I sit here in England, slightly despairing, surrounded by disparate, huge piles of Stuff.
Yet another day of trying to decide what does and (brutally) what does not make the cut. The final cull. The last winnowing out of a lifetime.
The decisions are clinical and often painful — which childhood memories will be packed for India, and which, sadly, will end up on the "To Go To Charity Shop" pile, or "For the neighbours" stack or, saddest of all, on the totally unwanted "To go to the rubbish skip."
And as I do all this sorting and sifting, I have made a vow to my own two children. Slightly altering the words of the Edwardian era hymn, "I vow to thee, my children, that I will not leave So Much Stuff behind."
Even though I live in India, a country which has a disproportionate number of desperately poor people, everyone I know certainly has Too Much Stuff.
Hey! Don't get offended. Just think about it.
We all have books and ornaments and framed photos and china and daily crockery and party crockery and winter clothes and summer clothes and shawls and guest towels and old videotapes that we are keeping just because one day we might convert them to digital format…ah ha! Got you there, didn't I?
I am the first to admit it, that we are fully 100% guilty as charged, hubby and I. Too Much Stuff.
We have old LPs that we are keeping well, because they are old LPs, and you can't honestly throw away old LPs now, can you? One day, they might be valuable and the children will thank us.
We have audio cassettes by the drawerful, because they are, well, old cassettes that we bought when we were students and so, well, yes, let's keep them. Memories, you know. Plus, of course, the children might like them one day.
We have shelves full of lovingly filmed video tapes of our children. All of which we will convert and edit to digital format. One day. When we're retired.
Oh heck, we ARE retired.
What has boggled my mind here in England, as we sift and cull and throw, is that it is increasingly difficult to get rid of stuff. There are rules as to what you can and cannot throw away in the municipal skip. You need a permit to throw things in said skip. A permit to get rid of rubbish. Just think about that. There are people manning the skips — huge vats labeled wood/paper/plastic/oh goodness knows what else — and you are curtly ordered not to put the bin bag full of old photos in the same skip. Old photos in one. Plastic in another.
You have to pay some charities to come and take away the stuff you are giving them for free.
It is all desperately sad and, to be honest, a tad undignified.
At least we are not shackled by such red-tape-ism in India. Whenever I've given things to Indian charities, they have kindly offered to collect from me.
The kabariwala comes every Sunday to our house, and carts off old newspapers and bottles and the inevitable Stuff. And even pays us (a little) for the privilege.
In essence, in a country like India, where there are, tragically, so many people in need, it is tragic for people to hoard Stuff. Actually, more than tragic, it's actually pretty shameful.
In a country where old clothes and books, old reading glasses and old toys, old blankets and rugs are always (sadly) welcome, where there are none of the British Nanny State constraints on giving things away — "Oh, no, thank you very much, that perfectly good sofa can't be given to a charity shop because it doesn't conform to health and safety norms"…well, it surely behoves every one of us to take a long hard look at what we accumulate and store "for future use," and perhaps distribute some of our largesse.
To discard other people's Stuff, Stuff that they lovingly collected and saved for you is not an easy task. It feels unloving and disloyal to throw away childhood things you have completely forgotten about but that were carefully kept for you.
But needs must.
And so, yes, I vow to thee, my children. Downsizing and less Stuff.