and sometimes I tried to get students to appreciate life today by thinking what life without electricity used to be like. Without electricity not only wouldn’t much of the things around us not work, but many of them could never have come into being. I just look around this room and think back a hundred years: no computer, no telephone, no light, no digital camera, no CDs or DVDs . I go into the kitchen- NO electrical appliances – an almost empty room!!! No, let’s face it; it’s a good day to be alive in this respect.