Making room on Life’s Shelf.

Shelf life – A concept that is often used in context with food products at grocery stores. Milk. Fruit. Eggs. Vegetables. Groceries. Even cosmetics in some cases. They all have a limited shelf life. After a certain point in time the product is rendered useless.

The day I got back home for the summer, I stood in front of my overflowing wardrobes. Clothes which hadn’t been worn in more than four years, some even ten, were still nearly sitting in there. I thought about the two other fully functional wardrobes I had half way across the globe. Why was I hoarding all these clothes when I had no intention of ever wearing them? A sequined piece of clothing from when I was a teenager, pants which shouldn’t be taken out anymore, belts which felt like they were from an ancient era, shoes not worn even once, sweaters and jackets which honestly would never be needed in this part of the country, junk jewelry which I cannot pull off anymore, and fluorescent colored hair extensions which…err… let’s not even go there.

After digging into study table draws and cupboards, I found unused diaries, notebooks, dried out or half used art supplies, shells from Goa and other beaches, too pretty to be used stationary and numerous other trinkets that sat there solemnly, never touched. If I wanted to, wouldn’t I have used all these by now?

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I wondered why we hold on to things in the hope that we would use them “someday”. Why do we hang on to things that we don’t need anymore?

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The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that we do this even with people, relationships, and experiences. We try and hold on to school and college friends who clearly seems to be slipping away amidst changing jobs, moving countries, getting married, having babies, and just living life. We keep memorabilia given by long past ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends despite everyone having moved on, multiple times. We stack away souvenirs, maps, brochures from travels to faraway lands in the hope that we will revisit someday. We document application forms, acceptance letters, and store wine bottle corks of endless parties from undergrad and graduate schools despite knowing very well we wouldn’t ever need them for any practical purpose.

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Which brought me to the question – Do some people, experiences, and relationships have a shelf life too? Should they be cleared out in a spring cleaning spree, sold off in a Garage sale, and gracefully let go once you knew there was nowhere to go from there on?

The very thought seems so depressing. If something was so darn fun, why did it need to end? If only we could collect all our favorite people, places, and experiences and never let them go, what fun that would be.

Maybe that’s exactly what we are trying to do. Somewhere between growing up and trying to be responsible adults, we all are trying to hang on to a little something from the good old crazy times when we were younger, wilder, eternal optimists, and incorrigible dreamers. Each picture, each song, each movie ticket stub, each sea shell, and each hideous sequined dress enables us to revisit and relive the person, the place, the relationship, and the experience that made us who we are today. As short a shelf life as it might have had, it added something to us and will forever be a part of us despite any number of garage sales, spring cleanings, deleting pictures, and changing numbers. Once every often, we find comfort indulging in ecstatic memories long forgotten, great friends long lost, and epic parties long ended. Before of course we all need to get back to the inevitability of today and now and the sweet uncertainty of what tomorrow holds for each one of us.

In the end, I did manage to clear out all the “clutter” from my room, neatly packed into boxes to be given away or discarded. After all, I wanted to make room for everything new and exciting that life will unravel in the years to come. New relationships, new travels, new experiences. Of course, safely smug in the consolation that pictures and people will always have an unlimited digital and virtual shelf life. Always just a click away; if one ever wanted to reach out.

As for everything else, there is always storage. I managed to safely tuck away a funky belt, some unused diaries, and a couple of Ecuador maps. After all, you never know when I might need them!

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