‘You can’t take it with you when you go’. This gem was part of a treasure trove of sage advice passed down to us from an older and wiser generation. If only it had been accompanied with, ‘Practice what you preach’. Because as baby boomers and generation X sort through the family home, now the parents have moved on, they are finding the previous generation did not walk the talk. Left in our hands is the fate of everything from their art and furniture through to their memorabilia and dry-cleaning receipts dating back to 1973.
It’s been said our parents’ behaviour is the product of growing up in the great depression; they are unable to throw anything away, even if its had it. I’m not convinced. The depression theory would explain some additional work clothes, sensible shoes and emergency food rations. However, it doesn’t cut the mustard (five opened and expired jars of it) in explaining why anyone needs 102 pairs of pantihose or 45 hotel shower caps. I don’t believe the great depression was withstood by staying in hotels and stealing shower caps.
There are a range of reasons why we collect stuff. One is financial – some collections can be worth millions. However, most are not worth anything at all. The items in these collections have a sentimental value, they help to keep the past alive. Historically collections of photographs have done this well. This won’t work in the future if all you photograph are your pets and your food.
Hoarding on the other hand is pathological. Paradoxically it is linked to perfectionism and the fear of making the wrong decision; hence the inability to know what to acquire, keep or discard. Predictably Freud believed it was due to unresolved issues around toilet training, and who better to explain a pile of crap than Freud.
Baby boomers and generation X had better beware though, because an inability on their part to discern what to keep or what to discard will see what’s left over from their parent’s home assimilated into their own. Then you can look forward to your home becoming a monument to the indecision of two generations.
What may ultimately come to our rescue is the fact our houses have grown bigger by over 50% since the 1970s. Consequently, you need not make too many tough decisions, just take the stuff and leave it for your kids to sort out. After all another useful gem from the past is, ‘Like mother, like daughter.’
My birthday is fast approaching, and as it gets closer my thoughts focus increaasingly on some of the big questions: what have I done with my life in the past year, what does the year ahead hold, and finally, how old will I be anyway? The first question is easily answered by looking at last year’s diary; sadly the second is probably answered by looking at a 2013 diary that I have, as yet, no need for.
Like most people I do not particularly relish growing old; those lapses of memory, increased visits to the doctors, changes of shape etc. are not something that I look forward too. However the alternative to aging is even less attractive, and let’s not forget there are benefits to growing old too. Accepting yourself for who you are and a sense of identity both seem to increase with age, as does your ability to push to the front of a queue and then pretend that you can’t hear the protests from behind. Also let’s not forget the advantage of no longer feeling embarrassed about a little bit of flatulence in public.
Lately I seem to have come across a lot of magazine articles about how to live longer. Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time in doctor’s waiting rooms. The advice is varied; oh there is the usual drink less, stop smoking, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, and lose weight. All very sage I’m sure, but not particularly inspiring. However there were some notable longevity pointers that were new to me. They included that I should be more optimistic, relaxed, wealthy, marry happily, and have more sex – I’m done for! Unless I meet a slightly younger, athletic, “relationship ready” and well off man. However it is hard to be optimistic as this has not happened in the however many years it is that I’ve been searching! I’ve long since abandoned ‘The Rules’ approach to trapping a man – they proved far more canny and elusive than that method suggested. I guess that I’ll just have to get myself in shape and keep getting out there. So in the next 12 months I’m going to eat well, drink less and exercise more. Maybe then I’ll meet my soul mate, or failing that, at least have some good sex. If neither of these happens you had better not get in front of me in the supermarket, or stand immediately behind me for that matter either.
I’m hoping that my good old friend Ecclesiastes got it right when he said, “There is a right time for everything: A time to be born; A time to die…”. Hopefully in between there is enough non-spatial continuum to enjoy work, play, family and friends; with some time left over to smile at the thought of Mark 2 Zephyrs past and future Parisian hotels.