The Goddess Speaks
Meaningful clutter is worth keeping
Got clutter? Move over. If sentimentality were an Olympic sport, I'd be a perpetual gold medalist. Open my kitchen drawer -- you know, the one that's supposed to house the good cutlery, or at least a neat stack of bills or correspondence -- and you'll find, among other relics, a boarding pass from a trip to Hilo taken in January, photos of a recent Christmas in L.A. and a ticket stub for "Renaissance Man," a so-so Danny DeVito flick that came out in 1994.
The boarding pass is explainable -- the first trip my boyfriend and I took together -- and who could begrudge me a few family photos, even if I consider 35 photos of the same evening "a few"? It's the ticket stub -- and so many other seemingly pointless artifacts -- that confounds people.
It's not so much about the movie -- I can't even remember what it was about. But the ticket stub is a gateway to the summer of 1994, and the first and last time my friends and I ever hitchhiked to the North Shore. Marooned at Pearlridge just after the buses stopped running, we accepted a stranger's offer of a ride in the back of her truck to the Haleiwa Bridge. We ran a quarter of a mile through pitch-black cane field after that, reached the house and jumped in bed seconds before my friend's parents VW van came crunching over the same gravel path we'd just scampered up.
It was a thrill, a relief and obviously one of the stupidest things three young girls could do on a Saturday night. But it bonded us forever, and so the ticket stub for the unmemorable movie has taken up permanent residence in my silverware drawer.
Other things taking up space in pockets of my home are two beloved chairs that match nothing but that I will never part with because they belonged to my grandmother; a fishbowl holding nothing but a small purple flower that I've had since the day I officially owned my apartment; and a Frank De Lima tape so warped it won't play anymore, because "Cockroach Hula" made my brother and me scream with laughter no matter how many times we heard it during one particularly long interstate car trip one summer. Why not just replace it with a CD that will actually play? Because I still know all the words by heart, so I don't need the CD. More important, a new one just wouldn't be the same.
There's a fine line between sentimental and hopeless pack rat (right?), and I believe the difference lies in whether you can remember the reason you're keeping that cardboard box of ceramic alligators (or that mud-encrusted shoe with Velcro straps that has no partner, or that sweatshirt with a chocolate stain in the shape of Texas on the elbow).
If you can remember the reasons, it's OK to hold onto them (this is advice from a sentimental person, not a pack rat, I swear!). If you can't remember, let them go ... and have faith that the good times ahead will bring lots more stuff to squirrel away in your cutlery drawer.
Christy Wong is a a fifth-grade teacher at Aliiolani Elementary School.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
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