Lightening the Load

By Susan Roberts

For the past few months I have been gradually sorting through everything I own, in preparation for the biggest move of my life. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re a bit of a hoarder. A bit!? Who am I kidding? Yes, all right, I’ll admit it: I come from a long line of people who like to gather things and keep them in case they come in useful one day.

The last time I moved house (see my March 2013 blog-post about the termites – No Such Thing as An Innocent Ant…), I packed 45 boxes of stuff, 30 of which were filled with books and other related “writing” things. This time, I just don’t have the space for all those books. Yes, I can cut down on the clothing, the tools, the crockery, cutlery and old family silver, but what does one do with 8 bookcases of books when you only have space to accommodate three of those bookcases? The largest three, of course. As for the move itself, I’ll be lucky if I have space for 15 boxes in total.

It’s been a long haul and I’m not out of the hoarding woods yet, but I’ve made quite a dent in my book collection. Back in 2011 I bought a Kindle because my arms were suddenly not long enough to hold my reading book at the right distance for my eyesiIMG_0985ght. My vast collection of cheap paperbacks has since become no more use to me than a vast collection of paperweights. In many of these, the pages are now yellowed – even browned – and in some cases spotted too, with crumbling spines and pages falling out. When I next plan on reading any of my old favourites, they will have to be on my Kindle where I can adjust the font size to suit my older eyes. You would think that this might make it easier to get rid of the originals, but it’s still hard to let go.

There is a saying amongst avid readers that books are like old friends, and we all know how hard it is to part with friends. However, there is another saying that a book is not a book unless you open and read it. I like to think that I am now giving all my old books the chance to be new again, when someone else opens them and reads them with fresh eyes.

It’s not just books, though. I have found myself saying fond goodbyes to many lifelong memories. Thank goodness for my digital camera, because I have taken loads of photos of items long held in shelves, display cases and box-files. My entire theatre career’s worth of posters had to go the other week, but not before I had a taken a photo of every single one. I also have several magazine files of theatre programmes, going back to when I was a child. These are harder to let go of, especially since some of them are signed, but I am weeding out the duplicates and transferring the ones I am keeping to more efficient box files which are easier to pack.

Some things are not as hard to get rid of. Two years ago when I moved house because of the termites, I went through everything I owned. Things that I hadn’t thought about (or even seen!) in the eleven years since the previous move re-surfaced and I either chucked them or renewed my relationship with them. I feel that many of those things I kept had a second lease of life and it’s now time to pass them on. The sweet man at the SPCA in Springfield Park always assIMG_2826ures me that everyone’s junk is someone else’s treasure, just waiting to be discovered.

And let’s face it – this is also a simply marvellous excuse to get rid of things that I’ve never really liked but felt compelled to keep because someone gave them to me. All those years of wondering “What if they come to visit and don’t see me using it?” Well, not only will they have to travel a very long way to visit me in the future, but I now have the perfect explanation: “Sorry, but I just couldn’t fit everything into the container, and some precious things had to go, including more than half my books.” If they know me well enough, they’ll know how hard it was to lose most of my book collection, and they’ll make assumptions about everything else based on that.

Jokes aside, strange things happen to your mind when you start letting go of stuff. It’s quite liberating, actually. With each carload of stuff that I take to the SPCA, or to friends, I feel a wonderful sense of release as I drive away with an empty car. I feel that I am lightening my load for the road ahead. I’m not sure what lies along that road, but I don’t want to face it laden down with baggage that I can no longer carry.


9 thoughts on “Lightening the Load

  1. jac dowling says:

    Susan, I always enjoy your blogs, but this one makes me both happy and sad. Happy for you in that you’ve made the decision, but sad because you’ve had to part with so much – despite your very positive actions in making sure nothing truly valuable is lost forever. When the time comes for us to make a move, I shall once again go out in search of that mole-hill and bury my head as deep as possible!
    I recently found a 1928 copy of Hildegonda Duckitt’s famous recipe book – rarer than hens’ teeth from all accounts. It’s old, used, foxed and tatty. Copper-plate hand-written recipes interleave the original pages. A friend is strengthening it, without destroying its integrity, and it’ll grace the Africana collection of our daughter-in-law. And I’ll start snuffling out the next gem…

    • Susan says:

      Thank you, Jac. The decision itself was not a difficult one to make (I think I made it within the first few minutes of my brother-in-law’s phone call to tell me that they would be leaving within the next year), but the execution thereof has been a long and winding road, and it isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot! But I’m determined to get this right and make a new life for myself, with a few new values thrown in as well.

      The recipe book sounds like a real find. I hope your friend manages to preserve it well, and that your daughter-in-law can one day pass it on to the next generation. I am making sure that I pack old photos and oddments that can be incorporated into scrapbooks in the future – it will give me something to do while I am finding my feet there.

  2. jac dowling says:

    Susan, I wish you the very best of everything in your new country. Seems The Scribes are rapidly developing a diaspora!
    My last find for Miki (d-in-l) was an unopened 1st edition, boxed, of Bosman’s complete works…quite exciting. Yesterday, inspired by your big tidy-up, I moved a few of our more ancient volumes in order to dust – out ran the most enormous spider, much bigger than those in Natal, and I could actually hear his legs tapping on the shelf as he ran! no more dusting for me thank you, hope you haven’t had any similar happenings.

    • Susan says:

      Oh Jac, you had me laughing at the thought of the spider’s feet tapping along the shelf. I avoid dusting whenever possible, but I’m having to do more than my fair share at the moment. No spiders but I did discover a large dead lizard when I pulled a bookcase away from the wall the other day. Fortunately no snakes …yet!

      • jac dowling says:

        It was wearing rugby boots! If you make enough noise, prior to dusting, then vacate the room, any self respecting snake will depart as quietly as possible I believe…the spider’s offspring manifested itself above my pillow this morning. I very bravely vacated the premises and waited for R to encourage it outside with the aid of a featherduster, Oudtshoorn’s finest. Hopefully tonight will be sans arachnids.

  3. Hi Susan Well your latest blog nearly knocked me sideways as the last time we chatted, things weren’t sounding positive at all for you what with the change in policies in Oz, so I was really surprised to hear you have already started packing. Obviously something happened rather suddenly? I am very pleased for you and for Veronica, but rather sad that there will be no part of your dear Mom left in SA. I guess I will have to make a detour to visit you and Veronica when next I am in Oz. All the very best.

    • Susan says:

      Shirley, you will definitely have to drop by Melbourne in the future! Yes, it did all happen rather suddenly and I didn’t know that half a year could gallop as fast as the last six months have done. There will always be part of my mom left in SA as long as her dear friends there remember her. And I still have one niece in Newcastle!

  4. Sue says:

    I can relate to that feeling of ‘strange things happen to your mind when you start letting go of stuff’ nicely put.

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