YOUNG WORLD

Keeping fewer things

SUBHASHINI RAGHAVAN

Keeping fewer things

Last week, a rather confused, vague young boy we knew, called Rahul, woke up screaming from his sleep. And he graphically described his nightmare, "I was fast asleep on the bed and suddenly, like a big monster, all the shelves shook and all the things in them fell on me like a waterfall!"

We looked around and realised that Rahul's nightmare was perfectly justified. The room was full of shelves and the shelves indeed were full of things of every sort. There was the toy train Rahul played with when he was two. There were 20 teddy bears, which Rahul would not have touched at least for the last four years. There was one shelf full of books of every kind — all wrapped in transparent polythene paper; they'd never been opened. There was a closed shelf with glass doors — and in it you could see an old walker and a dozen rattles (used when Rahul was an infant) piles of toy cars, buses, tanks, toy cricket bats and balls of all sizes and a pile of those dangling things they hang over a baby's cradle.

There were also two open shelves full of recently bought toy vehicles of every kind, plus jigsaw puzzles — all in one messy heap and so mixed up that it would take a lifetime to sort them out. A hairy-legged spider had built her web right across them and she cheerfully danced and surveyed us, waving a leg at us in a friendly way.

"You really have a lot of things here, Rahul," we told him politely, "Quite a clutter. No wonder you had a nightmare."

Just then, Rahul's mother, a brisk, busy lady, came in and said smilingly, "Our Rahul's quite a shopper and anything he wants we always buy for him. Some of these were of course gifted by friends and relatives. And Rahul loves to even keep old things which belonged to his father, his grandfather and even great-grandfather!"

"Great grandfather?" we gasped.

The lady pointed to something shapeless under a mound of dust on one of the top shelves. "A miniature steam engine! Would you believe it?" She cried and ruffled Rahul's hair fondly, whispering, "All his now. Our Rahul is a fine boy, except, he's a bit disorganised."

Rahul, grimacing, said, "Well, I like a lot of things, but what I like most is wildlife and nature. In fact, I have a wonderful encyclopaedia on Asian wildlife. Want to see it?"

So we spent the next hour searching for it in the mess. It was ironical that Rahul had so many things in his room, but couldn't locate what he really wanted. It was also surprising that one of the unopened books in the polythene cover up on the shelf turned out to be a delightful one on wildlife — and he didn't even know it was there.

Afterwards, we realised (and we're sure you have as well) that one of the reasons why Rahul was so confused and vague and disorganised, was because of his great accumulation of things.

It is so with several of us, especially in the cities, who are always buying things we see or hear about in advertisements and stocking it up and in the process of trying out unnecessary things, we waste not only money (which could be used for something better), but also time and become just like Rahul — confused and disorganised.

For, putting things in order constantly also takes time and effort and so does maintaining and preserving whatever we buy.

In a way, the clutter seems to seep into our minds as well and our thoughts become muddled too. We are no longer focused, and we no longer find time to do what we really want to do.

At a higher level, it seems a crime to accumulate so many things when several people in our country do not even have a house to store their bare, basic necessities.

At an even higher level, if we think of some of the greatest achievers of all time like Mahatma Gandhi — we realise they never wasted time and energy in buying and stocking things and their simplicity only made them greater than ever.

So where does the solution lie? Stop buying things you really don't need and de-junk what you already have! Despite his vagueness, Rahul was really a nice boy and we helped him clear up his room. In the process we discovered things he didn't even remember he had bought — binoculars, a nature club kit, an interesting videotape on bats, a pair of trekking boots and various other things.

Most of his new toys and all his old toys and those teddy bears and rattles went off to an orphanage where the children received them with delight.

An antique dealer purchased the old steam engine and the proceeds donated to a wildlife organisation, which he liked.

Rahul also promised never to buy unnecessary things.

The only creature not happy with his clutter-free room was the old hairy spider — she had to crawl behind an empty shelf to build herself a new web.