Sibongile Mafu

Embellish, embellish, embellish

2013-08-22 11:16

Sibongile Mafu

I’m going through a bit of a phase. I can’t stop buying accessories. Coco Chanel once famously said (I was there, so this is accurate) “Before leaving the house, a lady should look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” I’m not sure how Chanel managed to successfully achieve that herself, because I’m sure as hell struggling with it.

I’ve subscribed to women’s magazines that tell you “more is more”, and “accessories make the outfit” and over the last little while I’ve struggled to, as my mom would say, “find a full stop”. I’ve become an accessories hoarder.

Embellishment after embellishment, as if keeping it simple will give me hives. Maybe I should blame growing older (as I do a lot of things to abscond blame) and need to have as much on me as possible.

When I was kid, I grew up not needing much to make me happy. All I needed was a half decent group of kids; they didn’t even have to be interesting or funny, and a longish road to race them on. That’s all that kept me content. I never even learnt how to ride a bicycle (still haven’t) because I was too busy keeping it simple and barefooted. I never felt like I needed more stuff, more things.

What is it about adulthood that sometimes feels synonymous with accumulation? We’ve grown into these hunter gatherers that really don’t know when enough is enough - gatherers of debt, electronics, vehicles, and knick-knacks - things that we’ll eventually leave behind for our kids to have to sift through or a desperate need to sell it all.

I’m only a few years into this hunter-gatherer life but no one really prepares you for this urge to acquire - more degrees, a house, vehicles, more furniture. It’s like a Tyler Perry movie, where the only way he’s able to show nuance or value is by adding more grief, more abuse and more death to the script.

I look to my peers and friends, and not enough of us are gathering wonderful things like frequent flyer miles and rich experiences. This may all seem a bit sweeping, as individuals and adults are different, but now being fully immersed in the full-time job of being grown-up, feels like it’s a common lived experience for a lot of people.

I was at a flea market a few weeks ago, and an older couple was there selling some of the things they had hoarded for years. Old cameras, furniture and homeware. It looked like they were selling the little bits that had made up their lives. And young people everywhere were crawling around them, eager to take it off their hands. You could just see the transfer of the hoarding gene being passed from one generation to the next.

When I took a seat to have a drink from my afternoon of accumulation, an older woman saw my haul and said, “Eventually you’ll have so much crap, you’ll be selling your couch for R10. Rather buy biscuits and rusks - much more rewarding.” I smiled at her, knowing I’d be back to buy everything but food, but also knowing that I’d be back in 40 years to sell it again.

And the cycle will continue, as young people will eventually grow old themselves, pack up their belongings into a bakkie and sell all off those things they bought all those years ago and call it a life well-lived.

All we can do is watch shows about hoarders so we don’t feel as bad about our eco-system of accumulation. “At least I can see my bath tub,” you’ll say.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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