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 eyesight. 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 assures 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.