On Decluttering

I left off last time after a first attempt to manage what we had kept in storage, in preparation for the impending move that would take place before the year end. Since then, we had made two more visits, one lasting some seven hours while the other, barely 90 minutes. The idea was to decant the room – ideally of everything – and sort all stuff under either of two categories, namely to keep or not to keep. Jacky Keung, our storage manager, had assured us from the start that if we didn’t have the time or were too weak to complete the process, he would have everything put in boxes and taken to the new storage facility at Kwai Fong. As I had intimated last time, he had helped us organize our stuff before, more than once or twice.

It must have been more than ten years ago when we were planning to move to Mei Foo. Our personal effects were scattered in a few flats and storage areas while the flat in Mei Foo was under renovation or more correctly, reconstruction. Life was somewhat chaotic at the time; and we found the mini-storage through a friend and rented a few cubicles including one with windows and some simple furniture wherein I could read my morning papers and do some paperwork. At one time, we had kept a sizable refrigerator there for Su’s champagnes and skin care products. However, the arrangement didn’t last long or long enough. In the end, Jacky had all our stuff moved to one big room, which was the one we had been using for the last, maybe seven or eight years. Somehow, we had found it handy to keep stuff that we didn’t use daily – diving and skiing equipment, winter clothes, heaters and many books and journals – out of sight.

Looking back, I had actually begun to rent storage space way back from when Rosita and I moved out of Tin Hau Temple Road to Seymour Road, which was around 1996, initially on a very small scale. Later, I accumulated more stuff when I moved between jobs and when I was about to become a Rotary District Governor. I collected a lot of souvenirs, pictures, photos and memorabilia, and had kept them in boxes previously used for A4 size duplicating paper. I found those boxes rather handy for shifting and handling. When I retired in 2003, I had a temporary reprieve when Rosita and I moved from Seymour Road to a bigger flat at Baguio Villa where I could consolidate all the scattered personal effects. I had planned to stay there for at least five to eight years and had actually put in new furniture for the purpose. Alas, things didn’t work out, and I ended up moving back to the smaller flat at Seymour Road in less than 30 months later, having to find some serious storage space for the first time. Then, a few years down the road, I met Su and ended up having to keep permanent storage space at Tai Wo Hau, which is where we now are.

One thing is clear. I am not good at decluttering. On the contrary, I tend to collect too many stuffs along the way, and worse, develop too much attachment over time. For example, when I was very young, I had collected match boxes at one time. I had also prized personalized stationery and had begun to have them printed very early in my life, initially by my elder brother who was a professionally trained printer. On my retirement, I had planned and organized my flat as a home office and had accordingly had substantial quantities of stationery printed most of which rest in the storage gathering dust. Rosita also encouraged me to acquire a full-size working desk for my home office which was lined wall to wall with book shelves for the favourite books I had acquired over many years. My daughter loved the collection when she saw it and I said then that she would have it after I was gone. Rosita was very ill at the time.  The working desk had since been reduced by more than half the size, and I had kept the other parts in storage until recently before relegating them to the landfills. I managed to retain the sturdier book shelves for other uses, and had left the flimsier ones in Tai Wo Hau to hold other old books.

Back to the present, I am resigned to postponing decisions to throw away early anything as long as I have signed up to rent the new space at Kwai Fong. I would see how things work out. In the end, it would be a case of to keep or not to keep. For a case in point, I opened up a box marked “Rotary souvenirs” only to find that each piece in the box tells a story and each piece was dear to me, certainly at the time it was left in the box. I was very tired and decided to throw everything away and hence chucked the box under the “not to keep” category. That was on Day One. I woke up the next morning still thinking about the box; so that on Day Two I went to put it under “to keep” and marked it with a new “last inspected” date, as I asked myself quietly, “How often do I need to do this; and why?”

In the end, I suspect that Parkinson’s Law would be invoked – the work would expand (or would go on) for as long as the time in between for its completion.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the passage of Rev. Fr. Deignan. We were in Whistler when it happened and I wrote a piece to cleanse my mind for the day and had it uploaded on my blog, which later went into the last chapter “Lest We Forget” of my first memoir in January 2021. I found out shortly afterwards that I failed to pick up a typo on the year he passed away – 2018 became 2008; and he had been so dear to me in my life.

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