If you’re anything like me, so far during your life you’ll have accumulated a lot of what can be designated as ‘clutter’, compounded no doubt by creative writings or paintings or pottery work that you keep as a reminder of past interests and as an extension of the creative you. This keeping could even go back to childhood, with meaningful objects from days long gone. It may go back to times of studying, where you hold onto coursework notes and text books you’ve scribbled in and that you’ve kept for years – just in case they might come in handy again. If you are someone who records methods of ‘how you did it’ (like me) when you’ve done various crafts projects over the years, these notes end up in ring binders that are hardly ever glanced at again – but you never know, one day you might just want to make a pinch pleated pelmet again or a pair of plaited tiebacks! And there’s even the argument that when you’re a writer, you might as well keep hold of this stuff you’re so familiar with in case you want to draw upon it for source material or research. I mean, you just never know, do you?
So these ephemera can clog up shelves, choke cupboards and lofts, until one day you might have a go at sorting it all out with the determination to tackle your attachments and let some of them go. It’s better for you spiritually, right? But what happens when you try? Well for me, it’s a tussle, a push and pull process, which can be pretty hard going, and I was asking myself why recently, prompted by a conversation with a friend around the same age as me over lunch this week.
But the stimulus began before we even sat down. I was looking through some soft toys on display in the shop area – you know the kind of thing – monkeys, rabbits, bears, all exquisitely soft and cutely floppy limbed. And I commented ‘they didn’t make them like this when we were kids’. Next thing I know we are sharing the fact that we both still have our teddy bears from when we were at primary school. And then over coffee we drew them roughly for each other on some scrap paper, remembering times gone by and describing their current state of distress. Both of the teddies are practically threadbare, both have needed stitches for wear and tear. They’re both in ‘poor health’, yet have to be made comfortable in their cupboard space, sitting nicely and not crowded by other ‘stuff’. So this is two ladies in their fifties, who have mostly rational and analytical conversations, who were probably never giggly girly types discussing their teddy bears over their lattes and sandwiches. And it was beautifully surreal. But what struck me was that the attachment to these cuddlies was, and still is, so important that we still have our special bears. Meet mine, who I got out of the cupboard for a rare photo shoot:
Now I do periodically have a clear out and I can see if anyone moves house then this is the perfect time to do it. And although I am always very thoughtfully circumspect about it, I do get results. Now all I have from childhood is: ‘Big Ted’; a squeaky Percy pig from the 40s? given to me as a baby (and a possible collectors item because he still has his squeak ;>))
…and a few teenage drawings and paintings, to mark my origins with my art, which I very much loved doing and still do. I managed to burn/cremate a knitted doll called Jemima, because I couldn’t bear the idea of her sitting in a rubbish bin, along with old school reports, school books and a few other sad looking bits and pieces. But it’s really the much later in life course notes, text books, ‘how to’ notes, books, books and more books, and my art I can’t let go of – these are the hardest to handle, and they’ve accumulated like these piles of documents.
So yes, I should probably de-clutter, otherwise we occlude the light and space in our lives which we do need. I really feel for people who are struck by some natural disaster where they lose everything they own, and yet, people say this can be a cleansing of a kind, a new beginning, and of course we shouldn’t feel defined by what we have and hold onto. So there’s no doubt about the benefits of letting go of our past through letting go of our clutter.
But my defence (and this defence is for all of us who are collectors, note-writers, recorders and keeper-just-in-casers) is that what we keep hold of, what we have and hold, so to speak, are what we have invested ourselves in over the years. These emphemera have contributed to who we are and what we have become today. We have had a special relationship with these investments. They are what we have found meaning in, and what we find meaningful. They are tactile reminders of our own self development, our learning, our strivings and our passions. Should we be able to let this ‘clutter’ go? Undoubtedly! And our clutter is our own responsibility. But go easy on yourself, and do it when the time feels right, and trust that you’ll know exactly when that is.
(document and shop front pics from pixabay)