07 June 2011

Keepsakes or junk? Is there a difference?

Take a look at my studio and tell me if you can believe that I'm on a mission to de-clutter my living spaces!

And that's only one side of the room. Here's the other side.

Am I a hoarder? I never used to think I was. And I do live in a relatively small house, so most rooms probably contain more than would be necessary if we had four bedrooms and heaps of closets. But let's see what kinds of things I hold on to in this room only – things that aren't strictly necessary for the editing of books (my former trade) or the kind of writing I now do on this blog and for other purposes.

In the top row picture, at left:
  1. Two Laotian sticky-rice baskets (only two of a dozen I have in different sizes).
  2. About 20 years of tax records under the desk! (You never know.)
  3. On a shelf above (just out of view), about 35 travel books featuring places I've visited, places I intended to visit but didn't, and places I just like reading about.
  4. Behind one rice basket, a glass paperweight given to me as a Christmas present by........I can't remember who, but it was important at the time.  
  5. Four CD cases containing 10 years of backup files.
In the top row picture, at right:
  1. Yet another sticky-rice basket - this one home to a small electric jug so visitors (and I) can make a cup of tea in the afternoon. And a fridge-top tray of smoked cane from the Philippines.
  2. Never mind what's in the bar fridge. (You can never have too much home-grown citrus or homemade jam.)
  3. On the wall, handwoven silk shawl from Laos. On the bed, handwoven cotton bedspread from the Philippines.
  4. Pillowcases featuring embroidered Lao cloth (black), printed canvas made from a former Philippine shower curtain (white) and heavy African cloth (red).
  5. A set of prints on the wall, the early work of a dear printmaking friend with whom I've lost touch.
  6. In another friend's old black sea chest that doubles as a bedside table, all the Christmas decorations, my first marriage wedding veil, the outfit I made to take home my newborn (now 39-year-old) daughter from hospital plus the bloodstained nightie I wore to deliver her, several of her most important first dolls, and an old chenille bedspread from Tasmanian days.
In the second row picture, at left:
  1. Bottom two shelves contain copies of many of the publications produced by Qld Dept of Education while I was in charge of the publishing unit there (1987-98). I need to donate these to an education library somewhere.
  2. Third shelf from bottom has two silk-covered boxes containing a seal with my name in Chinese characters and a small porcelain container of sealing wax. A gift while in the Philippines.
  3. Fourth shelf up has name card holders bought in Vietnam and a clock which was a gift, and which has Thai numbers on its face. (Why do I have two of these clocks!)
  4. Fifth shelf up has mementos of my mother: little cloth-covered birdcage she made years ago as an ornament, and a metal box with some of her old Singer sewing machine bits and pieces. I also have the old brush she used to sweep thread dust off the machine's working bits. It's great on my keyboard.
  5. Top two shelves have my collection of classic feminist books plus other writings and journals by women – waiting to find a good home (any takers?)
  6. Third shelf down has publishing and editing references I no longer use.
  7. Fourth shelf down has education and development books I'd also like to give away.
In the second row picture, at right:
  1. The old Tasmanian table (pine top, blackwood legs) came from a neighbour's greenhouse 30+ years ago, after I told him we were looking for a patio table. (He tossed it over the fence to us, as I recall, and then we refinished it! His wife was not happy once she saw it done up.)
  2. Hanging above the table: a Hmong baby carrier I bought from a woman who made it on an old Singer treadle machine. It's thickly embroidered in heavy cotton on a modern fluorescent fabric that Hmong mothers prefer instead of their traditional navy blue handwoven cotton fabric. (I have an embroidered Hmong skirt in that fabric.)
  3. See the horseshoe on the notice board? It's on a piece of wood carved with '1991' – the year our predecessors at this place built the cedar-walled garage that I transformed into this studio. It used to hang above the door.
  4. Also on the notice board, a little framed photograph of tiny Hotel Esmeralda, Paris – given to me by a dear friend who stayed there on my recommendation during her first of many trips to Paris.
  5. White wire baskets hold my collection of Lao shawls and other Lao handwoven cloth.
  6. Little Huon pine pots on the table date back to Tassie days.
  7. And standing at the back of the table, a piece of calligraphy by my late Great Uncle, a Canadian priest who was also organist at the cathedral in Montreal. When I visited there long after he died, the archivist presented me with a box of my uncle's possessions, such as family photos, examples of my uncle's artwork and musical compositions and his old paintbox.
  8. In back of the printer/fax and only the top edge visible here: one of the little slates distributed to Lao schoolchildren along with chalk, on which they learned to write in the absence of paper and pencils (this in the 1990s).
  9. Standing at the end of the table and not quite visible, my old croquet mallet in its cover. I may use it again quite soon.
  10. A wooden sign saying 'Massachusetts' which I bought while visiting my folks there many years ago.
  11. And above the window, a pair of carved temple-guarding creatures from Laos.

I wasn't even going to mention any of the things inside desk drawers or filing cabinet draweres, but then I came across this little box of paperclips from the Philippines, handmade from pieces of bamboo and string. These are definitely too precious not to be featured here – and not to be kept!

So you tell me. Am I a hoarder? And if so, how can I break the habit?


Gypsy Dancer said...

I don't think you're a hoarder at all because almost all of the things you mention obviously have special memories attached and that makes them treasures to my mind.

I have got a lot more ruthless in later years and especially now I also live in a small house with minimal storage. The trouble is, every time I throw something out I always regret it or need it shortly thereafter. Grrrr....

One thing I always ask myself is, would anyone else treasure this after I'm gone? If the answer is yes I definitely keep it and if the answer is no I usually still keep it because it's a treasure to me.

I'm no help at all am I?

Chartreuse said...

Gypsy, that's exactly the help I needed - additional justification for my own policy about keepsakes. If anyone I care about shows an interest in something I hold dear, I'm sometimes inclined to hand it over on the spot. I like my extras to go to good homes and then I don't mind discarding.

Zoe said...

I've seen worse hoarders (isn't there a television show about them?) but you certainly do have a lot of stuff! Having said that, I'm an apple that hasn't fallen far from the tree on that front! xxx Z.

Chartreuse said...

Sorry about that, Zoe. But you've also inherited lots of good traits too. And few of the worst ones, I'm happy to say.

Nan said...

Yup, you're a hoarder. Is there a chapter of Hoarders Annonymous there? Otherwise known as HA!

Chartreuse said...

Well, OK, I accept 'selective hoarder'. But hey, let's see a photo of your workroom, Nan. I bet it's even more 'selectively cluttered' than mine.

About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.