The Malta Independent 15 July 2024, Monday
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The pleasure and pain of getting rid of stuff

Marie Benoît Sunday, 9 June 2024, 09:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

The pleasure and pain of getting rid of stuff

No culture this week. I did enjoy hugely a recital at the Robert Samut Hall where four young incredibly competent pianists, entertained us, and themselves,  with some marvellous music on Sunday morning. A standing ovation was not enough. I will give you my musings on that one,  one of these Sundays but not today.

Unfortunately yesterday I missed the opera concert at the Salesian theatre, which sounded so promising. But I really was feeling rotten. Cough, cold, 'flu, pneumonia, Covid or Death? Will I soon die? With this thought in mind I decided that my next project has to be to declutter: to lighten up, dispose of anything that was superfluous to my needs.


Books and magazines have taken over. And so have clothes. I've been giving stuff away but not enough. My eldest keeps on repeating ,"You simply have to be ruthless Moo. Close your eyes and bid some things farewell... never mind finding them a 'good home'. There are plenty of clothes bins in the streets. Let those responsible find them a home. Maaaa! What's wrong with chucking things out?"

As I look at so much stuff, some given to me I might add, I also see the full horror of my materialism.


Last year Chanel celebrated the anniversary of its No 5 perfume. For the occasion they published a huge and beautiful tome: boxed, elegant, so beautifully illustrated, every page exquisite, a work of art. But just carrying it from bookcase to table almost leaves me disabled, now that I am definitely old. I have no intention of giving it away, or selling it on Ebay let alone throwing it out. I love it and am flattered that I was sent a copy. If the flat were burning down what would I save?  Not, I assure you, a coffee-table book which weighs a ton, magnificent as it is.

And there lies the problem.  When it comes to removing anything, I look at it for a minute and decide to keep it after all, remembering stuff I have given away and regretted doing so the following day.

It's easy to walk around with a black plastic bin bag going from cupboard to wardrobe to bookcase, to chest of drawers. Some things are not that difficult to get rid of. Old magazines, but not before I've had one last nostalgic look at them (this girl can't help it) I can then take them  to a charity shop, or give them to those who seem interested. Or simply leave them in the lift with a big PLEASE HELP YOURSELF. If they are left there for longer than a week then they are  removed.

Then there is music. The many piano scores are going to be left to those nieces who are taking piano lessons. I will pass on the duets I used to play with a friend who is a proper pianist but now in her 90s: Schubert's  Marche Militaire, Kételby 's In A Monastery garden,  which I wish to be played at my funeral. What about all those lovely tangoes bought in South America but an uncle who played several instruments and travelled extensively?

Also my mother's score of L'Harpe Oelienne which she used to love and played fairly well. Do I really want to part with that? What about Liszt's  Rhapsody No 2, a favourite of hers and which she loved and played the easier parts?

Piles of records of all kinds of course. 12 inch (Long-playing,  45 RPM, 78, let's not even mention the amount of tapes in boxes which are cluttering one of the cupboards. Do I just throw them away?

Editing my wardrobe is so difficult. A whole lot of stuff which, I tell myself, I shall use once I lose some more weight. Ghost like clothes, which in my heart of hearts I know I shall never wear again, crowd out the bigger ones which fit me properly and which I wear regularly.

I have two big suitcases filled with stuff. One is in the washroom. It hasn't been opened since we returned from Mauritius 35 years ago. I don't have the courage to open it in case I burst into tears. They will remind me of the distant past, happy days, dead relatives and friends, lost dreams and illusions. Why should I torture myself? Another is in the flat, full of clothes and material.  I've given most of my daughters' beautiful smocked dresses away, not to my children for their children but to someone else. I am certain her girls, like my grandchildren are never going to wear them. But hey, let her get rid of them. Her bin not mine. I cannot bear to part with them.


Sometimes I take a couple of things out from the suitcase and leave them at a charity shop. "At that rate you are never going to clear up properly Moo. Shall I come and help you?" I tremble at the very thought. I know how ruthless she is!

The purge needs to include high heeled shoes. I cannot even wear normal heels anymore for fear of breaking more bones. I gave some away and have to find a place for the rest too, resisting the illusion that I will perhaps wear them later on.

Fashion is simply not the same without high heels but I shall never succumb to these awful trainers, of whatever they are called at the moment. How sad that dressing down is not only for Fridays these days but for every day. Never have people looked so sloppy.  It is very much a reflection of sloppy characters, sloppy values and even sloppier morals, too. It's hard work trying to look half decent but how uplifting to see smart people whether in the street, or in the theatre of a café.

A friend told me how hard herself and her siblings are finding it to empty their late mother's house. I want to make the life of my children as easy as possible and if I live longer I simply won't have the energy to declutter. I don't want them to have to spend hours going through loads of stuff of a whole life, having to decide what to do with it. But decluttering and dejunking one's life is not as easy as it seems. First of all you have to steel yourself. It needs organisation and firmness of will, no dithering  and chunks of time.

But I will really have to do it, and soon, unpleasant as it is.


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