Dating paperweights - relative dating practice
It’s a kind of editing, both of the physical evidence of their lives and of their memories.
I’ve been trying to analyse the embarrassment, distress and anger I felt when my well-meaning friend swept everything off the shelves and identified items to be binned: the acute pain as she shrieked, ‘What’s this old cat food doing here?
‘Sometimes they’re just trying to create on-screen drama by getting the subjects to cry.
Of course complete chaos can reflect inner turmoil, but there’s controlled clutter too, where people have chosen to keep the things that have meaning.
So, tired and emotional after weeks of preparing for the big day, I reluctantly agreed when a friend – a compulsive tidier who is positively evangelical about the virtues of decluttering after downsizing to a small flat – offered to come and help.
‘You’ll feel liberated – and it helps to have a friend do it with you,’ she promised.
It happened just before my daughter’s recent wedding.
Guests were coming to stay for the event and suddenly the house I’d lived in for 40 years, raised a family in and filled with all the paraphernalia of marriage and children, looked undeniably shabby.
Our current obsession with stripping people of both weight and possessions seems dangerously close to a sort of symbolic lobotomy.
As my origami dragon – an offering brought proudly home from nursery school by one of my children more than 30 years ago – was thrown in the bin, I knew I was about to lose something irreplaceable: the memory of a milestone in a child’s life.
Stripping oneself of everything represents a reluctance to put a value on anything – the modern disease of unwillingness to commit or, in Gloria May’s words, ‘to engage with life’.
Gloria also told me: ‘Often those who really want to destroy every vestige of their past feel that their lives are ending.
But I didn’t realise just how traumatic it could be to allow someone into the darkest recesses of one’s cupboards.