Operation Clean-up Turns Nostalgic

I had decided at the start of my first major house clean-up in over two years that every single useless thing must go. I would not have excuses about being able to use some rotting plastic container in the future, or referring to the outdated travel brochures when on holiday, or really finding a junk shop to which I can sell all these stuff.

This time, I acted on that last one and arranged for a nearby junk shop to pick up the things I didn’t need anymore.

So yesterday, I dug out the obsolete stereo my sister gave me from under my bed, as well as a gamut of other dusty stuff, and heaped them nicely in what passes to be a living room in my place.

I eyed the slim old refrigerator from my sister’s husband, remembering how I agreed to have the thing in my apartment so I wouldn’t shatter their generous and eager spirits. I quickly unplugged it when my electricity bill skyrocketed by 300% after a month. It’s been standing useless in my apartment for over five years, wasting 19 square inches of space and providing a playground for the usual household pests.

On top of the ref sat a 12-inch Toshiba TV which my sister, again, passed on to me when I got my own place. Our father had given it to her when she got her own place in the Metro.

The TV and stereo were broken, except for the latter’s speakers and radio mode. The old ref was working perfectly fine last I used it, if sucking up that much energy can be called fine. Since I wasn’t using any of these anymore, I got my father’s and sister’s permission to get rid of the machines…along with about a hundred romance novels that cluttered up my place.

After piling them neatly inside a plastic laundry bag, I hauled the books in line along with the other junk in my living room. Then, I marched all these near the gate on Junk Shop Day and sat on creaking plastic stools which were meeting their doom that day, too. I waited for the Junk Shop boys for half an hour outside the gate, looking at my peaceful neighborhood and the occasional dog and kitten that trotted by, unmoved by my friendly hoot.

I hated those 30 minutes. It gave me a moment to look back on those odds and ends I was giving up.

The TV, for instance, reminded me of afternoons hanging out with college friends in an apartment I used to share with my sister and brother. We would stuff ourselves with packs of instant noodles and soup we had cooked while singing along to Myx’s sub-titled music videos.

What’s more, the dull little tube came from my father, whom I look up to most in the world.

The ref came from siblings who wanted to ensure the comfort of their little sister. They couldn’t quite understand how I could survive every day without a cold metal box to store cold cuts, water, fruits, ice cream and all the goodies in, even when doing so meant I would have cursed every month at the electric bill.

And what about all those romance novels I astonishingly collected over the years? Yes, I have always labeled them trashy, and all the hours I spent lost in the story of some duke and his “achingly sweet” love could have been better spent reading more enriching and relevant subjects. But these novels have seen me through some lonely times. They even helped in some way to improve my English vocabulary, as my boyfriend “Bee” pointed out when I repeatedly called them, yes, trashy.

When the people from the junk shop finally came, they hauled my stuff to the shop using a wooden cart. Edwin, the owner, and his minions gave me crazy looks and obviously wondered why I would want to part with a ref that seemed to be fine, a stereo player with intact speakers and a TV set that looked like it could hold its own among the LCD tubes of today. Edwin asked me more than once if I was sure about selling all these, especially the ref, which he said they would just cut up since I had rendered it useless by throwing away the filthy plastic holders inside.

No one asked about my well-kept books, which included a nice, hardbound John Grisham novel that I disliked. After weighing the bag that contained the books, the boys at the shop hurled it over to a mountain of waste paper. To my amazement, the sight of my books scattered from the neat pile I arranged them on made my throat ache.

I looked down at the scrap of paper listing the price I had gotten for the items I sold. I got P300 for the ref and P50 for the TV.

Beside “assorted”, which included the books, was the number 21, for 21 pesos. I remember Loloy, one of the men who picked up the junk from my house, saying the books will get P1.50 per kilo. I knew I could have gotten a better price for them had I sold them online. But standing at the junk shop, I actually wished I had just given them away to friends who loved reading the same stuff.

The owner must have sensed my forlorn mood for he decided to pay me P1,000 instead of the original P977 for all my things. I had a feeling he thought I must desperately need the money to be giving away such obviously still functional appliances. I could have haggled more for them, but I was afraid I was going to bawl over and make a fool of myself. So I just left and went home.

I had not realized how hard it was to give away things I had gotten used to seeing every day for years. Bee put it so aptly when he said parting away with the stuff I owned was a little bit like editing–one has to decide what is important and relevant to the written work and remove those that are not. Editing was something I’ve often found difficult to do.

My place looked empty when I returned, but it was also clean, roomy, uncluttered and simple. It also felt lighter. All the stuff that are in it are those that matter to me now. Letting go of my junk has freed more space for rest, recreation, take-home work (God forbid!) and a good meal.

I have come to believe that life is not as complicated as we make it to be. Now, I have the place to show for it.

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