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Storage and Belongings – What to Keep

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Storage and Belongings - What to keepMy friend was having a mini-breakdown because he was finally throwing away the cards given to him a few years ago by an old flame who had got married to someone else. Consigning the nearly eight or nine year old cards to the dustbin of history was proving too much for him, and I was busy for a full half hour consoling him on the phone. And yet, how could I pass judgement on him for excess sentimentality? Here I am, with report cards from the time I was in Class V, and the first ‘booties’ and little glass bangles worn by my first born, my daughter, now close to twenty one years old.

What we keep and what we choose to throw away often contains the very story of our life. It is illustrative of what we have chosen to give importance to, and what we have decided is not worth pursuing. “Its three years since our separation, but I still keep finding little things that belonged to my ex-husband, or remind me of him,” says Anahita, who runs a successful catering business. “It could be the odd picture, or some cuff links I remember him wearing on one or two occasions, or an old pair of glasses with ridiculously large frames. I don’t know how these things turn up, but whenever they do, they bring me the familiar dilemma – should I just get rid of them? Should I keep them? Or should I return them to him, even though we hardly keep in touch.”

Anahita is lucky in having a more or less settled life in Mumbai, where she has lived all her life. For most of us, agonizing over the little things is not even possible. If we have to shift home often, or move from place to place, excess baggage is the last thing we want weighing us down. “The heaviest thing in all of nature – next to water – is books,” declares Parul, who has traveled from Bangalore to the US, Dubai, and finally Chennai, with her husband. “There was a time when every time Govind mentioned a move, I would roll my eyes and ask, ‘Who’s packing the books?’” Parul’s husband is very fond of books, as she is too, and their combined collection fills several long shelves in their home. “There were times, when we were lugging the heaviest cartons, particularly when we were abroad, when I used to wonder, ‘why don’t we just chuck them as far as they go?’” she says.

Books are the most difficult things to keep, with storage space shrinking in most homes, and entertainment paraphernalia, like home theatre, CDs and laptops having more claim on available space. “Still, its hard to imagine a proper home without books,” admits Parul wistfully. The books dilemma is very real – I have myself had several sessions of pruning over the years, and still have a very heavy collection. But what I find more difficult to tackle is the little odds and ends – the objects without any source or destination, that begin to clutter a home over the years. If there are growing children in a home, the amount of such clutter reaches a crescendo at one point – I remember boxes and boxes of broken crayons and colour pencils, little gnome like dolls that glowed feebly in the dark, called ‘Glo-Worms’ and ‘My Little Pony’, bits of fabric and home made cards that were glued together with glitter paint. Over the years, with genuine regret, a little bit each time we were moving home, we finally managed to achieve some control over the clutter.

Its simply impossible to have a very clinical and hard-hearted approach to possessions if we are to retain kindness and a soft approach for the people we live with, and people everywhere. You strike up a friendship with someone, and they end up giving you a present. You pick up souvenirs every time you go on vacation, or win little gifts and awards at office parties or similar occasions. All these things have to enjoy their season in our homes before they can be thrown away. The point is to understand that one day they have to be thrown away.

When it comes to possessions in these times of storage constraints, a disciplined approach can make sure we stay close to what we value the most, and do away with the non-essentials. In fact, if there’s anything you want to keep, make sure you keep a sense of balance and proportion.

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