During the past few weeks the kerbs in our neighbourhood have been piled high with an assortment of unwanted junk. It’s the days of kerbside collection and slow ute drive-bys. I was tempted by a few items on those piles. Wicker bed heads crying out to be re-purposed. Chairs that could be comfy again with some new upholstery. All the discarded prams, grubby but otherwise perfectly functional. Abandoned, tiny, little bikes with owners that had outgrown them. Hundreds of dollars once spent and now forgotten. I felt a keen sense of wanting to rescue all these things. Then I remembered that my time was limited and anything gleaned from the roadside would probably end up in next year’s kerbside collection.
It got me thinking about clutter. About the very human practice of obtaining things and then seeking freedom from them.
The current season is one of minimalism. It seems everyone is trying to seperate themselves from their belongings. To live more simply. But I’m not sure about this obsession with de-cluttering. It’s funny how when you get to be thinking about a thing, you discover other people thinking about it too. This recent article struck a chord with me – Against anti-cluttering – it’s not just about joy.
I grew up in a house full of clutter. Curios, antiques, knickknacks and sentimental items cheerily crowded all surfaces. My parents house is still like that. No minimalism for them. And as a teenager I rebelled. I was about 15 and set about decluttering my belongings with a ruthlessness that would make Marie Kondo look sentimental. Handmade toys, favourite picture books, clothes I’d love to still own all donated to charity. Things that I didn’t feel an attachment to at that point but I feel a sense of loss over now. Things I wish I’d kept for my own children. I am thankful that my teenaged self paused before throwing out letters and diaries. I still have those today.
The houses I feel most comfortable and cosy in are full to the brim of loved and lovely things. They might not be the trend on Instagram on Pinterest, but it’s where I’d rather have a cup of tea. Perhaps it’s a throw back to childhood, but I love kitchens crammed with cookbooks, little objects from overseas trips, fridges full of drawings and postcards. Living rooms packed full of novels and photographs. Evidence of the people that live there. Evidence that people actually do live there. Even those pubs and cafes furnished by op-shop finds, where the clutter is completely contrived, appeal to me.
I realise that you can’t keep everything. I am not interested in appearing on Hoarders. But when I set about clearing things out, how do I know what my future self will miss? What seems innocuous now could become loaded with meaning in years to come. Where is the line? How much can you take away from your home before you lose some of its soul?
Maybe the trick is to only buy things you truly love in the first place, to be mindful with the gifts you give and to keep all things created in love (even if only via photograph).
Are you a minimalist or maximalist? How do you feel about clutter, clearing out and kerbside collections?