decluttering diary

Why I’d think twice about personalising my belongings in the future

This is a satchel bag I used for work when I still worked a full-time job. It has been hanging on the coat rack for over two years because I’ve gotten a new (free) computer backpack since. There’s no place I’d go as a freelancer that requires me to use a formal bag anymore, especially in the past year when most of us worked from home.

Also, one of the fasteners have fallen off and disappeared, but it’s nothing a good DIY or repair person can’t fix.

It was on the way out to the thrift shop when I lifted it and came eyelevel with this:

The company I got this from has a personalisation service if you paid a little extra and I decided to treat myself. I went with one of my nicknames, the one that’s a bit of an inside joke and the name of my food Instagram account. There’s something inherently satisfying to put my name on something I bought with my own hard-earned cash.

But here’s the punchline: upon seeing that name in faded gold, I changed my mind about donating it away to a thrift shop … at least for now. How strange it is that personalising something elevated it from sundry to sentimental.

Marking my “territory”

I’ve put my name on my other belongings before. I have a batch of stickers specially printed up to stick in the books I own, just in case anyone borrowed them and forgot they were not the owner – something that happened far too often! But I am no longer emotionally attached to each and every book I buy and make it a point to sell or pass along books that I’ve already read no matter how much I liked it.

I know, I know. It’s heresy to book collectors, and please note that I specifically said “collectors” because there is a difference between them and readers. Not everybody who buys a book will get around to reading it. Not every reader will necessarily have to buy their next read. When you buy more than you actually read, the books stack up. But that is a blog post for another day, or perhaps I’ve already written about this … I don’t know. I haven’t been here in a while.

Marking something as yours might have stemmed from the classroom or from sharing the space with siblings. If your name isn’t on it, anyone can claim it.

But back to the bag.

It’s still sitting in my living room after I changed my mind. I wanted some time to process why I was hesitant about getting rid of it although it served its purpose and I no longer need it.

I like a good bag. I used to spend weeks or years looking for the perfect one and have no hesitation in dropping some good working-class cash when I find it. My very last purchase was an overnight doctor’s bag that I bought in New Zealand, which ended up too big for daily use but was perfect for a short trip.

For years without fail, I’d get compliments for whatever bag I happen to be carrying. I could go into what criteria I look for in the perfect bag, but I’m no longer living a lifestyle that requires my EDC to be large enough to hold everything I might need while I’m outside the domicile. My bags are all hanging somewhere in the house collecting dust because I don’t go out anymore.

The bags currently in circulation, plus a basket full of other smaller bags and purses.

De-owning is hard to do

Decluttering is an ongoing process. I love those reality TV shows about decluttering or minimalism, and many of them emphasise that it is a continuous process, that the work continues after the camera crew has left your house.

In the universe of Marie Kondo, my bag went from the clothing category (which should be the easiest) into the sentimental category (the hardest). But I think I’ve come to terms with it – it’s getting donated.

I suppose the easiest way to let go of things that no longer serve you is to not get attached in the first place, but it sounds sad and dismissive. So embrace the item while it is serving you, but understand that it’s not your job to give it a forever home after it no longer has a purpose in your life. It wasn’t created to sit and gather dust in your room. It was created to bring joy by fulfilling a purpose and making your job easier.

And now I have to go through this same process with the handful of bags I’m still holding on to. Wish me luck!

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Author: Georgette Tan

writer . poet . introvert . NSFW hand letterer . equatorial eclectic