Tuesday, October 27, 2009


is tough! Even for something as prosaic as sorting out old clothes to give to charity, there are always things that you think you might still want to use, even if you haven't used them in the past few years.
I do know that these last three years in Kolkata have seen several additions to my linen cupboard. After living miles away from the city in our previous location, sheer accessibility has made me more indulgent than I was previously. I also do give stuff to my maid when her house inevitably floods each year. Somehow, I find it easier to give things to a person whom I do know than to a cause that is somewhat removed. Some unknown person will wear that saree or that kurta, or will tear it up to make swaddling clothes- it often seems abstract, apart from my reality. But as long as the things are used, it shouldn't matter at all to me who uses them. Before I finally do give things away, I do make sure that I'm not being impulsive in my selection. What annoys me about myself is my lingering over sheets that I'd only use to prove a point, not that they are needed in my house at all. And surely charity means giving things away that are usable, in good condition, but which are no longer so new that giving them away would seem foolish rather than generous.
If I were to die tomorrow, none of these things would matter to me at all. This house full of clothes, books, music, glassware and crockery, all my colour coordinated cushion covers, bed covers and dhurries, none of them would matter to me. I was the person who would count the good spoons after each dinner party, and be most distressed if a single one went missing. I think I've come a long way from there, but there's still a long road ahead. How does one live in this material world carefully and yet with detachment?

These lines resonate with me when I get stuck between wanting to give things away and wanting to hang onto them:

"Aagaah apni maut sey koi bashar nahin... Saamaaan sau baras ka...pal ki khabar nahin."

No one knows when he will die,
He accumulates the stuff of a century,
not knowing of the next moment.


Anonymous said...

I am the complete opposite. I love giving stuff out.
My dh just left for India and I managed to round up clothes, barely used toys, scarves I had knitted, some kids books. I filled up 2 suitcases with this stuff.

I told my mil, she can give it to her bai or donate it or do whatever she wants with them.. :)
It felt good.

Last year when we went to India, I had a huge duffel bag of soft toys, brand new expensive stuff that my kids got as birthday presents over the past 3 years That I can never take out, because of Samar's allergies, I packed it all up and it was in one huge bag, 7ft long and 50 lbs. Just this one bag and it gave me so much happiness to give it away. i kept a few small ones in my purse and I would give it to the street kids when they stopped at our car..Anyways I am sad and thus rambling

Natasha said...

I too am a magpie by nature, but when I do decide to give things away, I am just the opposite of you.

I'd rather give things to a worth cause than to my maid who almost makes me feel she is doing me a favour by ridding my house of still good clothes she would never be able to afford herself. At least, when I give it to someone far away from me, I can imagine they are being put to good use. And that is a good feeling.

Incidentally, I cleared my wardrobe the other day, and after putting aside all the still good clothes that I know I am never going to wear, I have so much space left!!!!

starry eyed said...

yeah, I feel the same way. My mom is a hoarder and she has a big home to help her store some more stuff! I think, in reaction, I'm a minimalist. When I'm gone...my stuff will be clutter...nothing else...don't want to do that to my kids. I've watched both my parents struggle with all the junk their parents left behind. Loved that verse...we can't take it with us!

Having a small home and 2 rapidly growing kids means that we are forced to keep clearing out the old to make place for the new. But yes, there are those bags n boxes of senti clothes n toys we can't let go of!

Choxbox said...

Beautiful - those last lines.

Doesn't apply to books though ;)

mummyjaan said...

It helps to move house every few days ;). Puts things in perspective. With every move, I, or rather, we, donate about half a truckful of stuff. And then we feel so 'free' after it :)!

But you're right; it's easy to get attached to belongings.

dipali said...

@asaan: You aren't rambling, and you have every reason to be sad. As for giving things away, I guess a lot of it is temperament, the rest is upbringing. Our times were generally more frugal! Hence my second thoughts:)
@Rayna M. Iyer: I guess I'm lucky in having always had very decent maids!
I find it easy enough to give money to organised charity, but my faded old bedcovers all have many memories. My girls are good at tackling my magpie tendencies, both of them can be very ruthless!
@starry eyed: Since mine is such an old household, stuff inevitably accumulates despite my best efforts. My kids know what they want of our stuff and have already divided it up between themselves in theory! My kids have made me store some of their books and toys for their kids, whenever they deign to have them:)
@chox: There are days when it applies to books as well(!!!!!) Says the nut job who'd saved nearly three years worth of The Telegraph's Sunday magazine before deciding to junk it, and who still has old copies of The Hindu folio stored in a trunk!
@mummyjaan: I've moved every few years, shedding loads of stuff each time. But Stuff is magical, it grows back in no time at all:)

Magical Homes said...

i do that too. i always give away stuff to my help rather than to a cause. she needs it as much.

i used to hoard stuff intially. But now I do a systematic cleaning every 4-5 months. It makes me feel lighter and happier.

Banno said...

Aah, you've touched a raw nerve. I give away a lot of stuff, yet not enough, not enough. And my cupboard is croaking with clothes I haven't worn in years. I loved the last line.

Thinking Cramps said...

Beautifully said Dipali, both the post and the concluding lines. I liked your definition of what is usable and yet not new enough so that giving it away generous rather than foolish.

Whose lines are the ones you ended with?

Era said...

I also prefer to give to someone directly. I don't need to know the person, but I suppose it feels good to know that an item that I held dear (at least for some time) is wanted by someone. Otherwise I love to give things away. If I'm not using it, it's just clutter around me and does no one any good. If I pass it on then at least someone gets some use out of it. It took me a while to get Hubby to see it this way. He always felt I was giving away his hard earned money. I am now very slow to accumulate things.

Usha said...

I can relate to this post completely.
There are times when I see my cupboard that overflows with petticoats that are needed for those saris I wear once a year, mismatched salwars and kurtas whose partners have said goodbye and then I say "I am going to just bundle it all up and have just 3 or 4 good sets like those good old days. And then I sit down to sort them and somehow half of them find their way back to the cupboard saying "I will wear them just one more time before I give them away.
I hope to become more detached In the years to come.

Mandira said...

depending on what the stuff is, i can be a complete hoarder..

"How does one live in this material world carefully and yet with detachment?" thats a very tough question to ask.. and i have no real answers to it... may be my mom does...but that is a very good question and i think its a good idea to ponder and find some answers to it..will let u know if i find any.

dipali said...

@mumbai diva: I suppose it depends on the nature of the receiver as well as that of the giver! And regular decluttering is essential so that Stuff doesn't take over your home!
@Banno: It's never enough. And yet....
@Thinking Cramps: I don't know the source. I think my son saw it on a gravestone somewhere. Googling wasn't much help:(
@era:"If I'm not using it, it's just clutter around me and does no one any good." That is so true. But when it is the spouse's hard earned money, one does stop and think twice.
@Usha: Soul sister! I do this too. And then feel compelled to use what I've salvaged, just because I haven't junked it!
@churningthewordmill: You mother is wise- ask her and let me know:)

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

I know what inspired this!! :)

Thinking Cramps said...

I tried Google as well, and there are a few places where it's linked with someone called Hairat Allahabadi. I've never heard of him, though that doesn't mean he isn't an established poet.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Very understandable Dipali, especially wanting to give away things to someone you know. Those last lines were wonderful and wise.

dipali said...

@M4: That you do!
@Thinking Cramps: Thanks for the information. Google doesn't say much about him, though.
@Sujatha: Thank you:)

Uttara said...

Have started regular decluttering. Because if I don't we'll be in serious trouble given that BOTH of love buying stuff esp when we travel.

Sanand said...

Very sweet post. My wife is always giving away stuff that she cannot use but she too gives it away only to people she can connect with and not to anonymous others.

dipali said...

@uttara: It's such a nice light feeling when you actually do manage to get rid of stuff!
@Sanand: Thank you. I guess we all have our own preferred ways of giving things away!