the art of housekeeping

Clutter. De-clutter. Re-clutter.

Housekeeping is a really simple experience that brings you close to your own soul. It is funny how usually people only do housekeeping when their areas are cluttered and messy but instead of de-cluttering, housekeeping usually results in re-cluttering. This happens because the human mind and brain do not understand each other the way we hope they do. For instance, when I look at things that I carefully kept in the past, be it the diaries which I dutifully wrote in, the CDs of artists whom I was crazy over in the past or the Japanese mangas that I periodically bought, I have a difficult time deciding what I want to do with them. My mind tells me that I will most likely lead my life without looking at them again because I have moved on from my past. Practically, I should give them away or discard, depending on their condition. But when I held these artifacts that I used to treasure so much in my hands, I was stung by nostalgia. Scenes from my own past came to mind. I see my adolescent self scribbling in the diary on the dining table late at night, happily writing down events from the day and attempting to philosophize about the events. I remember the happiness I felt when I finally found the one album in the CD store which would complete my collection of Do As Infinity’s albums. I remember the surprise I felt when I received handwritten and beautifully decorated letters from my friends. I could not throw any of these away. But my area is too cluttered for me to store new letters and presents there. So in the end, I got a new box/ bag and packed the items in it as effectively and efficiently as possible. The items are still inside the house but at least I have made room for new objects to come in.

At the end of a day of housekeeping, the question remains – do I need these items to remind me of my own past? Philosophically, the answer should be no for two reasons. First, the fragments of the past that are important to me are already kept close in my heart. If so, there is no point in keeping the tangible items because I have already remembered what I want to remember. Second, my life is just a small drop of water in the ocean and these items that I have carefully kept are really unimportant to the world. In other words, they are not part of the legacy that I might leave.

But emotionally, I need to keep these things to remind myself of the past. I am afraid that I might forget important things and I am also afraid that something seemingly inconsequential today might seem important to me tomorrow. I need to keep to remember. More importantly, I need tangible things from the past to remind myself that the past is part of my life. As I move on in life, sometimes it feels as though the past is neither connected to the present nor the future. Sometimes it feels as though the past is nothing but just a dream. So I need these things to prove to myself that it was not a dream.

What and why do you keep?


















何韵诗 – 《What Really Matters》

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