I used to worry about my Things. I’d have said I didn’t, that it was only stuff, etc. But looking back there was a sense of comfort from having that stuff around me.
I never spent money on my appearance or my health. Should have done. Always felt unworthy. Too fat for nice clothes etc, so wore nothing but sweatpants (still do), too ugly to tinker with my face or hair, never enough money or self respect or energy to join a gym and always some ailment or other. But everyone always complimented me on the house and garden.
A friend advised, with regard to moving: walk around the house and decide what you love, and take that. ‘I don’t love any of it’ I said. ‘It can all go’. All the carefully chosen furniture, whether expensive or a junk shop find. Kitchenware, bedding, whatever. Memories associated with it all, and I didn’t want anything. On the contrary, I sometimes felt like shedding absolutely everything I own, shaving my head and tearing my clothes and emerging into the world as naked and unburdened as a newborn. No associations! I somewhat resented in fact not being able to do that.
My X had packed a bag and taken off under cover, leaving me with 30 years of paperwork, half empty paint cans, piles of the children’s toys and artwork, letters to me from friends and family before it was all emails and skype, and all his clothes and junk including crates full of cables and loads of out of date telecoms and finance textbooks. He then went on a mad shopping spree to buy himself everything shiny and new and in duplicate (two tellies for one man, and as it later turned out, two flats as well and quite likely another couple of tellies there).
Sorting the loft many bittersweet memories were stirred: evidence of wedding plans, bits and pieces from previous homes that reminded me of the early enthusiastic days when, essentially, we were playing house.
But with impending homelessness, almost everything, no matter how sentimental, was carried down four flights of stairs and discarded. I found long forgotten baby clothes and bits and bobs that I’d thought too good to throw away – there had always been more room in our vast loft and cellar. Literally thousands of books as well – I never could resist a book and had them several rows deep and in piles and boxes all over the place. Boot after boot after car bootful was driven to charity shops. Now that I have moved, I’ve missed a few and even bought again one or two I regretted shedding. But for the most part, I am happy to be without.
Pre-move I sold what I could on ebay and in carboot sales, and I gave away to friends anything they expressed a liking for. (One particularly avaricious aquaintance took an enormous haul for herself and anyone she knew directly out of the boxes destined for sale and I didn’t have the words to refuse her, while she lived rent free in my home, but that is another story.) What didn’t sell in carboot sales went to charity shops. Many bittersweet memories were stirred: evidence of wedding plans, bits and pieces from previous homes that reminded me of the early enthusiastic days when, essentially, we were playing house.
As it is, I had far too much stuff for the much smaller house, and further culls have been necessary, mostly of sentimental things like drawings by the children, which I photographed before ditching. Piles of forgotten old curtains from previous homes, that I thought might come in for this one – luckily many did, which has saved me a fortune – the rest now gone to fabric banks in the tip. We have virtually no storage space in the new house. My new bedroom is in the converted loft; a few suitcases and boxes have been crammed into the small eaves cupboards, where they are being chewed and shat on by the rats that refuse to leave despite pest control having expensively put down enough poison to fell a cow. So I want to pare things down further, and am realising that since I am unlikely ever to travel again, I don’t really need any manky old suitcases.
I’m even beginning to cast an eye over some of my rocks. I’d been astonished to hear myself cry out when, pre-move, my son mentioned all the rocks on the mantelpiece and shelves and in the garden. These had been picked up over the years from beaches on family holidays and amount to quite a collection, completely useless and without monetary value. ‘I WANT MY ROCKS!’ I said when he suggested getting rid of them. I must be mad.
Funny what we treasure in the end.