Every Sunday morning, I am asked to relax on the couch and watch as my husband tosses out valuable items he claims are ‘useless’ and therefore trash. He refers to this as ‘therapy’ — ‘torture’ is a more appropriate term.
I sit in a state of panic, hyperventilating in to a paper bag to muffle the silent screams of agony that escape with every empty toiletry that is dropped into the bag. It is when the eye twitch gets out of control that I finally cave in.
“Why are you giving THAT away?” I exclaim, exasperated that he would do something as horrible as toss out a completely perfect undershirt. “It’s covered in sweat stains, looks moth-eaten and …”
Sometimes, annoying habits can be blamed on mom...
“AND it’s perfectly fine!” I say as I cut him off. And with that I get up, quickly grabbing as many items as my tiny arms can carry to safety. Three minutes and therapy over. Three minutes — that’s how long it takes for my genetic predispositions to regain control.
My ‘shrink’, clearly the crazy one to want to throw out ALL of this precious stuff and even crazier to think that together we have the ability to rewrite my genetic code, then resumes his journey of Konmari-ing his way around the house.
Just like my ma, I, too, feel there are a million uses for that moth-eaten, faded tee (however in most ‘therapy sessions’ none come to mind). Whether I liked it or not, along with other outdated and second-hand items, I have inherited her dominant accumulating gene.
There were other traits I have happily accepted, proudly owned and shamelessly flaunted, so yeah, thanks, ma. But then there are the less preferable traits that have been passed down to me — the reliance on a beverage left by white imperialists (chai), poor hand-eye coordination and that above-mentioned obsession of hoarding.
It was hard to tell what my mother (and her mother before her) loved more — clutter or caffeine. Both cut it quite close at first place on their list of favourites with offspring falling somewhere around the bottom of said list. Ma denied all allegations of course. We’d occasionally test her claims and confront her about how she could prefer a beverage over her child. She always had the perfect answer and once our tiny hearts were reassured, our little feet would gleefully skip towards the kitchen to fulfill her simple request and fetch her a lovely cup of tea. Nicely played ma.
Grandmother’s clutter was a sensitive topic. Any attempt to donate or discard an object from ‘valuables’ that had been forcefully passed on to us to ‘cherish’ would result in a major disagreement.
Mother, also a hoarder, would cling on to old containers, cherish jars, bottles, and even worn out linen, afraid to part with them (what if they were ever needed?) and was determined to make use of them one way or another. Fabric, she believed, only fulfilled the purpose of its existence once it had been worn, repurposed as a dishcloth/wipe/mop (100 percent cotton for total absorbency) and reused till it decayed into nothingness.
Grandmother’s clutter was a sensitive topic. Any attempt to donate or discard an object from ‘valuables’ that had been forcefully passed on to us to ‘cherish’ would result in a major disagreement. Mother, also a hoarder, would cling on to old containers, cherish jars, bottles, and even worn out linen, afraid to part with them. Fabric, she believed, only fulfilled the purpose of its existence once it had been worn, repurposed as a dishcloth/wipe/mop (100 percent cotton for total absorbency) and reused till it decayed into nothingness.
Much to my husband’s dismay, I was willing to up the game. Inspired by Pinterest tutorials and armed with the finger dexterity of a preschooler, I collected all kinds of empty bags, old cards, ribbons and paper and shoved them quickly in drawers, promising to organise them one day.
A couple had their glory days when they were proudly unearthed from piles of rubbish, hastily wiped clean with the nearest available faded tee and handed over to the husband with a smug ‘I told you it wasn’t trash.’
The majority, however, remained buried and would have probably fossilised if they didn’t have to be relocated now and then due to storage shortage. That need usually arose when Sunday’s spoils were sneaked back in on Monday mornings after the husband had left for work.
There were moments when I slipped, when Martha Stewart’s motivation drowned out ma’s reasons. Enticed by Marie Kondo’s promises of efficiency, increased productivity and calmness of an organised closet, I marched towards mine, trash bags in tow, determined to set things right.
Hours later, I was sipping chai, surrounded by treasures I had stored once upon a time, the bags untouched. Yes, Marie Kondo, ALL of them ‘sparked joy’; especially this jar which I was going to upcycle to make the cutest Mother’s Day vase. Ma would be so proud!
Published in Dawn, EOS, May 14th, 2017