Lately I have been really struggling with the amount of stuff I own. It is overwhelming. I have heaps, and heaps, and heaps of possessions. Is it time for a declutter? I think probably, yes. I have enough clothes to fill at least 5 standard wardrobes. I have three bookcases full of books. I have 4 full size accordions, a piano and a full size keyboard and a stage keyboard, at least 6 guitars, at least 8 ukuleles, 2 violins, 3 clarinets, a box of recorders, piles of strings and tuners and a crate full of cables. I have a full shelf of mugs, plus my grandparents wedding crockery, two full victorian tea sets from my great-grandmother, a dressing table from my Auntie and a 1950s art deco chair rescued from my grandparents home when they moved.
The overflow of stuff I own reaches my parents house, where I have an entire bedroom crammed with stuff dating back to childhood. Photographs, toys, shoes, bolts of fabric, spare kitchenalia. Books I will probably never read again that haven’t quite found their way out of the house. Boxes from houses I hastily packed up and left at the end of each year of uni and never fully unpacked. Items from one bedroom that didn’t quite make it to the next.
I have notebooks and sketchbooks and exercise books filled with lyrics and poems. I have diaries chronicling every year of my life since 1997. I have years of ticket stubs and receipts and postcards and notes from friends, waiting to be archived in an orderly fashion into a scrapbook or memory box or some other distant project I will never have time for. Each hastily packed and deposited bag is like a mini time capsule: the poster I had on my wall during second year, the diary I kept the year I was 18, a now redundant necklace with the number 21 hanging off of it.
In an ideal world my bedroom would display these little souvenirs and trinkets from my life alongside the things I use every day for work. I can picture it now; framed postcards next to my music stand, the glass bowl from my great-grandmother sat delicately next to my beloved books. My room would be curated, a museum of my life and an exhibition of my experiences. As it is, I feel like I live in a warehouse. The postcards are under some sheet music from the last Quizcats show, yet to be filed properly, the glass bowl filled with odd socks and stashed on top of a birthday present.
At times I feel held back by my stuff. I daydream about the flat I’d one day like to own, but how can I think about saving up to buy a house and move onwards in my life when I have so much literal, physical baggage to wade through first? This will be the summer I downsize and clear out my life. I have already started sifting through the bags, filling the recycling bins with old exercise books and terrible song lyric ideas and refreshing my eBay account daily with clothes I no longer wear. I am eager to clear out my life here, pack it away into a neat cardboard box and then set sail for the rest of the world without a house full of memories to return to. To have nothing to return to would be so glorious: a clean slate, a blank wall.
I have always tried to live minimally, but I have also been terrified to discard things I may one day need, or which hold some sentimental value. I’m good at getting rid of clothes and shoes and jewellery, but books and cards and photos are harder to let go of. It gets easier. There’s more to take into account now: adulthood is no longer some far off destination I can’t reach, and I know now for sure that though I may like to keep hold of my first pair of glasses for sentimental reasons, there’s no way I need the 14 pairs that came after that. I will not need my university essays from this point on; just yesterday I shredded my A-Level certificates, because who has ever asked to see them and how often do I even need to recall the grades? After the sentimental stuff, there is the problem of being an artist: I need my instruments, and my books, and my paints, but these tools take up a lot of space. How many accordion gigs do I get each year?
I have no conclusion to this post – these are just my aired thoughts as I begin what feels like an exhausting, marathon process of delving back into the shipwreck of my life, retrieving the treasure before my house gets flooded in debris. I suppose even the treasure will change as we drift on; right now I hang on to the anniversary cards from CB in the same way I held onto letters from my American cousins in my childhood. I suppose the best way to de-clutter is to be constantly assessing your belongings. Being able to pinpoint the exact moment when your feelings towards something change and you can toss it gleefully into the recycling on your way to work. Until I reach that Sensei level, I’ll sit here on the floor surrounded by paper, bin bags and a post-it note labelling system, awakening the dust bunnies and delighting the volunteers in my local charity shop.