The family joke is that everyone is dreading when my grandparents go because no one wants to go through their house. The sheer junk they’ve amassed in their fifty years together is very impressive. Their knick-knacks hold more compelling stories than a library full of books. The history of their life together along with remnants of their four kids lives’ is strewn everywhere in their house, from packed cabinets to rooms so crammed with furniture the doors won’t open. Tragically, I am guilty of hoarding and have my own collection of debris.
I believe in clutter.
I just don’t like to throw anything away. It is impossible to get rid of a beanie baby I saved up my allowance for, was elated to bring home to show off, and loved for months. It is impossible to throw away any birthday card from any birthday because rereading a card brings back the smell of the pool where I had my 8th birthday party or the cool snap of the ice where I had my 9th. The memories that the clutter encompasses is too hard for me to give up.
For years, my mom has yelled at me to “go through” my junk in my room, and the junk in the surrounding rooms that I’ve taken over. I got out for summer break last year and my friends were all gone. So, I went through my clutter. I relived every triumph, every disappointment, every laugh, every tear, and every drama-filled note from junior high. Rereading and seeing things that had been out in my room, that I had seen daily, only to be shoved in a box or the closet when something better came along, felt like reconnecting to a different part of me. I didn’t think I’d changed nothing drastic had occurred to change anything. I had only grown up.
Maybe that’s why my grandmother has her antiques mixed with her grandkid’s artwork, to connect her past to her present, to connect the present to the future. I doubt either of us will ever learn to moderate our collections or how to throw anything away but our clutter will remain after us in the houses of our family with a story, a history of its own.