Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on June 15, 2018 Published on June 15, 2018

“What are you doing?” Bins asks me. I’m standing in my kitchen with a pile of objects stacked up on the countertop. The kitchen is tiny. The counter’s just under three feet long. “I’m trying to downsize my possessions,” I say. “I’m going with Muriel today, to leave all this stuff at the Sunshine Recycle place.”

“But you’re just standing there,” says Bins, “staring at a pile of junk.” “It might be junk,” I say, “but it’s rich with history. My history. See this cordless electric kettle? I bought it when I first came to Elsewhere. Never used it.” “Because it doesn’t work?” asks Bins. I shake my head. The kettle is made of glass, with a big metal bump on the inside. “That heating element seems to give off a taste. I just couldn’t get over the feeling that I was being poisoned with every sip I took.”

“So why’re you just staring at it?” Bins wants to know. I give a big sigh. It’s hard to explain. “I can hear it calling out to me,” I say. “It sounds like water just before the boiling point, sort of bubbling and hissing. It’s begging me not to throw it away ...” “Oh no,” groans Bins, “you’re hearing voices now? You’ve become Jeanne d’Arc?” I ignore him. I turn to a cutlery set with wooden handles. “I bought these because they were cheap. I hate them. They remind me of boarding school. But they also remind me of my first meals in Elsewhere! When all I could cook was burnt toast! How can I let go these memories?”

“Stop, stop!” moans Bins, clutching his head. “I’ll go crazy just listening to this nonsense!” I can’t stop. “I know it’s ridiculous but I just feel baaaaad! Like I’m abandoning these poor little defenceless inanimate objects to the cold cruel world of the recycle centre! Each one contains a memory, a fragment of my life. To throw them away is to throw away bits of my life.” Bins continues to groan. “At the same time, there’s this Japanese movement to declutter our lives. The advice they give is to carefully consider each object, to ask ourselves when we last used the thing. If we’ve not even looked at it for six months, OUT it goes.”

Bins gestured at the pile saying, “These are things you’ve not looked at for six years, never mind six months!” I nod, miserably. “I know! According to the article I read, I shouldn’t hesitate for even a moment. Instead I should focus on how good I’ll feel the moment I’ve let go!” From outside we hear the sound of Muriel’s car drawing up. “She’s here,” I say. “Quick — I need to get this lot into cartons! Help me carry them out, please?”

Half an hour later I return. Bins asks, “And? How was it?” I wring my hands. “Oooh. Like sending my own children to the guillotine!” Then I stop and chuckle. “Feels wonderful.”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on June 15, 2018
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