This week I threw away a good number of books. When I say "good number" I actually mean the entire library of books that once was my intellectual pride. Interesting note: Up to the 18th century, the size of one's library measures their wealth and status in the society. Elizabeth Bennet in Austen's Pride and Prejudice sees Mr. Darcy in a different light, away from his snobbish and prideful mannerism after a visit to his humble abode (really, a mansion fit for a prince), witnessing for herself the manicured garden and symmetrical architectural structure. What impresses her most is his library! Because books hitherto to that era were expensive due to the laborious and expensive process, not everyone can have a personal enclave of hard leather bound words-filled papers. It wasn't until the industrial revolution that print books became widely accessible, which accrues for the readership growth since - and mostly targeted at the women population.
As a bibliomaniac, you can imagine the strong resistance met existentially on the ruthless decision to part with those amazing titles. But I did.
Prior to clearing the shelves of books (and other stuff) covering a wall in my room, I had to mentally psyche myself for the big "throw-out". I really subscribe to the Minimalists who had recently intervened, circumventing my destiny to become the hoarder I was meant to be. In a world so populated with wants, confusing with the true nature of NEEDS, I have over the years accumulated junk that would make a karang-guni man so very happy. And happy that person should be. I walked past the recycling bin where I left my piles of accumulated memories later and it was gone, as if they had never been there at all.
In a light-conversation a while back with two friends, we related shared aversion over the hassle of de-cluttering a pile of necessarily unneeded "stuff", and I was surprised to realise that one of the reasons we are reluctant to free up living space possibly stems from later regrets of throwing it away, in addition to sentimental attachments. That feeling sucks! According to one of them, the enormous sense of irate targets inward - part regret, part unnecessary expenditure (again!). The situation really is rather ironic, isn't it?
The mantra I repeated in my head all the time I was clearing the shelves were: have I read this in the last 90 days, and will I need it in the next 90 days? Each time I hesitated to let go of a book, I assured myself that I now have a Kindle.
I guess the idea of parting with something you once held valuable can actually be parted without nostalgia if one chooses to liberate themselves by recognising the true necessities in life. What do you really need? I must admit, it became somewhat unbearable, fishing out Stella Kon's Emerald of Emily Hill, then freeing it into the bin again. Because I have read it, know it, and will remember the narrative of how we overcome the adversities attached to our heritage, I can without second thoughts, part with it, keeping the story as I interpreted it with more added personal relation.
The art of letting go is my bold attempt at living minimally. It doesn't mean I don't miss it. It simply means that I can live without it. Thereby, be sufficient away from the cluttered commercials and influenced lifestyles by brands and organisations. Then again, minimalism is a branded way of life, isn't it? I beg your pardon!
Being minimalistic is an art, a philosophy, an introspective journey one gains into one's identity. It is not a branded way of life as fashion is. It doesn't mean to throw away all things. It simply means asking yourself what you need. It is about asking if you can live without it. It is about assessing if it is a want or a need. You need to eat. But do you really need to have a sumptuous spread of seafood? Can you survive with just bread and butter, something less extravagant?
As I was clearing the shelves, the one thing I cannot depart my soul with, naturally, are my music scores. Music is an essential core that is foundation to my sanity. I retain those magical pages of musical language because I can see myself referring to in the future for calming with my piano.
Melvin vacillates between writing and teaching in his free-time. He is working on his book aimed to be published in 2019. Currently a contributing writer for ELEMENT Magazine, he began writing for luxury media before working at SPH Magazines. He also has a corporate job at a non-profit international think-tank organization because he knows that writing cannot be his means to an end - not in Singapore anyway.