Monday, April 09, 2012

Reasons Why Life Laundry Is Not Always A Good Thing

I know it is good to declutter. To have a clear out.

To void yourself of unwanted and unnecessary possessions. To push for the gush after an age of material constipation.

You feel lighter afterwards. Lithe. Virile even.

Life laundry can be a force for good.

But it can be a bad thing too. A process to be regretted at leisure.

When I moved out of the family home some years ago and into a bijou little flat in Warwick (it was a cupboard but it was my cupboard) I found that, by necessity, I had to shed some of my load. I had amassed enough goods and chattels to sink the Titanic without the aid of an iceberg.

I had to be harsh. The contents of Chatsworth House into a dumb waiter will not go.

I didn't think about it too much. That way the process wasn't as painful as it could have been. I did what I had to do. I pruned harshly. I cut things off without mercy. Disinherited myself of 50% of what was rightfully mine.

And it was fine.

I felt lighter, more lithe, more virile, etc, etc. Yes, I could breathe the free air once again. Life laundry was good.

But since then, over the intervening years, I have regularly come to regret my cold-hearted nonchalence. There are occasions when it makes me physically wince.

I will have a yen to grab a book that I'm sure I own. I will remember buying it. I will go to our many bookcases and search frutlessly. It is not there. I sold it to a secondhand book seller when I was offloading. It is now either out of print or costs a small fortune to buy back.

I will recall a childhood possession of great sentimental value. It is gone. I kept some but not all. Why do the ones still in my possession not mean as much to me as the ones that I threw away?

Worse still though is the ephemera.

I am currently converting a load of old recordings to digital format. Scripts I wrote and acted out with my sisters and friends. Stupid, adolescent stuff. Hopelessly puerile.

As fun and as great as it is to have these I found myself wishing that I'd just recorded day-to-day stuff. Conversations with my grandparents, etc. People whose voices are long lost to me due to Life's own life laundry.

And then I recalled that I did. I had a tape recorder with a built-in microphone and used to use up the spare bits of cassette at the end of making a mix-tape by just recording haphazard stuff via the microphone. There'd be a wealth of undocumented treasures there. Stuff I would no doubt not even remember.

But, of course, when I was lightening my load I threw out all my old mix-tapes. I had the records and could make them again if necessary. Why bother to keep hundreds of C90s? In my haste to get rid of them I didn't even stop to think about all those hidden ad hoc extras.

All gone now. No doubt amusing the tramps at the landfill.

Curse you, life laundry! If there was one thing I could get rid off now it would be you!



Share


26 comments:

Being Me said...

Oh, that's sad! I recall thinking myself so clever for having the thought to record my grandfather. But I never actually *did* it. Turns out, as with so many things when you're 17, a great idea isn't actually worth anything unless you pursue it.

Steve said...

Being Me: totally. I had equipment to film my grandfather in his last years and never thought to do it - even though Karen and I religiously record our boys! Doh!

the fly in the web said...

I've never believed in decluttering - which is why you have to navigate any house I'm living in with great caution.
I like clutter.
It's my clutter and it's all kept for a reason which, while it might escape me at the moment, will come to me at three in the morning.

Gappy said...

Oooh you look all different - I like it.

I can never throw out books. Never. My shelves are groaning under the weight and still I look round for ever more innovative places to put new shelves...

John Gray said...

sod's law means the very thing you want . is the thing you threw out....
done the same... an old armchair that would be worth a fortune now.... an art deco sideboard


I could go on!

Suburbia said...

Such a shame to have lost it all. My mother has/used to have an end of a reel to reel of me saying a nursery rhyme when I was about 5 and my grandparents were talking in the background. I must ask her what happened to it. She is wiser than me with life laundry- I have left so much behind me in so many different house moves and relationship changes. Sigh.

Löst Jimmy said...

I understand fully, having gone through a number of moves in my life - time/need/space/forgetfulness often combine and things are inevitably lost. I try to avoid thinking of the treasures I've mislaid/thrown out over the years. My mantra is you've got to hang on to what you've got, as (I shudder to say) Bon Jovi sort of said once...

Steve said...

The fly in the web: decluttering is totally pointless for a very good reason - you fill all the space you gain with yet more pointless tat within a year. Guaranteed.

Gappy: you're so right. Books should always be kept. I have learnt my lesson the hard way.

John: it's even worse when you realize you've thrown out something that would give the experts an orgasm on Antique's Roadshow!

Suburbia: find that reel and get is copied to digital format! Trust me - do it ASAP!

Löst Jimmy: well, I guess that just goes to show that everything has a use. Even Bon Jovi.

Gorilla Bananas said...

And you sold your Lego too. Just think of all the happy hours you could now be spending building a little Toyland for Noddy and Big Ears.
You never realise what's important when you're young.

libby said...

I unexpectedly found a tape with my baby (now 20) gurgling and 'talking' away that I had recorded for just this reason...I had forgotten I had done it mind and wish that I had included other people too...still it was lovely to hear again. Do you remember winding tapes with a pencil? or was that just me??

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: you words outwardly mock but I can sense the brotherly pain behind them. Did someone once take the tyre from your cage?

Libby: nope did that too. I can remember when my fingers was so small I didn't need a pencil. Out of context that sentence is completely wrong.

Owen said...

Spring cleaning and decluttering can be a wonderfully good thing, but one must never throw away treasures ! Life laundry must be done cautiously and carefully... I've thrown out two tons of junk over the past couple of weeks, but no treasures, no books, no tapes... still have a whole set of drawers full of my beloved cassettes of concerts... Yes, do life laundry lovingly... But carrying around a lot of junk which someone will have to clean up when we are gone is not a good thing either...

Steve said...

Owen: having the wisdom to do it wisely... now that is the trick.

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

My regrets really are laundry - clothes I gave away, merrily clearing out wardrobes over the years when I could have kept some lovely vintage pieces, or at least great fancy dress items. I remember one fabulous bright pink puffball dress from the 80s. Sounds awful, I know, but it was gorgeous and I miss it.

Jon said...

Never thrown away a book. We have about 6000 around the house. I've got a 1987 Good Pub Guide for Pity's Sake.

And sometimes it comes good. Today one of the pool pumps (it's a business thing; we're not Beckhams or anything, you understand) started making a funny noise and it didn't matter because I had a broken one from years back from which I was able to salvage the impeller and solve the problem.

Life laundry? My Aunt Fanny.

Steve said...

Trish: ah - I'd forgotten about clothes! I used to have a bright blue paisley patterned shirt. It was divine! Sadly it went the way of the charity shop... *sniff*

Jon: you've convinced me. I will never throw anything out ever again. Especially my aunt Fanny.

Marginalia said...

It's because you remember your grand pa you wish you had the tapes.

The conversations are already digitalise - in your memory.

Nana Go-Go said...

Have you tried your Mother's house for mislaid items? My eldest was home at the weekend and I was so relieved when he said he was finally going into the boxroom to have a look at the 3 boxes of cd's that he'd asked me to keep for him....so he brings them down,picks out his favourites and proceeds to download them on to his Macbook!!Anyone want 3 (large) boxes of cd's? On the plus side I got hugs and kisses and a huge thanks for looking after his cd's so well!

Steve said...

Marginalia: that is true. But I do so wish my sons could hear both his and my grandmother's voices.

Nana Go-Go: sadly my folks have moved house a couple of times in recent years and aren't particularly good at storing sentimental treasures...

Burt "Burt brain" Hartly said...

♫Shoe Tie goat oar shoot Eye-yei-yie go♫
♫Beef satay chicken truffle♫
♫Prawn, duck, mmh & back bacon from a hello, goodbite buffalo♫
♫Sow cow moan Anne Lemmy no!♫ Yo?♫
♫Shoot Meow Aye Biff4 Highgo stray♫♫♫♫♫ ♫

you pick up the shiney packurge fur clotheser inkspeektion...

Mheaster Disclamour saith:
beast B4urp cell out dayte
canny tex eat wit chew anyweigh

Steve said...

Burt: when the time comes, the great cause of medical science is going to have a field day with you.

Hannah Denski said...

Aaaaw, Steve, I feel for you. I only know too well the sick feeling at the bottom of your stomach when 'looking for' something you know too well looong gone! (I have recorded Nirvana over my recordings of my 2 year old self, having 'serious' conversation with dad - I am kicking myself and feeling ill every time the thought enters my mind!)

Steve said...

Hannah: I am so tempted to say: oh well - Nervermind. But I share your pain!

Katriina said...

I've also chucked precious things in moments of hard-hearted efficiency. Luckily, my parents are hoarders and their entire house is impressively jam-packed with their memories, as well as their children's, and those of our deceased grandparents. I dread the thought of having to sift through it all one day - doing the Life Laundry of at least 10 people... Maybe their house should just remain a dedicated communal storage area for Life's Precious Clutter.

TimeWarden said...

I wish I'd never cut up all my old comics, as a child, and, more recently, I should never have wiped any video recordings... Then I could still watch/study/ogle Imogen Boorman in Euripides' Iphigeneia At Aulis!

Steve said...

katriina: my grandparents were the same but the job, when it came to it, wasn't as hard as you'd think. I found so many treasures that they kept - it was a real comfort.

TimeWarden: tell me about it! I got rid of loads of stuff I'd recorded from the telly - really rare stuff now that is not available anywhere else. Forget life laundry - buy storage space!