I hosted a garage sale today. It most certainly wasn’t the biggest sale on the block (seriously, there were about 400 of them in a one mile radius on this rare, beautiful June Saturday.) I like to keep my home clean and clutter free, so I make several trips to goodwill a year. However, we were swimming in a sea of outdated electronics (mostly my husband’s), some of which were too big for me to haul away on my own, and some which were in good condition, making me think I could get some money out of them. And I did. I’m richer than if I’d donated or recycled everything, so it was worth it. Sadly, I still have many things to haul away.
All of this got me thinking about sentimentality. I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about how our habits used to be to have lots of knickknacks and whatsits displayed in order to show off our personalities. At some point along the way, having a clean desk and clear mind became a much better way to live. Now a homeowner, I am pro-active about keeping the decor simple and pleasing to the eye, no doubt influenced by my work on a design show that is all about clearing clutter and making one’s house presentable. But this raised the question, how far is too far?
So many things are migrating to the electronic realm – books, music, films – all things that were once displayed so prominently and proudly in our homes as an expression of self. Maybe if I had a mansion on the hill with a couple of pools, a conservatory and a study, I wouldn’t mind having a room dedicated to showing off all the books I’ve collected over the years. But I don’t. So reclaiming all that square footage once dedicated to books and keeping them on an electronic device no bigger than a paperback is mighty appealing. But if we do that for everything, are we just going to end up looking like the star ship Enterprise?
And at what point, exactly, did all the sentimentality – the notion that we needed to display books and music and stuff to be expressive and unique – when did all that disappear? Or, put another way, at what point did we donate our sentimentality to the Goodwill of our brains? Somewhere around the birth of the online presence, I’m guessing.
As I prepared for this garage sale, I commended myself on being harsh and unsentimental about what I would part with, but I am happy to say I’m not a complete android yet. While there are many, many things that I have held on to over the years that now seem so simple to let go of, there are still some memories that are too precious to donate. I have a set of dishes, not even a complete set, that I bought when I was in college that I could not bear to part with, even though they are serving up nothing but dust. (Not that anybody bought any dishes anyway.) I have a pile of concert t-shirts that are never worn yet never going anywhere, as well as some other “memory clothing”, mostly bought in foreign countries ten years ago that I have to keep because, well, I got that in France! And two expensive water bottles my husband and I bought rather recently which we both hate, but that are so pretty I remain determined to find a way to repurpose them.
So I suppose this means all is not lost. Memory still has an effect on how we live our lives. As a culture, we are not boring, space-traveling cyborgs just yet. And provided I am able to get out tomorrow to donate and recycle all that we couldn’t sell today, I will consider this spring cleaning effort a whirlwind success. I shall have clean lines, a clutter-free home and utter peace of mind – for just about three months until a baby enters our lives and the whole house is turned upside down.