In embracing the “new” in my life I feel like part of that has to be me cleaning out all my “old” stuff, and letting go of a lot of it. I am a hoarder. Not debilitating, clinically-diagnosed hoarding, but whatever the level is below that…that’s me. Like how people say they have OCD when they like things to be alphabetised. It’s casual hoarding. Amateur hoarding. I keep everything imaginable and I hate throwing stuff away. Oddly enough, it makes zero sense but I also really enjoy cleaning my stuff out. It feels good to de-clutter, to clear out all the crap, to create all this room. I don’t go in for much in the way of New Age philosophy, but I’m sure there’s some kind of karmic, universe-related benefit to giving your possessions away. It just feels good.
So anywho, I’ve started on my drawers and cleared out like half my t-shirts and pants. Just like that. Which is an achievement because usually when I go through my clothes – the majority of which I don’t even wear – I can only handle tossing out like a handful at most. But in my old age I’m becoming more and more ruthless. For the fact that I can’t even remember the last time I opened these drawers to wear something in them, I feel pretty sure I will survive if I jettison almost all of it. Even the sentimental stuff.
I think for the casual hoarder, they come in two broad types: the optimistically practical (“I might need this one day!”) and the sickeningly sentimental (“Aww I can’t get rid of that!”). While I’ve certainly got a healthy amount of the former in me (I really thought I’d need all 87 of the lead pencils I had in my stationary collection…all 14 of my rulers…all hundred or so pens…) at heart I am a massively sentimental hoarder. I may be the most sentimental person on the planet, and well…I really like stuff, which makes for a deadly combination. I want to keep anything that means something to me. And EVERYTHING means something to me.
In my pants drawer, for example, I came across this pair of giant, floral, black-and-white board shorts. They are totally ridiculous and I have no idea how I wore them. But just the sight of them evokes such powerful memories in my head. Shalvey. 2002. Playing soccer for Blacktown, in the very first Under 12s Girls competition in Sydney at the Premier League level. Before that we were just a development squad. There we were, a bunch of 11 and 12 year old girls, training at night out in the fucking boondocks of Western Sydney for reasons past my understanding. I wouldn’t go to a park in Shalvey at night now if you paid me. But there we were. And for some reason, I always wore the exact same thing to training: my knockoff Juventus kit, and these hideous flowery shorts. For anyone unfamiliar with the Juventus strip, it may be black and white but the thick vertical stripes clash horrifically with floral print. I must have looked simply ghastly (albeit colour co ordinated) and I have no idea what possessed my 11 year old self to wear such a preposterous combination. But wear it I did. I think it was only as we got into the heart of winter that I switched to a warmer and more visually conservative Parramatta Eels jersey/black trackies ensemble. Wow, tracksuit pants…that also must mark the last time in my life I was ever cold enough to wear long pants while playing sport. I mustn’t have developed my warm blood yet.
See, all the little things come back to me. And the big things. That Under 12s season with Blacktown was the happiest I ever was as a kid playing football. I can still recall so clearly the countless nights that I spent with Vannessa Fletcher (AKA Fletch, AKA Midget, AKA St George) out there at training, picking up the soccer ball, getting on our knees and playing mini games of tackle footy in between soccer drills. As an adult I can barely catch my breath in between training drills…back then we would exert ourselves twice as much during “breaks”, trying to tackle the shit out of each other. For a kid who was like half my size (‘Midget’ is not a deceptive nickname) she sure went in hard; it was a constant stalemate between us. I remember when we went to Bathurst for the end-of-season trip, we were so excited to have an entire backyard to play footy in, and we commenced a game on our feet using the whole space…then after about five minutes, we gave up and retreated inside to play hallway footy on our knees. Lesson learned: confined spaces are much more conducive to one-on-one tackle footy.
The other main memory I have of training that year is of Jessie Jones and I doing Eminem. Jessie was my best friend on that team, and she was obsessed with “Cleaning Out My Closet” when it dropped, just constantly singing the chorus and driving me nuts. Eventually the scales for the song tipped from annoying to awesome, and I ended up loving it. I hadn’t had much to do with Eminem since blasting my tape recording of “The Way I Am” more than a year earlier. This got me back on board. Then later when we were in Bathurst (funny the parallels that pop up) someone brought their copy of The Eminem Show and we’d be banging that thing like mad 12 year old gangstas. I eventually got my own copy of that album, and I’ve loved Eminem, hip hop and memorising rap lyrics ever since. Funny how these little incidents end up having such far reaching consequences for your life.
I got all this from a pair of old shorts.
This is what I mean, this is what goes through my mind when I go through my stuff, whether it be an item of clothing, an old toy, a birthday card, souvenirs, papers…even my stationary has sentimental value. Everything reminds me of something.
I’ve only just started to realise how much of my hoarding is in aid of memory preservation. This is interesting to me, and a little surprising. Surprising to discover just how much I distrust my own recollection of events. I have always liked my memory, always prided myself on how good it is to the point of nauseating boastfulness; you can’t know me without also knowing the familiar refrain of “I remember everything!” that I repeat gleefully and constantly. But still, it’s clear that I don’t trust my memory. I do not trust it at all.
That’s why I keep all this stuff. To remind me, to bolster my memories so they become burned into my brain instead of slipping through the cracks. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff I have stashed away in my room, kept for the sole purpose of that once-a-year cleanout when I pick up whatever it is and dust it off, say “Ohh I remember this!” and reminisce, and then put the object back where it won’t be used or seen again until my next big cleanout/trip down memory lane. It’s literally the only purpose these objects serve. But to me, it is a legitimate and noble purpose. My memories are sacred to me. I treasure them above all. Anything I can do to preserve them securely in my mind is completely worth it. Even if it means my room is chock full of musty junk and hideous pants.