Monday, November 12, 2012

Objectification

I'm way too attached to things. I know this. I've never been good at throwing things out, not because of any intrinsic value but because of the memories attached to the artifacts. I feel a deep, yearning need to own books I love - just knowing that they exist in the world isn't good enough, even thought I tell myself I don't have enough time to reread them anyway. My house is crammed with souvenir mugs, old photographs, ticket stubs, wooden spoons from my mother's kitchen, and items I won't even admit to.Naturally it's only gotten worse since I had children. Some people keep the outfit they brought their baby home in. I have bins of baby and toddler clothes I can't bear to get rid of. Many people are able to keep one or two pictures their children have drawn and recycle the rest. I have teetering stacks of drawings and paintings: rudimentary people with only facial features and belly buttons; the picture Angus drew over and over of a house, a lawn, a giant flower and a rocket ship flying overhead; pages and pages of the tiny circles Eve drew when she was one and a half and could finally grasp a pencil; formless blobs and millions of rainbows.

It's a messy tangle, my reasons for being a near-hoarder. I've always had trouble with organization, so whenever I feel the impulse to get rid of something I always feel a vague fear that I just haven't remembered what I need it for, or that the day after I get rid of it I'll find the companion piece that makes it a vital part of my life. Also, despite my hard-bitten cynical exterior (shut up, I do so have a hard-bitten cynical exterior) on the inside I am a melting morass of sentimentality. I also tend not to sort events in my life into major and minor - for me, almost everything is a major event, and requires a careful curation of the accompanying objects.

When I cleaned out the kids' rooms last fall so my Dad could paint and lay down near flooring, I knew that keeping everything wasn't an option, so I employed my newest technique for easing the pain of separation, which is photographing the soon-to-be-gone things.

I still have trouble getting rid of things that hung in their rooms when they were babies.


Or examples of how they wrote.


Or things they made with their own little hands.


Or things they were passionate about.




Or things that seem bereft without their larger context.


Or things like whatever the hell this is.


 Sometimes we change a room around and then I feel a sudden lurching panic because I didn't photograph it how it was originally. It's like I can't orient myself properly if I don't have access to every successive iteration of any possible environment.

I know that part of it is my unwillingness to let things go - stages of my life, stages of my children's lives. And I know that there's no way to not let it go. Part of the beauty of having children - and, well, every other beautiful thing -  is the transitory nature of every change, every expression, every wrongly-pronounced word, every tiny starfish hand and gorgeously rounded belly, every daisy-strewn little dress and every tiny mitten. And keeping all the things won't change that. It just makes me feel drowned in things.

Also, I don't want to pass down the madness. Yesterday I was going through a bag of clothes we'd lent someone that they'd returned and found a pair of giraffe pajamas that Eve wore when she was three. I showed them to her and she clutched them to her chest and said "we CAN'T give these away! I'm going to use them for my daughter! If I have a daughter." So that was okay.

A little while later I was at the computer and I saw her looking down at something beside the stairs and saying "oh no! Are we getting rid of this? That's so sad!" I thought it was more baby clothes.

But no. We got a new fridge that dispenses water and ice, and even after much excitement over this development and constant clamouring for 'a glass of fridge-water', Eve was stricken that we were getting rid...

Of the ice cube tray.

Folks.... we may be in need of an intervention



10 comments:

Nan | Wrath Of Mom said...

In this respect, we have nothing in common. I was born without the gene strands that carry sentimentality or nostalgia. I also lack the ability to dance or remember song lyrics -- perhaps these things are connected.

Lynn said...

I'm the same way with books. I need to own something if I loved it - to the extent that if I get a book from the library and love it, I often go out and buy it. SAD.

However, I have a post I've been working on in my head for a while now about how books that aren't digitized are disappearing. I have lately discovered that several titles I loved as a child are out of print, not at the library, and nowhere online - i.e. gone. Luckily we live in an age where you can pretty much get any old book on eBay for $35 plus shipping, so I've been collecting a few classics, but it worries me that these books have gone away and no one possibly notices. So collecting the ones you love is, in my mind, totally worth it.

Patti said...

My favourite activity at home when my family is out is running around with a garbage bag. When they return, I watch to see if they notice. They don't.

My husband is the hoarder.

Your memories are lovely though. Maybe you can take a picture of these things and add your memory caption. This is work, but it will result in less stuff.

Nicole said...

HOARDERS! Both of you! Mark is a bit of a hoarder, and in some cases so am I (boxes of artwork, old cards, etc.) But I'm very good at purging things like toys and clothes.

Hannah said...

I'm an anti-hoarder, so the thought of all those drawings piled up in stacks made me itchy. I'm like Nan, I seem to lack the sentimentality gene. My husband has it in spades. It's a constant push/pull between my desire to have clutter-free surfaces and his desire to keep all the things.

StephLove said...

We have bags and bins and bags and bins of outgrown kid clothes in our basement. Drives Beth crazy. I find it easier to get rid of if I can give it to someone I know. But I do it piecemeal and for Beth the pace is unsatisfying. I just gave away 3 outfits from the 11 year old's baby clothes to a cousin who just had a baby and I think-- see, I'm getting rid of stuff! and she thinks 3 outfits that have been in storage for 11 years? You see how it goes.

Kid art is just as bad, maybe worse because there are fewer opportunities to give it away in a meaningful context.

Julie said...

you and Eve need to come over as I am in the "if it isn't nailed down, it's out of the house" sort of move. in a tiny house, you need to purge every once in a while, and it's been way to long a while at our place.

for the jb's art, i took pictures of it all from jk and put it all into a photo book. it's fun.

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

I actually read this yesterday but my phone won't let me comment on Blogger blogs for some stupid reason. And then I fretted all night about the fact that I read this and didn't leave a comment and how would you know!? I'm ridiculous.

I'm not overly sentimental about objects. I keep some stuff because I like it, I keep others because I feel I should, and then I recycle/toss the rest. And then I start to worry that something is wrong with me because I'm not as sentimental as others. And then I get over it.

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

I'm the same way. You would think my favorite books are priceless the way I act about them. And I hate to part with things. You know what I found in the back of my dresser drawer the other day? Elastic hair bobs with little ball decorations on them. You know how old my girls are, right? You know what I did with them, right?

I have to work away again. Looking forward to catching up when I get back.

Amber Strocel said...

I think all kids are natural hoarders. I work hard at getting Hannah to part with her art, because at the rate she produces it I would literally drown if we kept it all, and it's a constant uphill battle. Half-finished works that she discarded because she wanted to start over, old colouring sheets, 15 drawings of Princess Leia from her Leia Period - she wants to keep it ALL. I bet she would keep the ice cube trays, too.

Although, come to think of it, I wanted to keep the ice cube trays after we got our new ice-making fridge, but my husband put his foot down.