We’ve all got way too much stuff. Stuff that clogs up our cupboards, spills out of kitchen drawers, bulges from wardrobes, or lounges for years in cardboard boxes at the back of the garage. I am guilty as charged.
But, during a recent browse through the internet, I came across one of those ‘This will change your life’ articles, entitled, ‘50 things every retiree should throw out’ and there, in black and white, were the answers to my decluttering dilemmas. Surely, there would be something, anything, in that list, that I could discard without the usual guilt attached. Here are just a few:
My children are now in their thirties. Without stating the obvious, that might tell you that I would have thrown out their school lunchboxes a long time ago, not least because my son’s interests no longer extend to the mighty Power Rangers, or my daughter’s to the allure of the Lion King. That, however, has not stopped me from keeping those primary school staples at the back of a kitchen cupboard. Throw them out? I think not. Well, not yet, anyway.
Now, I’m not supposed to admit this, but I have kept eyeshadow palettes from the year dot. They seem to be perfectly useable, although I do get slightly nervous when warnings appear in women’s magazines about the dire consequences of keeping make-up beyond a ridiculously short length of time. Fortunately, my eyes haven’t fallen out yet. So, I think I’ll just stick with what I’ve got.
Dirty old shoes/boots
I don’t need to worry too much about dress shoes, because any that I have are still like new, having long ago foregone the luxury of a posh night out. My old boots, though? They will eventually meet their demise after they’ve been relegated to garden duty. The dirty old boots stay, I’m afraid.
Ah! Teaching didn’t require a sharp suit every day, but looking smart in the classroom was important. I particularly took note when a sweet six-year-old once said to me (without any irony whatsoever), ‘Mrs Tavakoli, you know you’ve worn that dress twice in a row this week.’ The little blighters notice these things, you see. When I retired, I passed on all my work clothes to charity. I don’t miss them, but I do still miss those kids.
Miscellaneous chargers/cables etc
You may remember from an earlier diary entry, that I am not good with technology. So, it follows that I am not great with identifying the gobbins that go along with it either. I imagine that most of the tangled cords choking in boxes around the house are by now obsolete, but sod’s law says that if I get rid of any, somebody in the family will want it the very next day. So, the gobbins get to stay.
I’m so proud of myself about this one. Only last week, I finally forced my very reluctant self to be ruthless and sort out anything I didn’t listen to or watch anymore. It was painful, but necessary, and the lovely big space of nothingness that remained, was my first real triumph at clearing out.
I then went to the charity shop, where they apologetically informed me that they have so much of this stuff themselves, they’re not actually accepting any more. That empty space I mentioned… well, you know the rest.
Yes, I’m a retiree, but as long as I am physically able to do it, I will walk onto a squash court and bash that little black ball against a wall for as long as I possibly can. 45 years ago, I bought my first wooden Dunlop Maxply squash racquet (a small fortune at the time) and it’s still propped up in a cupboard somewhere, along with several other models that succeeded it. You’d do yourself an injury playing with those old racquets now, but throw them out? No chance.
I’ve made some brave attempts at this one over the years, but only recently have I realised the craziness in keeping nearly every book I’ve ever read. I suppose the reason it’s so difficult is because we think we’ll re-read those books that remain in our affections. Yet we rarely do. So, apart from some special poetry collections and very exceptional novels (e.g., Kent Haruf, Plainsong) I’ll definitely be passing books on to the charity shop, or to friends.
Sentimental items/keepsakes you don’t care about anymore
The hardest one of all.
The problem is that I do care about keepsakes because most of them are reminders of people who are, sadly, no longer in my life. The tiny glass bird, costing an old shilling, that I brought back for my mother from a Brownie trip to Bangor. My father’s peaked cap, hanging in the cloakroom, still anticipating his arrival. An ancient toasting fork, long ago bent and bruised from family use – a reminder of the open fires of my childhood. And, still boxed in a shed outside, the stuff that I have not yet had the courage to revisit since clearing out my mother’s house, after her death.
The remaining list is long and I know I’m not doing well so far. There’s still the junk drawer stuff, the office supplies, the luggage, the old phones, the fine china, the jewellery et al…
But perhaps the truth is that I’m not too keen to change my life after all. This ‘stuff’ is a thought-provoking, serious business.
And what’s the rush anyway?
This article is part of a series. Read the other posts here:
- Part 1 – getting into writing
- Part 2 – how I became a poet
- Part 3 – garden blessings
- Part 4 – cancer and me
- Part 5 – thank you for the music
- Part 6 – anyone for a carbonara?
- Part 7 – who cares?
- Part 8 – technology and me
- Part 9 – dementia and my family
- Part 10 – the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Part 11 – the menopause