Reflections on our hoarding habits.

By Goh Soon Huat Kenneth 

Today as I contemplated how to begin this article on hoarding, it finally dawned on me that I should never jump to quick conclusions about people. 

My original intention had been to begin by describing how difficult it was to part with material possessions that had accumulated during my previous marriage. 

Among the items I found very difficult to part with was the Pulp Fiction DVD my ex-wife had bought before we even owned a DVD player. (Yes, that was how much we loved that movie!) In the end, we never bought a DVD player but that story is for another day.

As I fretted and mulled over the topic yesterday morning, a karang guni man hollered outside my home. 

The kitchen balcony area being so cluttered, I plucked up my courage to suggest to my 82-year-old mother that we sell her old and somewhat rusty sewing machine. 

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With a look of dismay, she refused and said she could still use the Sunbeam sewing machine when she wished to make more clothes. My mum has chronic back pain these days so I am quite certain that the sewing machine will never be used again.

Sensing her frustration, I hurriedly tried to calm her down by dropping the idea. While I sat at the writing desk in my room, the first thought that occurred  to me was how silly she was behaving. 

Then as I tried to understand her (and my) attachment to old material possessions, I felt ashamed of my hastiness to deprive her of this reminder of her independence in years gone by.

For many years when our family’s finances were stretched, my mum had saved on household expenses by learning how to tailor her own pants and our pillow cases. For someone with no formal schooling, this was no mean feat. 

At times, she even made clothes for her nieces, and friends who were struggling financially.

Perhaps this sewing machine was a reminder to my mum how she had made a difference. Perhaps it had given her a sense of independence and pride that she was able to help others who were poorer than her. 

Being a full-time home-maker who had to make do with the salary my father brought home, she had always been careful with her money. Growing up as a child during the Japanese Occupation had instilled in her how to be frugal and save for a rainy day.

That Sunbeam machine is a little symbol of what a person can achieve if one just develops a positive mindset. 

Without any formal education, whatever Mandarin she picked up was from TV shows and conversations with friends. 

She once told me how difficult it had been for her to learn tailoring because she had trouble writing down the dimensions of the clothes she was making. 

Yet, she persevered and put her trusty sewing machine to good use while ensuring we would get our three square meals a day.

As a writer, the most important tool is my mind. 

Not unlike the Sunbeam machine, it could grow rusty and become outdated. 

It’s up to me to ensure I do not take my most precious gift for granted. Instead of countless hours of TV programmes (enjoyable though they may be), I could be learning a new language or reading a good book to pick up new skills and ideas.

Towards that end, I have begun reading new non-fiction titles from my favourite libraries at Marine Parade and Orchard. 

On 25 November, I wandered into the Yishun library while waiting to join a gathering of buddies to watch Singapore play Thailand in the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup. The library has a lovely cosy corner for quiet reading and learning.

Thinking about my buddies made me realise how lucky we are to make lifelong connections with certain people who cross our paths. 

Close friendships stand the test of time despite the number of squabbles you may have over the years. 

The bonds are not unlike those of a genuine brotherhood. 

If you ever find such friends, make sure you hoard them for life. 

Real friendships are priceless and are always in season.

 

Do you have an opinion about this story? Write to us at opinion@themonitor.sg

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