Vaneisa: Clutter of the mind—why I’m not a hoarder

Life has a way of setting you adrift; sometimes on a rough sea, sometimes with such gentle currents that you barely notice how far you have travelled.

Knowing that during my period of research and writing, I had sunk even deeper into my naturally reclusive state, I felt that the launch of my book, Son of Grace, should serve as a medium to reconnect with friends.

Author and columnist Vaneisa Baksh (front, left) sits alongside Professor Gerard Hutchinson during the launch of Son of Grace, which is a biography of former West Indies cricket captain Frank Worrell, at the Dalai Llama Pub in Woodbrook on 23 April 2024. (via Son of Grace)

This past week, a few gathered at my home to have lunch and to catch up. All of us have reached the fortunate state of working independently, with the attendant freedoms and pressures—and so, mid-week, we congregated.

The afternoon went by so swiftly and delightfully that it was past nine o’clock before we wound up. Such stories of times past and escapades and encounters!

I suppose people do this far more often than I do, and I marvel at how rejuvenating such social interactions can be. No amount of online chatter can replace the warmth of ­human connection.

Former West Indies cricketers Sir Clive Lloyd (left) and Bryan Davis (right) have a word with Queen’s Park Cricket Club president Nigel Camacho during the launch of Son of Grace at the Dalai Llama Pub in Woodbrook on 23 April 2024.
(via Son of Grace)

At some point, the observation was made that my home was remarkably free of clutter, and the conversation turned to the challenges of managing the stuff that accumulates over a lifetime.

It set me thinking about why it has always been especially important to me to keep an environment that was pared down to only things that I feel necessary to keep me company.

Naturally, it took me back to my childhood, where these notions are formed. My mother was and is a hoarder. Anything and everything was to be kept, just in case.

Every possible space was crammed with cardboard boxes and barrels of useless rubbish—as it seemed to me.

We were doomed from the start, my mother and me. There was an ongoing battle because when I was doing my chores, I would sometimes catch a vaps and bag up stuff that seemed to be just gathering dust (which I had to clean), and try to dispose of them.

See? It fits…

Of course, the bags would attract her attention and she would go through them, aghast at what I was ready to toss.

My rationale was that if it had been lying around for a year without being used, it was ­unnecessary. I argued that we simply did not have the space to keep so many things stashed in such a disorderly manner that we did not even recall their existence.

I’ve just observed that I chose the word disorderly to describe it, and it makes me realise that this is the heart of my rebellion against clutter. Disorder penetrates my mind in a particularly overwhelming way. It triggers a state of disorientation that makes me want to retreat.

A store employee tries to deal with demand during a sale day.

If I go into crowded spaces where there is a constant buzz of activity, bright lights, loud noises (like a T20 match, or even a shopping place), I will flee after a short exposure.

In a place where there are masses of things piled upon each other and I feel I have to cautiously negotiate my way past them, I get uncomfortable—perhaps claustrophobic.

I work from my home. It is the place where I think, where I write, where I listen to music, read, cook meals and struggle these days to keep my plants alive. They bring me pleasure, and I have always given primacy to facilitating the acts that enrich my sense of well-being.

A minimalist workspace.

It is different for everyone, I know. Some people derive their comfort by surrounding themselves with things. For me, the fewer, the better.

I make no judgment about people’s choices. My minimalist state is what enables me to be Vaneisa. I could not have discovered myself without first making choices about what matters most to me.

By sifting through things and deliberating about their specific value, I’ve whittled away my possessions so that nearly everything around me is practical, useful and aesthetically pleasing to my senses.

Living with clutter…

It has taken time, and there are still things in limbo, mainly because I do not have the physical energy sometimes for that kind of labour. It has helped that I have moved house many times; packing and unpacking can simplify the process of distillation.

I have never been given to succumbing to the wiles of marketing, so I have not been in the habit of acquiring things on whims. I buy things when they call me.

My house is an accumulation of second-hand furniture—maybe optimistically described as vintage cast-offs that I have refurbished to suit my taste. It is now a space where everything has a purpose.

A satirical take on sales.

It came from being patient; from inhabiting the rooms and figuring out from daily usage what I needed and then only acquiring the things that seemed to fulfil my actual requirements.

Take gadgets and mini appliances, for instance. You can be so easily wooed by the promises that they will make life simpler. Many of them do the opposite: they add clutter and make more work for you.

In the early home-making years, it is expected that one takes the plunge, hoping the nifty packages will give one the veneer of sophistication and maturity. It adds up.

Ahmm… Addressing hoarding.

I figure that the daunting task of clearing the clutter can be simplified by taking it one small space at a time. As you decide what stays, what goes, it might help you to discover who you truly are, and you might like it.

Who knows?

More from Wired868
Vaneisa: Green till you blue; T&T must choose sustainable development

It has been about 30 years since Vicki-Ann Assevero put down her bucket in the land of her father’s birth. Read more

Vaneisa: Inside the Labyrinth; how art can help save lives in T&T

On 16 May, the Central Bank Museum launched an exhibition of the late Glen Roopchand’s art. Roopchand, whose work is Read more

Vaneisa: Mancrab and the river—man’s struggle against time

A conversation about imagi­ning our future planet raised a jumble of issues for me. I could grasp the substantive points Read more

Vaneisa: The remarkable Razif—and his masterful food photos

Who said posting about what you had for breakfast is so banal? I did. In my last column. I am Read more

Vaneisa: Everywhere is war—is it too late for humans to pull back?

When was the last time you looked at a map of our planet? After reading Gwynne Dyer’s column in last Read more

Vaneisa: Don’t let them fool you with “clever” marketing of unhealthy health choices

I’d wanted to return to the relationship between marketing and the choices we make, a subject I’ve often visited. This Read more

Check Also

Vaneisa: Feeling the feeling—why I’m optimistic about West Indies

The rains have come. The poui blossoms have gone. Burnt browns have given way to …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.