Memorabilia? Mess or Matter?

Here I am in my neat new study

Author Nate Berkus in his new book The Things That Matter asks a poignant question which has me pondering about how to rid my life of clutter.

“Does Your Home Tell the Story of Who You are?’’ he asks. And I would respond with a resounding “yes’’ except for the fact that the fourth  bedroom in our new home, is a mess.  Here I sit amidst a pile-up of memorabilia which flows out the door and down the hallway and I don’t know how to start sifting through it.

This room lets me down badly.  It was always earmarked as my study, but instead it became the storage area for my stuff – and that means more than 20 years of material from my journalistic career and memorabilia from 60 years of living. It’s all shoved in here in an unruly manner. There are  years of records, files galore, scrapbooks, countless photo albums, a string of boxes jammed with junk and  myriad books and diaries. There are things here from my college days and from my chequered private life and it all has to be sorted out.

Deep in our souls we humans know what we need. Bring on the feng shui to restore peace and order into my life.   I crave a calm environment in which to live and work after a painful few years caring for my husband, Olivier, who died last year.  I want my own bureau again, to be surrounded by my own things and most of all, I want to be able to find anything I want when I want it!

Luckily, I have a purpose. I cannot find our hard drive which stores all the five years of photographs we took on our overseas travels to France.  It’s somewhere here in this dumping ground for everything that I haven’t looked at since I brought it all home at retirement. Of course, the easy way out would be to throw it all into huge black rubbish bags. And here is the dilemma. I cannot do that. Every piece of material in this room is precious.  Records of my life are here and it all has to be checked out.  Common sense tells me that I will never need a lot of this clutter again, but on the other hand I have a sneaking suspicion that the moment I throw one piece of paper out, it will be exactly what I want the next moment. Oh dear, surely I am a hoarder?

[Yet, I have a deep connection to my stuff and Thomas Jefferson voiced it well when he said “What we choose to keep around us becomes the museum of our soul and the archives of our experience’’.

The Internet though issues warnings about compulsive hoarding, calling it “packratting’’ describing compulsive hoarding as a “pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment.” It can be linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and be categorised as a psychological disorder linked to depression.

Luckily, my children would chorus “It’s clutter mother’’ and claim I am my father’s daughter because Frank really did have a problem with hoarding things.  My dad, who was a sparkie, would wind any left-over pieces of wire into balls which grew from a thumb-nail size to that of a tennis ball. We would joke that the old dwelling in our back yard where he ran his electrical business reminded us of the Steptoe and Son TV series.  When my widowed dad married again at 81 and I bought the family home, I hired six skips to throw it all out. It was absolute junk. Yet, dad, almost wept.  There was enough earth underneath the jam-packed back yard to build a new house. And I did.

[Yet, I have a deep connection to my stuff and Thomas Jefferson voiced it well when he said “What we choose to keep around us becomes the museum of our soul and the archives of our experience’’.

So I have installed a bank of cupboards, filing cabinets and book cases all are ready for me to tackle my belongings which take up every square centimetre of floor space. Underneath is a precious Persian carpet I haven’t seen since we moved here almost two years ago.

At 11:10pm on the fourth day in the last little basket left to be sorted I find the hard drive marked “Photos’’ in my husband’s hand-writing.  I am so happy, I wish I could weep.

So now I am proud to say I have fashioned an orderly office with my life works packed away in every centimetre of space. However, very little was actually thrown out!

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2 Comments to “Memorabilia? Mess or Matter?”

  1. By Vincenza, 02/08/2013 @ 11:09 am

    Wow good on you Nadine, what a sense of achievement you must feel, the hardest part is actually starting, it takes quite a long time, and can be an emotional roller coaster, stopping and looking at each item, full of memories and sorting them to their new place, it makes you realize just how much you have done in your life, as it is easy to think where has your life gone, then you look and see and yes… it has been a long and satisfying life,
    there is no right or wrong experiences, they are just labels, they are all just experiences.. have heaps more.
    I congratulate you.

  2. By Fiona White, 19/08/2013 @ 4:05 pm

    Great photo in the paper of your tidy office (and of you). It’s something that is on my ‘to do’ list and I never get around to it!. A sense of achievement comes in many guises. Well done!

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