Maybe nostalgia is not what it used to be…



Not many people know this… but Alfie has let auctioneers into his attic. And dining room, study and cinema. Sir Michael Caine is downsizing with a house move, meaning that a treasure trove of memorable items from a lifetime in the film world, as well as much of his art collection, is due to be sold.

Caine, 88, said he was reluctantly saying goodbye to many of his cherished items that told the story of his six decades as one of the most recognised and acclaimed actors in the world. His house, complete with cinema room and cottages in the grounds, was put on sale for £3.75 million.

“It’s all nostalgia and remembrance with me,” Caine said of his collection which includes works by Marc Chagall and LS Lowry.

With the New Year well and truly kicked in, and a touch of spring in the stretch of the evenings, many of us are turning our thoughts to spring cleaning. If, like me, you live anywhere long enough — or you simply skew towards the nostalgic — it’s easy to accumulate a staggering array of sentimental items, aka clutter. You may not want to let go of tickets stubs, old meaningful letters, or the shirt you wore on your first date with your spouse. Because, hey, one day, you might want to re-read all those notes you passed in secondary school, or pass down your deb’s dress to your daughter! (Who, sadly, is unlikely to want it.)

In his novella Franny And Zooey, the American JD Salinger recalls a visit to a sibling’s home: “The room was not impressively large, even by Manhattan apartment-house standards, but its accumulated furnishings might have lent a snug appearance to a banquet hall in Valhalla.”

In our journey through life, we tend to accumulate so much clutter — and I don’t mean the emotional baggage of life’s ups and downs — concrete stuff, objects, countless bric-a-brac, bought, borrowed or come-upon and stored for some other day when we might just find a use for it.

We never do, of course, and the stuff just piles up. The stuff of furnishings, of pastimes and hobbies, the family memorabilia, the excess goods and gadgets that we may once have had temporary need of but no more.

If you’re doing some timely spring-cleaning, may I be so bold as to suggest you save one or two items from important seasons of your life. Instead of two full boxes of notebooks and memorabilia from that ‘year abroad’, select one or two pieces that hold the most significance, or conjure the most memories you hold dear. (Think bang for your buck, here.) You don’t have to get rid of all of your youngest child’s favourite stuffed animals; but keep two rather than, say, eh, 12. If you’re decluttering items from an experience that spanned many years, break it up into bite-sized chunks and save one item from each timeframe. (One item from each year of college, for example.)

Humans are natural hoarders. I know. But I’m not alone. When was the last time you saw your dining room table? Or at least the top of your dining room table? If you’re like most busy people, you know it’s there somewhere — buried under piles of old bills, stacks of unread newspapers and copies of your kids’ old school reports
I have a feeling we men are greater hoarders than women, who are much more practical by nature. When both my parents died in the Millennium year within 10 weeks of each other my siblings and I set about ‘spring-cleaning’ their home before putting it up for sale. A sad time for all concerned.

Among the so many pieces of my Dad’s hoarded ‘stuff’ were two items which struck a chord with me. One was my very first pair of spectacles, or glasses, from way back when I was just three-years old. In pristine condition, in their case, complete with shammy cloth and all.

The other item was when my Mother gave birth to me, my Dad was away working and the nursing home where my Mother brought me into the world had sent him a telegram to tell him the good news. It read: “Baby boy. Healthy. Mother and child doing well.”

He had kept that, now faded, telegram all those years.

Choked up doesn’t begin to explain how I felt that day, 20 odd years ago.

Who said nostalgia was a thing of the past?

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