I have around 30 or so boxes of many colours and sizes for every occasion. I own broken bulbs, unused candles, my father’s coin collection, shoelaces I no longer need, empty Pringles cans, used streamers and other tchotchkes I refuse to throw away. My family believes that I inherited the ‘hoarder’ gene from my grandmother. She had a room in her old house where she kept every vessel she had ever bought. It was stored on rusting shelves that loomed over a tiny marble-floored room that doubled as her puja room. She was very meticulous in her madness. She categorically placed every vessel based on size, metal and shape. I envied her.
I marvelled at her junk museum. But my family scorned her for being ‘selfish’ and her inability to part with things. They urge me to discard things that I don’t need anymore. I reasoned that at that moment, it’s not possible for me to fathom its purpose. This ‘quirk’ becomes the object of humour whenever my family has the chance. But I don’t try to justify to them that I feel my grandfather’s disappointment whenever I contemplate giving his wallet away. I can’t throw away my obsolete Kinder Joy toys because it’d feel like I’m betraying my carefully chronicled memories. The feeling of the helpless irreversibility that comes with throwing something away is inexplicable.
Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, certainly would not agree with my ways. Her KonMari method of decluttering is not a one-size-fits-all formula for happiness. It’s another manifestation of prototypical cognition that sells to us the idea of Pinterest fairy tales. In this fairy tale, our spaces are eternally spotless, minimalistic and organised. This would make our homes grossly incongruous misrepresentations of ourselves. KonMari thrusts a Zen idea of living into a society that is hell-bent on selling and buying things. To not rely on anything feels like a pipe dream.
In the fifth stage, she says we must part with things that don’t bring us joy. This would make sense if I could selectively remember only the good parts of my life. But it’s not so simple. We remember the highest highs and lowest lows, and we keep souvenirs of both. I hoard humiliation, exhilaration, bitter memories, grief and stories. So many stories. I remember my father’s memories with my own imagination. I think about him running up paved roads, hiding the skull that he stole from a cemetery behind his school. I remember him sneakily taking it to his home lab. I need not remember these things, they’re not my memories to keep. I need not remember the first funeral I went to. I need not remember the day my sister and I launched paper boats into puddles.
These memories don’t serve any purpose and why should they? Must every entity (and even non-entity) be functional? Capitalism is now a rogue beast. It is no longer feasible to hold onto things that serve no need. But we will remain bizarre and rebellious as we buy ideas, stories and keep the boxes they come in. We frame and hang pictures of the dead and keep their dearest things. We fight the same beast we invite into our homes where we drown in overflowing rooms.
I have archived my embarrassing diaries, little letters I got during class, a disintegrating heart-shaped soap I made with my friend in Chemistry class and even a couple of teeth that I lost as a child. Objects have permanence and consistency. When you put a thing somewhere, it stays, in its oblivious, inertial non-existence. So, I held onto my fragrant blue eraser for dear life when we moved to a new city. I took my inanimate companion to school because its silence and certainty was a safe haven. My companion was a small marble hippopotamus, Albert, who stayed. That’s all things do to be important. They stay.
Krupaharini is a 19-year-old student at Christ University. She is currently pursuing a degree in a triple major (Journalism, Psychology, English).
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