Decluttering, part 3

Something I am looking forward to greatly in 2013 is having my own place again. The move to my new flat will be the sixth since July 2010. It’s time to slow down and settle.

For most of that time, most of my stuff has been in storage. Stashing it away in a barn felt odd; the things that had surrounded me for years were going into abeyance, temporarily not part of my life. Would I manage without them?

If a man were his stuff...
If a man were his stuff…

By and large, the answer has been ‘yes’: I have felt light and footloose, and have had access to enough essentials not to notice that I wasn’t using my cooking pots or listening to my records. It made me think about other encumbrances, besides possessions.

But some encumbrances are familiar and pleasant, and give us a sense of who we are and where we belong. I’m back at my parents’ place again for Christmas, and have keenly anticipated going through my possessions with the benefit of having spent two years without them, deciding what to keep, what to chuck, and what to find new homes for.

I’ve spent this afternoon and evening opening boxes, shepherding spiders the size of small cats away from them, and sifting through the things that shared my living space until two and a half years ago.

There are, of course, a number of things I know instantly I can do without. There are others I don’t even recognise or remember. Others still surprise me completely (viz. 22 lever arch files containing my entire academic output during seven years of secondary and higher education).

Most of it – at least half – can go, go, go.

Things I know are useful are easy to decide on. Thoughts progress quickly from “Have I got one already?” to “Do I like this one?” to “Can I afford a new one?” to a decision.

Things I like or believe are beautiful are much harder: regardless of their utility they are festooned with emotional meaning. I have books and records that I will probably never read or listen to again, but treat them with the hoarder’s delusion of future usefulness. Fundamentally I don’t think this feeling is about the future at all, but about the past – what they meant, not what they will mean.

The first attempt to winnow the books led to this pile of ‘non-keepers’:

Look, aren’t I brave to get rid of so many books?

And this pile, of ‘keepers’:

Not so brave after all….

As you can see, today it felt like there was a lot of wheat and not so much chaff. On Boxing Day I’m going to have a long hard think about the space I won’t have and the things that I need and don’t need, and then ruthlessly cull what’s left in this second pile by, ooh, at least twenty titles.

Fortunately after that, the Kid Sis is arriving, and with her help (i.e. her lack of sentimentality and her enjoyment of puncturing my own), I’ll definitely see off another batch. By the time the books go back to London, they may weigh little enough not to break a van axle.

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