Why does Karl Marx drink herbal tea?

June 12, 2008

I really want to write about what I’ve learned about my father today:

* He took two undergraduate degrees during four years at university
* He can speak Hausa
* He is a fan of David Davis (this last is not so impressive).

Sadly, this is outside the spec for SSP, so instead I will write about hoarding.

I have spent the last couple of days clearing out my stuff from my parents’ loft. I have had a lovely time playing around in my past, and have rediscovered many things I didn’t know I had.

I have also thrown a lot of stuff away. With extreme reluctance.

I am nearly thirty-seven years old, and it is somewhat embarrassing that I still find it so difficult to throw stuff away. Even leaving aside the stuff that I anthropomorphise, I still always think, what if I need it? what if I might use it? And, more perniciously, what if someone else could use it? I have boxes of make-up that doesn’t suit me and never will. And I don’t have space to store it in London, and I don’t give makeovers here. But I still can’t bring myself to get rid of it, because I can’t bear to think of it going to waste. It is nonsense.

And even if I know that I’ve finished with stuff, I can’t just put it into dustbin bags and put them out. Instead I sort it carefully into stuff-that-might-be-useful-to-someone-somewhere-someday and stuff-that-I-reluctantly-have-to-admit-is-probably-no-earthly-use-to-man-or-beast. I then label the two piles and get my mother – who will be seventy this year – to go through them and decide what to do with them. And then not tell me what she’s done with it, so that I don’t have to know what got thrown away.. Do as I say, dahlings, not as I do.

There are some advantages to this. It certainly saves me money. Most of my clothes have been in my wardrobe for quite a while, and it works pretty well as long as you don’t look too closely. And I am writing this sitting in my room, listening to a tape – yes, a tape – of Mozart’s Flute and Harp concerto. This would be lovely anyway, but it is particularly lovely because this is in fact the first classical tape I ever had, the very same one that my father gave me in 1986.

I’d like to be someone who travels light, though. As with many of my compulsions, I’ve wrestled with my hoarding over the years and it is not as bad as it used to be. I used to need a twelve-hundred-square-foot house for all my stuff, and now I keep the bulk of it in a one-hundred-and-thirty-square-foot room. But I still have more than I need, and I still find it very hard to let go of what I need no longer. And, for someone who is learning how to accept the things she can’t change, this is a controlling mindset.

I have to admit that once I’m past the trauma of putting old possessions into black plastic sacks, it feels lovely. I know where everything is. I have gone through an old, never-used jewellery box and put the cream of it into a small, shiny new one that can live on my dressing table, and I’ve found some lovely pieces. And I know that if I have to come down here at short notice, I will have jewellery. (Don’t laugh. If I have to come down here at short notice, it will be for a bad reason, and I will need jewellery.)

And I feel lighter. I’ve let some stuff go. I did this a year ago, and decided that I couldn’t bear to part with the ten or fifteen dustbin sacks that are now on their way out. Maybe next year I will be able to get rid of another ten or fifteen, and I will be lighter still.

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3 Responses to “Why does Karl Marx drink herbal tea?”

  1. Alithea Says:

    Oh, this is something I can really relate to! Having lived in my current flat for nearly 4 years, the longest I have stayed in one place since I left home 12 years ago, I have gathered an inordinate amount of junk and in my head it has come to represent all emotional baggage I acquired during my time in Aberdeen. Being determined to leave all that behind me now, I really need to clear it all out and have a good clean and tidy!

  2. Jo Says:

    I am a packrat, I have to admit – I love tchotkes, provided they have meaning. But it must be the Libran thing – I accumulate and then divest. I left so much here when I left for the UK. Then again, when I divorced, Once more, returning to Canada. And I still wonder where things – what move they got mislaid in. I feel clean when I purge myself of things. But lonely in empty space.

    Jewellery – now that doesn’t leave me very often – only pieces with bad emotional resonance, usually. I did donate a jewellery box of costume stuff to the Ausdtralian barmaid at my local before I left the UK, but arrived back to a bedroom dresser with both my grandmothers’ jewellery boxes sitting there, waiting for me.

    I got rid of so much when I moved – but I did bring back 5 jewellery boxes!

  3. Francesca Says:

    I woke up in the middle of the night and got out my new jewellery box and looked at it, and then went back to bed.


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