It is precisely one week over a month today when I rolled up my sleeves, tied tight my walking shoes, and with mental determination that propelled my body to a hands-on mode for making it to the front-line I commenced, what was dubbed, by your’s truly, as, “Operation Declutter’’. And, yet I’m still a week away from the finishing line, where the target was to remove 80 % of the things hoarded by the closets, cabinets, cupboards, cartons, not to forget the kitchen pantry, or leave out the garage that roofed rusty gardening tools, a wobbly folding bed bearing boxes of books stored with loving care and with an abundance of moth balls, so no silver fish would even contemplate straying into a carton! Yes, the target, or call it goal, was to do away, as in give away, to charity 80 % of these goods, items (or if a crockery set or blanket was brand new, to a dear friend or a cousin, who would like to celebrate her birthday twice a year, while concurrently subtracting two of her chronological years) but if 50% of this lot is gone by the 4th of June, I’d think my mission has covered good ground, and would tackle the remaining 30% before the curtains draw on 2023! This trip, I see, has started on a kind of topsy-turviness, so must put things in order for making any sense. It’s been a bit over 18 years when I, with maternal care, set up home on the outskirts of Delhi, far from the madding crowd. And just as an explanation of sorts, got huge wardrobe closets made, designed by Rahul, my brother, and a box-room courtesy both my mother’s creativity and purse strings. My possessions, clothes-wise, were not many, nor was the intent to go on a shopping binge to fill up the drawers and have hangers dangling with clothes bumping heads with each other; just the feel of a roomy wardrobe was pleasing enough. Of course, the story of the bookshelf that covered, a not to be sneezed at, wall soon fell short, and books had to be stacked on the beds’ headrests, on side-tables, many ultimately making their way, as already mentioned, to the garage. And since the
husband and I are in a profession where newspapers abound, they too piled up—this despite me, spasmodically clipping out our write-ups to slip into files of see-through covers. Whyever so?! Well, one needed a copy of where you spilt the ink, correct?! This diligence however, more often than not, would be gone with the wind! Then one’s child’s, who now is a young man, school projects, report cards, journals, clothes, toys, and heaven knows what not, kept piling up—this despite giving away so very much—and PSP games and gadgets that came in every gimmicky dimension. His baby clothes, the cuddly Paddington Teddy, Winnie the Pooh and other soft toys, his first “lot’’ of friends, that which with each passing day, became more and more animate, retained because sentiment snuggled them tight. Then come Diwali, there’s a tribe that must stack you with gifts solely to maintain upbeat public relations. So though over the years, one gives and gives boxes of ravishingly arranged dry fruit, couturier chocolate and designer, perfume-infused candles that are curated in all perceivable forms, some contouring into Royal Red, good enough to bite into apples, if the lungful of wax hadn’t offended the nostrils. And there’s more of such exclusive, handcrafted stuff—diaries, wicker baskets to stash knick-knacks, baubles and trifle. (Red Riding Hood would definitely have wanted to be around in this day and age, feeling her basket failing to live up to the posh, fancy-dancy, swanky straw-plaited bumper!) Anyways, as usual get off track much before getting on track! So straight to the point: 18 years, a lifetime, and despite giving away to “Goonj’’—an organization which supplies clothes, toys, utensils to the heavy-hearted Needy and woebegone villages. This, besides me, furnishing clothes to fussy maids who think “sooti”, cotton is so plebian. Synthetic “kurtis’’ heavily embroidered, more like it. Guess they don’t live under the same tropical skies! And therefore, my on-going operation clean-up; sorting and sifting and packing. Too many things, most visibly cast shadows of apprehension, more the artefacts, more the dusting to do. Not to deviate—despite my nomadic mind—but have you noticed the trend, how, over years and years, having an army of Buddhas adorning drawing rooms, swarming into bedrooms, squatting in
droves at the house’s entrance for good luck, but naturally, and thronging their way in a symmetrical cluster in the garden, whether of a shoebox footage or in a spread-out sweeping patch of green?! The last word in being swankishly, up-to-the-minute, going with the flow?! Guess so many of us haven’t heard of herd culture, pack-mentality?! Again, to hop back to the trolley—did confess to a gypsy incline of the brain! With five weeks of making space to breathe, I confess to being physically tired, to put it mildly, and the most difficult part, emotionally speaking, was to edit down birthday cards, get well soon missives and after going through the bounty, tracing one’s fingers over a picture of flowers or an image of a cute little girl ambitiously wearing her mother’s pump shoes, toes twiddling half way into them…these extinct cards with handwritten warm-hearted messages so hard to part with but…but you know, you had gone back to them after an eternity, that too, because you were emptying out the house. Then there are, too many to be counted photo albums, beginning from your parents’ wedding ceremony…with a gulp in your throat making its way to burst into tears…you know, after you are gone, these albums marking birthdays, holidays, ordinary day-to-day uniformity would be dumped in the Raddiwallah’s heap. Goes without saying, that this treasure-trove I will covet till my last breath… No more teary-eyed thoughts!
Before putting my pen down, leave you with a close to the ground medical bulletin: household clutter impacts mental well-being, more things, however bewitching, a mare’s nest, thereby increasing the levels of cortisol, the thorn in one’s feet hormones. So, say we, with immediate effect, collectively start to unjumble our lives?!
(Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.)