A post-it note. A cork. An empty perfume bottle.
Why do I feel the need to keep things? Do I keep things just for the sake of keeping things?
The trend lately is on simplifying. Cleaning out, decluttering, weeding through your personal items to claim only the most necessary to keep. Marie Kondo, and other celebrity “organizers” advise you to make that Clean Sweep and toss out anything you don’t really love or don’t really need. Well, how do you define “need?”
I am a classic clutter-keeper. I save every personal card that is ever sent to me for birthdays, holidays, or just because. I have a tack pin from the day I worked the baseball stadium for Kid’s Day at my summer job with the Summer Reading Program. I have corks from every bottle of champagne I’ve ever drank from. I pick them up, I hover them over the trash can…then I put them back. “I don’t want to throw these things away!” I plead against my inner declutter-er. “Not yet.”
I know I cannot continue this way indefinitely. My drawers already threaten not to close, my closet is like a TETRIS game. I cannot resist “keeping.” I keep the souvenirs of good times, tokens of triumph, trinkets and talismans of memories I want to save.
I watched my grandmother lose her ability to remember. I was young, it made me scared. Fearful of losing my memories. If all I have is memories, and I lose those…what will I become? More than any other aspect of aging, the threat of losing the memories that make up my life terrifies me. Without what makes me who I am – without the proof of a life lived – would I be anything but a husk? I cling to my memories. I try to remember things all the time, just to make sure I still can. I repeat the old stories again and again to everyone’s chagrin and, much to mine, I keep things.Things won’t help me remember. Someday I will look at the wooden ring and forget where it came from. I’ll forget where I was when I drank that bottle of wine I saved the cork from. All the things of my life will become like millstones, filling boxes and drawers and corners and building up like snowdrifts. Will they confuse me, these mountains of sentimental objects, as I lose my grip on their meaning? Will I invent new meanings, new scenarios, new stories to explain their existence? Will I even care that my own life doesn’t make sense to me any more?
Is this blog another thing I keep, out of fear of losing myself? The little times and days and photographs, memories and stories and places and feelings? Is this keepsake just as shameful and cluttered as a drawer full of business cards and sentimental jewelry?
Will it keep my life together? Only time will tell.