Here in unusually sunny, muddy Queensland – La Nina has taken a terrible toll on our sun-filled-days-per-year boasting – thousands of people have been decluttering their lives.
Unfortunately, the decluttering hasn’t been voluntary but essential and unavoidable. Thousands of homes were inundated by our recent floods, and the cleanup has resulted in tips and landfills being inundated in turn many times over by council and volunteer cleanup squads.
The mantra, Let it go, Let it go, Let it go, is heard first as a plaintive cry and gradually builds to a call to arms across my beautiful city, Brisbane, as every household item you can imagine gets the heave-ho to the footpath.
Most of the time, we get to decide when we declutter and what goes out the door. But in the mess of mud and filth that the river water left behind, there have been few choices available.
So I’m wondering, Can having no choice be a good thing, sometimes?
There’s that old joke about the T-Model Ford: You can have any colour as long as it’s black.
In the case of these wretched floods, residents can have any style of interior decoration they like, as long as it’s an empty house. Some don’t even have the ‘luxury’ of an empty house. Their ‘choice’ is no house at all as some homes have been described as unliveable and worthy only of demolition.
Imagine, then, if you were in a position where you had to start all over from scratch, what, after securing basic shelter, a roof over your head, would be your first meaningful purchase?
Leave aside the usual necessities like basic clothing, footwear and toiletries, like furniture and kitchen goods and electrical appliances to heat the beans and wash the T-shirts with bean sauce on them, and a TV in front of which to sit and eat the beans and spill the sauce. Oh, and an internet connection to go with the new PC.
[A sidebar question: Do you think the internet has become indispensible for most people in countries where communications technology is advanced and available to most of those who want it and can afford the required investment in a PC and connection? I know of people who’ve gone offline in protest at the gathering momentum of the online world. I don’t know what they’re hoping to achieve with a complete withdrawal – a complete rest? more privacy? – but I wish them well. Like the Buddha, I prefer the middle way – moderation in all things – though I don’t often achieve it, but that’s why goals can be handy.]
So, what would you buy, grasshopper?
Let’s make it a little easier – your first three purchases – what would they be?
Of course, I’m relying on you to have already initiated a decluttering policy from Day 1 with your necessities. You don’t have to be entirely like writer, Margaret Atwood’s mother, who apparently believed that two dresses were plenty for her girl: one on and one in the wash. Perhaps a little more leeway is desirable. Let’s not get too deeply into Lenten sacrifice.
I’ve been wondering what I would choose once I got back to the place where I had a choice once more, and it took a while for the grey cells to get moving, but I’m almost certain that these are the three: a camera, a day book, and a pen.
With these three items, I could create my world anew with visual and textual instant memoir. And I’d get very busy remembering, too, describing the photos and documents I’d lost as the memories returned and beckoned for attention. This would be my new foundation.
Remember: Memoir = Life = Now
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