David Worboys: Collecting future clutter

David Worboys: Collecting future clutter

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“You can’t take it with you”. How true. Once we move on (fall off the perch), we shall be separated from all that we have accumulated over a lifetime. All the possessions will pass on to others to sort out, to be sold, given away or destroyed.

Few of them are likely to be kept. All our experiences will be mere memories in the minds of any survivors with whom we shared them. Our knowledge, opinions and tastes will no longer exist.

This means, of course, that everything we collect and hoard is future clutter. We are no more than guardians of all that we regard as “ours” until the day our number comes up. Ideally, therefore, we should keep it all to a minimum because, once we are no longer living, somebody else will have to sort through it all and decide on its disposition.

Easier said than done! Until that fatal day, there will be several reasons why we should not let these things go. The commonest is because we think we may need them in the future. Photos, letters, diaries that we have not seen for decades and will probably never see again are stored away just in case. We may have souvenirs of childhood, holidays or past love affairs – toys, children´s books, school reports, stamp albums, football programmes, mementoes, postcards, love letters. And although we no longer have a CD player, we can´t get rid of the CDs. Most of the books that we shall never read or re-read, despite our intentions, remain on the bookshelves. Clothing which we no longer wear has to be kept because it is still “of too good quality to throw away”.

Second, we may want to display our collected items, such as books, furniture, paintings and photographs simply to impress others. But other people may have different values or interests. Third, we may hope to sell them one day. Perhaps, after all these years their value has increased. Or we may hope to leave everything to our children or others. But are they going to be remotely interested if they have shown no curiosity during our lifetime?

It is not only possessions that we cling on to. We pine away for the days of youth and the joys of past relationships and experiences. Rather than being grateful that we had them, we feel bitter that they have gone. We also value the knowledge we have absorbed over a lifetime and retain as a priority that which we can use to impress our friends, colleagues and strangers.

It is not easy to declutter. It´s necessary to be ruthless, to bite the bullet and not dwell on any reason to hang on to it – just in case. But, when done, it offers a sense of freedom, achievement and a new beginning. I have finally managed it!  

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.