For the second in our four-part series on everything you need to know about moving, columnist and serial home-changer Arun Janardhan tells you what to take along or leave behind, and how objects help make your home look familiar yet new
One of the downsides of ageing is memory and if you still remember something from a long time ago, it must be important or embarrassing. One of the childhood memories of loss that still lingers with me is when my parents left behind my favourite hockey stick during a move. It was mulberry wood, a gift, with which I had scored my first school goal—I had tripped over my own hockey stick and miraculously deflected a shot in while tumbling down.
Over the years, I have left behind many things while shifting homes and carried others to the new place—riding through a sea of emotions that have included guilt, sadness, relief, enduring joy, and on occasions, disbelief. A broken pencil, 10-year-old restaurant bills, clothes from a bygone waist-size, never-used skipping ropes have done the shift while significant stuff like bank passbooks, cell phone, a copy of Don’t Buy This Now: The Art of Procrastination by John Perry, and that hockey stick have remained left out.
POSSESSIONS AND JOY
Marie Kondo says we should keep physical items that spark joy in us. This is partly true—I have to keep my shaving razor, which can scrape out no joy in my life. Even if you tried to be minimalistic, over the course of time, you would end up accumulating things. Besides the practical stuff, like the toothbrush and the dumbbell (acts as a great paperweight), it’s not easy to make those choices on what to keep or not.
When you shift houses, it’s the best time to get rid of excessive stuff. You may not have enough space in the new establishment for all your belongings, some may have outlived their usefulness, and besides, once a T-shirt starts looking like a Mumbai road in the monsoon, it’s time to say adios.
Over time, I have figured out how to make it work: By asking a question. Have I used this thing in a year? Is it any longer age appropriate? Does it add any value, practical or sentimental? If the answer to these is no, then the object gets left behind.
Can this be recycled/resold/gifted? Would someone else find this more useful? Is it attracting dust/insects/the neighbourhood crow? Is it occupying more space than needed? If the answer to these is yes, the object has to go. I do have occasional regrets—like when I gave my favourite “When life gives you lemons, add vodka and soda to it” T-shirt to the vegetable seller.
One habit I also developed—which helped in the above process—is to thoroughly analyse everything that comes into the house. Every purchase is made on a need-only basis. Rare gifts that may not be useful go to the nearest needy person—or the spouse.
While packing/unpacking, you discover long lost belongings that you might want to make better use of in the future. I discovered my missing A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole during one such move and moved it from the back to the front of the shelf where it lies today, still unread. But atleast I see it often, making a mental note to read it, before the ageing mind gets distracted by the seventh rerun of True Lies.
You get a second chance to rearrange your home—moving the reading desk for daylight, finding a careful place for the remote control, getting the lamps and paintings in the right places and negotiating unobstructed cross ventilation. How you arrange your home makes a difference to how you feel in those spaces—I found a place under a window for my meditation because I liked the light to come from behind me. Light from the front tends to wake me.
It’s the right time to get the carpenters, plumbers and electricians into action—or as sometimes the case, the same chap can do multiple activities. I once nicknamed a handyman “three-in-one”, which he didn’t like and fixed the sink at a 70-degree angle.
One of the best solutions to boredom at home is to rearrange stuff—its best to put your belongings in such a way that you can change their positions periodically.
Ultimately, there are benefits to continuity and also change. You don’t want to suddenly trip over a suitcase on the way to the loo in the middle of the night. But you also want to analyse when something is not working. For example, the futon in front of our TV has such a lumpy mattress that it constantly feels like I am sitting on a turtle—particularly because the lumps tend to move. I just turn the mattress over once in a while, with the added benefit of the cleaner side becoming visible.
What makes a house a home? You do. With some help from materialistic things, but more important than the possessions is how you interact with them.
Mumbai-based Arun Janardhan is an independent writer-editor who writes on lifestyle, personalities and sports. He has lived in over 30 houses across seven cities.