On values – and more
We need to talk about decluttering. Itʼs the new word for getting rid of stuff. I recently bought some books on the subject. Iʼll give them away as presents, of course. The idea is that modern life encourages us to acquire things beyond the point at which they bring us pleasure. If weʼre not careful, they make us unhappy. The answer is to get rid. Experience the simplicity of owning almost nothing. Lose your possessions and find yourself.
Marie Kondoʼs The Life-changing Magic of Tidying, isnʼt about stuffing more items into already-full cupboards and drawers, itʼs about chucking them and their contents out. Fumio Sasakiʼs Goodbye Things is written by a minimalist author with a tiny number of shirts, trousers and socks and, so he tells us, not much else. James Wallmanʼs book is called Stuffocation. You get the idea.
We can all agree that old cars are fun, and come with an irreducible amount of clutter attached, but have some of us taken things too far? It starts with the cars themselves.
Itʼs not uncommon to find fellow enthusiasts with five or more of them. Sometimes they are very similar. Do we need several cars that are more or less the same? I wonder.
Our hobby can take up serious amounts of time, space and money. We find ourselves filling in SORN declarations, charging up flat batteries and pumping up flat tyres. Are we still having fun? The financial consequences of collecting old cars have been hidden by rising prices. The more you accumulated the more brilliant you appeared to be. Now prices have stopped rising, the costs may become clearer. Some will choose to carry on regardless, and good luck to them, but others may decide itʼs time to draw a line.
Itʼs not just the cars, of course. If you have some old cars you probably have some old car parts. Or a lot. You never know when that bit might come in handy. Actually, I do – it almost certainly wonʼt. How does your garage look these days? Is it a bit full? Hard to get in and out? A number of cars end up in long-term storage. Itʼs really no life for them. To paraphrase Kondo, when you put your garage in order your life will change dramatically.
We all have bookshelves, and possibly bookcases, full of old car books. Many havenʼt been read. Kondo says their purpose was to teach us that we didnʼt need them. We reply that itʼs good to have them anyway. Just in case. Then there are the event tickets, programmes and trophies we have tucked away somewhere, or everywhere.
We mustnʼt be too hard on ourselves, though. Not all of these items need to be discarded. They are more space- and time-efficient than our cars and, like our cars, some of them may still, in Kondoʼs phrase, spark joy. But do we really need them all? Including the broken, the incomplete and the ones that arenʼt quite right? Almost certainly not. How, then, do we start decluttering?
The most urgent suggestion, from Fumio Sasaki, is to throw something away right now. As he says, put this magazine down and just do it. Ideally, donʼt throw the magazine itself away, of course. Not yet, anyway. Hone your skills on something else.
Kondoʼs method is more systematic and organised. Discard stuff one category at a time, she instructs, and move quickly through the categories. Sasaki says anything covered in dust has to go. You can see what he means. No-one can have used it, or possibly even gone near it, for months. Ouch.
That applies to some of our cars, parts, books and more. A more positive suggestion is to take pictures of the things we discard. Let the items go and keep the images and, through them, the memories. In the digital age, they donʼt take up any room. Sasaki doubts we will look at them again, but I am not so sure. A well-taken picture can spark joy. More than once.
Some further points should be made. First, discarding stuff neednʼt always mean throwing it away. That does sound wasteful, particularly when it might have a value to someone else. There are internet-based auction sites and other means by which we can share scarce and useful things with others. There is a pleasure in helping fellow enthusiasts find what they have been looking for. We may sometimes be buyers ourselves. Thereʼs less need for us to keep things if they are more readily available.
Second, there are times when clutter has a value. Itʼs reassuring to have a full history file with an old car. Itʼs nearly always interesting, too. Well done to the owners who, for reasons best known to themselves, have kept maintenance records and pictures. Even then, we donʼt need every receipt for every tank of petrol. Itʼs quite rare, in my experience, to come across a history file that wouldnʼt benefit from a little bit of decluttering, as well as the life-changing magic of tidying. CP
“HOW DOES YOUR GARAGE LOOK THESE DAYS? IS IT A BIT FULL?”
Robert Barrie is a classic Porsche enthusiast through and through. As well as competing in historic events with a variety of early Porsches and organising track days, heʼs also a purveyor of fine classic automobiles