Michaela Merz

Less is more

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I moved last year. I had to leave many items behind because there was no space for them anymore. It hurt. The emotional tie was strong. It may be true, that I haven’t held the majority of those books for over twenty years (apart from when dusting them off) but for nearly all of them I knew where I had purchased them or who had given them to me and which experiences I had had when I read them. With each book, with each object I suddenly saw images that otherwise would have gotten lost in the labyrinth of my memory. I knew that if you throw away objects that you don’t really need, a part of your story is lost. That is just like when you accidentally delete photos, such as was the case recently at Swisscom. To remember the experiences without the support of those images, is nearly impossible.

I moved and I properly tidied out the place. Books, clothes, memorabilia, documents, furniture. It wasn’t easy. For instance the clothes. I spent my whole life at more or less the same weight. That has an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. All items fit and those that I bought twenty years ago suddenly are super fashionable again. There are however way too many of them-so out with it!

I only couldn’t discard the last blouse, which I also hadn’t worn for over 20 years, which was the final item of clothing that my grandma had sewed before her death.

It is the last material item which I still have of her and which I associate with her. I can’t just put the blouse into a clothing drop-off point. That just wouldn’t work.

I filled many bags and donated them to charity or discarded them. I have moved very rarely. A few filled up boxes thus remained in the cellar.

In the beginning, I missed this and that but after a while, I didn’t miss anything. The box with all its memories was left in the cellar. It is nearly a year ago and I discover, I could discard all those boxes with good conscience because I don’t really miss them.

The surprising thing is that in my childhood, the memories, the old items, had a very high value. Today they are pretty much worthless. You have to check out the auction on ‘Ricardo’. My mom has collected old farmers’ furniture and household items and restored them with a lot of effort. Our former neighbor, who has a laundrette has a collection of old ironing boards, the aunt a collection of old porcelain, the other aunt a collection of old jugs and so on. Since we are being steered more and more towards the future, the past and the old interest us less and less, many items that were built manually and ingeniously are now worthless. I think it’s a real shame but I can’t escape the trend either.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just about objects but also about people. Respect for the elderly (‘there are oh so many old ones’) exists only in moderate scale and appreciation of what they can contribute or could contribute, if society let them, is small. I see and experience many friends around me that are quite a few years older than me that experience the ‘age’ discrimination and patronizing behavior. I see how it pains them and how they are hurt.

When I have to go to an administrative office with my mum, she barely ever gets addressed directly, only I am, just as if she were an undiscerning child. My mom has a high school education, was a mathematics teacher for her entire career, she knows e-banking, online shopping and how to repair a car. She reads around 300 books a year, every year, her whole life. But unfortunately you cannot see this at a first glance.

I think it is dangerous and sad, if only the future, the new, counts. When the ‘old’ is viewed as a burden and you only think about the best and cheapest means of disposal.

But I have to say, I am healed from nearly all of my collecting activities. I’ll wait another year and afterwards I can bin the unopened box with an easy heart. With objects it is now easy. With people it’s different. I treasure the experience, because only with age have I understood their value. This experience I get from those that are older than me. I hope they will stay with me for a very long time.

Image source: unsplash.com

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