I’ve long known that I’m a hoarder and that I can get worse than a ‘karang guni’ (rag-and-bone man or waste collector) most of the time. This habit of mine reared its ugly head during the past weeks on many occasions as I’ve started the long and tiring process of decluttering. While the physical act of decluttering is already sufficiently exhausting, it starts a similar process of decluttering of the self that can be more important.
I watched the movie ‘Up in the air’ on the plane last week and interesting as the movie was, the main theme of disassociating oneself from others and to live a life free of attachments. That made me think about the life that I’m going to be embarking on in a little while and how difficult that process can actually be. The protagonist in the movie was a highly successful executive who travelled so extensively that he didn’t quite have a place that he called home. He goes on to promote this need to live a life free of attachments before going through a Hollywood-styled change of heart. The idea of disassociation and attachment-free living was given a slightly off-kilter spin in the movie as the underlying assumption in the way things were portrayed was that we can’t quite live attachment-free lives because we want to be with others.
The comparison seems a little disingenuous to me as being free of attachments is not the same as living sterile lives away from human contact. We don’t want to be attached to stuff or get overly reliant on a particular feeling or emotion that has limited provenance but that does not mean that we cut ourselves off from feeling for others. It’s not easy walking the fine line between being attachment-free and turning away from others completely but I believe that that that’s going to be a bit of a challenge that I may be facing in time.
Back to the physical decluttering – the little garage sale of my stuff and books was a great exercise in letting go. I’ve accumulated a huge amount of stuff over the past years and there were a number of books and stuff that I’ve grown a little attached to as well. Apart from packing and stacking, a major part of the process included me steeling myself for letting go of everything and realising that the setting free of all the books that I had would be like spreading the gift of knowledge far and wide. Cheesy yes, but it helped and made me happy to see so many half-empty shelves by the end of the evening.
One reminds oneself that decluttering is not a one-off activity but something that should remain. Stuff is good – accumulating them is not. After all, how is one to be mobile and available to all if one is burdened by too many things?