I’M A self-confessed hoarder and a firm believer in the science of chaos. To me, orderliness (particularly in my room) is what I would define as organized clutter. Normal people might see my nest as messy, but if you were to ask me about anything lying about, I could give you a short history of where I acquired it, who gave it, and why it is still there in the first place.
Yesterday, while digging through piles of papers, my partner asked why I still kept a rectangular piece of glass she found along with the pile. It was the base of a plaque I received for a benefit event years ago. I said that while I may have lost the plaque itself, I felt that because of the remaining base, it was still there, only invisible to all. We laughed a bit, but that moment was enough to trigger a roll down memory lane.
Growing up in a large family is a continuous and unconscious struggle for acceptance, and any form of achievement was an ascendancy of sorts, especially for impressionable growing boys. In school, my younger brothers were thoroughbred medal earners. My mother (although she played fair, bless her) would prominently display all their silvers and golds in a large glass cabinet in the living room, along with my late grandpa’s war medals. It was only in grades 3 and 5 when I (very proudly then) finally contributed to that family war chest. Not for good grades, mind you, but for good behavior! Imagine First Honors and Second Honors all lined up perfectly and at the end of it, medals for Good Behavior! I still remember those uninspiring times whenever I looked at the cabinet and felt a minor pinch. Nowadays, teachers churn out senseless awards such as Best in Uniform or Best in Haircut, just so everyone gets to go up on stage for selfies with their parents.
During our boomer time, awards for good grades were the only real deal, and nothing ever came close. Some classmates even teased me and called me the conductor for those two gold Conduct medals (the worst I was called was teacher’s pet). Later after my school years, I dwelt into sports and eventually won two trophies in tennis. However, the euphoria of these accomplishments was short-lived as I was again unceremoniously put in my place when my father displayed them, along with his twenty or more golf trophies and two hole-in-ones.
So with bittersweet lessons learned, I have moved forward and fine-tuned my concept of what was really worth keeping. Now, while the things I have come to value more (and hoard) still border mainly on the trivial to the sentimental, citations and awards are finally not among them, as they’ve become superficial and fleeting. High school report cards full of Cs, my firstborn baby utensils, pieces of buttons and string, as well as other mediocre things hoarders like me perceive as treasure—they all are my keepsakes. But mind you, they have evolved to become more than just that. Hidden stories in each item could put to shame Gump’s trivia collection so that perhaps one day, I could categorize them on the PC and gloat like a miser after dinner.
But alas, all things must end. It is the time for spring cleaning in my world. Some things you keep, and some things you have to let go. Like trophies of old, many are best kept safely tucked in memories as we have to allow room and space for newer things. It took me maybe all of ten seconds before I said with finality, it was time for that plaque glass base to be inherited by the garbage man.
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