Strings of the Past

Do you like acquiring new things, keeping them, stashing them away like a little squirrel furiously caching acorns?

Do you feel the rush when you find the perfect place to store that handy little morsel you managed to salvage from the wreckage of the parking lot of your shopping trip? Do you enjoy playfully patting it to sleep in its new home and staring longingly as you close the cabinet, sealing your new friend away for eternal slumber, never to be seen again until the world calls for it, summons it by its very name?

Perhaps you enjoy…hoarding?

Do you feel personally attacked? Don’t worry, this isn’t an attack. I’m personally something of a hoarder at heart, although I know a few people that could certainly give me a run for my money.

There’s something of a line between saving up for a rainy day and hoarding the heck out of your humble home, but regardless the joy of acquiring new materials and toys to call your own is undeniable. And there’s more to it than that.

I just had a thought – when we squirrel things away for future use, no matter how practical it is, we develop an attachment to that thing on some level. We deem it to have some form of value, even if the value is not immediately apparent or obvious to others (or even ourselves).

And when we develop an attachment to something, we tie a little strand of our mind and emotions to it, so wherever we go there is a string we keep attached to the back of our mind for us to yank back into action should the need arise.

However, as we bring in more and more materials and goods and gewgaws to our neat little nest, we create more and more strings, many a strand to our mighty stash as it swells and grows, like our pride as we gaze upon our treasure trove.

And wherever we go, those strings follow us, give us a sense of pride and accomplishment, a sort of satisfaction that we are fulfilled and moving up in the world, climbing upon our pile of material achievements, one trinket at a time.

Beware the strings of the past.

Here’s the thing: perhaps we might use those objects and bring them back into the land of the living at some point. Perhaps we won’t. If we never touch or look at those objects, they basically becomes items of our past, objects that used to bring us joy but now leave a dull feeling of nothingness. And living like that is akin to living in the past.

Not akin to – it is living in the past. Living vicariously through the lives of our objects past. And every time we come across them items of our past, we can’t bear to be rid of them, because we developed a past attachment, and we tell ourselves that these objects are still of value, still of use to us, if not now then at some point in the future.

So we are living in the past, for our future. Never in the present.

And so we continue to search and to hunt and to find new things to bring us that brief joy, that brief rush, more retail therapy, more things to fill our homes with and to bring us closer to…what exactly? Fulfillment? Fully filled to the brim, for sure.

Is it wrong to want to acquire things, especially useful or pretty things? Useful pretty things?

Well, certainly not. Isn’t that part of the human experience?

We obtain objects through our travels that mean something to us. Maybe because they mark a momentous event in our lives. Maybe because they were given to us by someone we cared about. Maybe because they remind us of someone we used to be.

So we are living in the past, for our future. Never in the present.

These objects have power. They all have a power over us, whether big or small. They tug at the strings in the back of our minds, summoning the memories and emotions that we associate with these objects.

And it is certainly not wrong to want to cling to those things that matter, those memoirs of a life well lived, of the journeys we have been on.

Then why are there orders and doctrines that dictate a life devoid of attachment? The Jedi Order certainly deems it so, and yet they all run around with throbbing tools attached to their waists.

I guess we have to ask why do people hoard?

I imagine hoarding brings a sense of achievement, a sense of satisfaction like that of a magpie finding fresh fleshy shiny things to adorn its nest with, to beautify its interior and bolster its external walls. Hoarding is a form of control over an otherwise uncontrollable world of crazy people and crazy events and crazy concepts of conquest.

Should our attachment be solely to living objects then? Is that healthier? Does it prevent the hoarding mentality? Does it give us a better sense of control in a world where most people feel their sense of control slipping between their buttery fingers?

Hoarding is basically living in the past, but with objects. Letting past presents tear you away from the present, letting worn out weapons weigh you down, letting anchors drag you back into the undertow, deep below the surface where no one else can reach you.

Often we don’t realise it as we accumulate stuff that we don’t need and don’t use, and we get to the point where we have to force ourselves to do things or use things so as not to allow them to go to waste. Especially when we acquire things that have an expiry date.

Yes, things in the freezer still go bad, mum.

I swear everyone has the misconception that things in the freezer will last forever. Or at least, out of sight out of mind.

This is the sort of old baggage that doesn’t just make you mentally sick, but has the potential to make you physically ill as well.

I’d like to think I’ve improved from my hoarding ways, like to think I’ve cleaned myself up and sobered up. But perhaps I’ve just gotten better at shuffling things around, or better at pretending to utilise the unwilling objects I’ve lugged home.

I guess it’s good to have a balance, to tether between being amply stocked and resourceful, and excessively cluttered to the point of being unproductive. I don’t have a three step plan to declutter your life, to Marie Kondo-ing your world. You can go check out Marie’s Kondo for that.

The irony is not lost on me

Just take small steps, one thing at a time, one dime a day.

You can do it.

Start snipping those strings of the past.