As a reformed magazine junkie, I don’t subscribe to many these days. I used to buy millions of them. Or it seemed like millions when I had to move them from house to house in my transient 20s (Dad could probably talk you through every one of those moves in excruciating detail, come to think of it).
Now, I mostly get publications that I write for, and their competitors – which makes it all seem like business and takes a lot of the fun out of it (though the latest issue of Madison is a cracker, with lots of great features…none of which were written by me). And then I get O, The Oprah Mag. Which is shipped over from the US for less than it costs me to subscribe to the local glossies. And which never fails to satisfy. It’s a rare magazine that does that these days – well, for me, anyway.
The new issue arrived in the postbox yesterday and I devoured it – along with a couple of rows of Green & Black Maya chocolate, also very satisfying. This month is all about decluttering – life, mind, wardrobe. I know, it sounds very yada, yada, yada, faux spiritual. But somehow, in O, it’s not. The writing is so good, the angles often so unexpected, the presence of Dr Phil so irritatingly reassuring, that it all just works.
I had the pleasure of perusing Ethan Hawke’s Five Books that Changed My Life list and realising that, as I suspected, we have nothing in common. I found lustworthy stuff I didn’t know I needed and, fortunately for the bank balance, aren’t shipped to Australia. I read the truth about hair loss and was worried – until I remembered that everyone I’ve ever lived with for the last 20 years has complained about my long hairs crawling up their legs all over the house. Situation normal.
So why satisfying? Well, for one, the story about the woman who held onto 12 boxes of stuff after her husband’s premature death and then realised they’d become a burden. Made me think of a conversation my mum had with my dad over a dilapidated copy of his school (1950s) French textbook. “Hold onto it,” she said, when he baulked over ‘decluttering’ it (to be fair, he baulks over decluttering pretty much everything), “they’ll just throw it out when you’re gone.” Harsh, but, at the end of the day, and we are talking about the end of the day, possibly fair. What would you keep of someone you loved to keep their spirit with you? I'd choose his weather diary over an old textbook. (As an aside, that was the textbook I used to make notebooks in last year’s one artistic moment.)
I’ve got hoarding tendencies (clearly inherited). The acres of space on my new desk have already been inundated with squatters – books to be read, books read and awaiting a new fate, a camera, a manuscript (half revised), a TAFE Statement of Attainment, which I earned by singing in a choir for two hours (The Builder has said he’ll frame it, just to get it off my desk. I’m not sure it merits such treatment. But do I throw it out?). Is any of this important, is any of it the essence of me? Does everything you own have to be?
The thing with O is that each issue contains at least one truly memorable story. Not on a demographic level, or an ‘all women buy shoes’ level, but on a level that makes me think. Which is why I still get that rare magazine-junkie thrill when it lands at the door.