“You have too much junk,” says Bins. “Yup,” I say. “I know.” I live in a two-room apartment in downtown Elsewhere. My view consists of the rear end of a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. Plus, downstairs in the basement, I have storage space. Considering that I’m here mostly on my own, it’s astonishing how much rubbish I have accumulated in the course of the 10 years I’ve been here.
“So you should read about this couple in Toronto, Canada,” says Bins. He points me towards a Huffington Post story about a family of five, living by choice in an 850-sq-ft home. “They say they learnt about a comfortably austere lifestyle from a Netflix documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things. ” I try stuffing my fingers in my ears and running out of the room yelling “yada-yada-yada” in the time-honoured way of comedians on late-night shows. But it doesn’t work. I can’t turn off the realisation that the Time Has Come To Face My Junk.
So I read the HuffPost story written by Vaishali Sahni, about how she, her husband and their three little children manage with their limited space. Maybe it’s the glamorous outfit the author of the article wears as she and her family smile for the camera. Maybe it’s the minimalist documentary that I start watching, but give up on because I already know the message. Whatever it is, a couple of days later I start throwing things away.
It began last week, actually, in the midst of the hot-water crisis. That wasn’t downsizing but recycling. Mind you, that’s wonderful too. It’s an awful bore to sort through the cans and plastic milk bottles, to find bags that won’t get ripped by the metal and cartons that’ll hold 15 pairs of shoes. But returning from the expedition to get rid of the stuff feels like the toxins of a whole year have been “cleansed” from the body. Not that I’ve ever had a cleanse! Still. I imagine this is what it feels like.
Throwing possessions away today is different. The now famous Marie Kondo, petite Japanese guru of minimalism, advises picking up each object before deciding to keep or throw. If you still love it, keep it. If not, throw. Okay, I won’t pretend I did any of that! Plus I waited for Bins to go away before starting the purge! He’d get too much fun from watching me squirm. Because: It’s truly embarrassing to confront the full range of rubbish I’ve stashed away.
Chia seeds (never eaten). Corkscrews (I rarely drink). Cocktail stirrers. Thai curry paste. A device for creating regular portions of cookie dough. A congealed mass of coconut flakes. Dead batteries. In 15 minutes, I threw away 10 years’ worth of never-used objects and materials. I feel great but also pensive. Which idiot bought all this nonsense? What will she buy tomorrow? And that’s just the kitchen! Excuse me while I return to face the rest of the house...
Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column
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