Acquiring Stuff, Letting Go of Stuff, Acquiring Stuff Again…

by Susan Roberts

From the time I made the decision to follow my sister to Australia, I cut back on acquiring stuff. I already had loads of things, and I wanted most of them to go with me to a new life Down Under, but there was the question of space in a container to be weighed against the cost of possible replacement.

I worked out, from what my sister’s container had cost, a rough cost per cubic metre, then added a bit to allow for inflation in the years before I would need to send my goods. I came up with a rough figure of R2000 per cubic metre of space. For the next three years, I calculated everything I owned in terms of how many I could fit into a cubic metre, and what the replacement cost would be if I bought those things anew in Australia.

For example, I could fit a lot of books into a cubic metre, whereas the equivalent of R2000 in Australia – about $200 – would not buy me enough books to fill even half that space. So all the books were definitely going. Or so I thought at the time!

On the opposite extreme my washing machine – a top-loading piece of junk made by a company that should have stuck to the manufacture of televisions – was just a wasted cubic metre. I knew I could pick up something better second-hand in Oz for a lot less. Of course, I was suitably cheesed off when the offending top-loader turned up its toes a few months before I left, and I had to splash out on a brand new one to tide me over the last six to eight months. Fortunately I was able to re-sell that one.

Many people had warned me not to take appliances or electrical goods, especially my TV which was probably what Noah and his family had watched footage of the rains on around the time of the flood. I had also been told by others who had gone to various places around the world, that one should only take what cannot be replaced. In other words, the sentimental things such as family heirlooms and precious memorabilia that no amount of money can ever buy back.

Being a sentimental type I had plenty of those. My mother’s Imbuia kist was filled with, among other treasures, her wedding dress, my first tutu, a ballet shoe signed by my favourite ballerina, several generations of photo albums and an ancient Bible containing the family tree dating back to 1799.

Also in the kist was a shoebox containing my grandfather’s hand-written World War 1 diaries. I had painstakingly transcribed those diaries word for word onto computer about ten years before, because they were too faint to be photocopied or even scanned, but nothing would induce me to part with the originals. It was here, between those worn leather covers that I had discovered, page by meticulous page, what my grandfather had been like as a young man not yet 21.

Here, etched in faded indelible pencil, was the person I resembled most in my family, not only in my pale looks, but in a shared desire to become a writer. His small, neat, legible (thank God!) handwriting alternated between that era’s customary yearning to go to war because it was the right thing to do, and the frustration of sitting in a tent in the desert, waiting for something exciting to happen. It never did.

I digress. Back to the more recent past.

All of my sentimental plans changed when I realised that I could not afford a full container. One whole container for a single book-obsessed individual seemed a bit over-indulgent and, well… greedy.

Enter the concept of the Move Cube. This was a much better idea for someone who wasn’t intending to take most of her furniture.

I let go of beautiful but shabby cottage furniture that I have gathered since I first started working in the early 80s. Some of it was hard to part with, but some had served its purpose and needed to move on as much as I did. The saddest loss was 60% of my beloved book collection. To ease the parting I made sure that most of the books went to organisations and individuals who would appreciate them.

Those of you who follow my posts on this blog will know that the remaining 400 or so books and other precious possessions (apart from my cats) were successfully loaded into the Move Cube back in mid-June. Inevitably, when the time came to pack my suitcases two weeks later, I had far too much stuff. I dissolved into tears and elicited a promise from my close friend Catherine to post me the excess. This she did.

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My cats arrived safe and sound towards the end of July, and they have settled in very well. As you can see from the photos, they are enjoying their new food bowls and new scratch post. Last week Catherine’s two huge boxes arrived via a freight company, and my cats and I spent a happy evening reuniting with some of my treasures.

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And the rest of my stuff? Well, the sands of time have run through the narrow waist of the glass, the ship with my Move Cube has already docked in Melbourne Harbour, and it is almost time for my worldly goods to be delivered to their new address. Soon, I hope to be unpacking and dusting off some precious memories.

Watch this space…!

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7 thoughts on “Acquiring Stuff, Letting Go of Stuff, Acquiring Stuff Again…

  1. Sue says:

    Great thoughts Susan, it must have been heartbreaking. But I can recommend the acquiring stuff again part of the equation … it’s downright fun. Enjoy your settling in.

    • Susan says:

      Thank you, Sue. From the endless supply of stuff I’ve seen here, I think that a little retail therapy will be fun indeed!

  2. Gareth Nash says:

    Mizzz Roberts!
    A slightly misleading headline – here I was hoping to find out that you have finally discovered the joys or high street retail, that Melbourne is simply awash with designer boutiques, and that you have co-ordinated things with your new set of leg iron and ditched the cargo pants …

    Much love,
    G …

    • Susan says:

      Ha ha, Gareth – as if! Yes, Melbourne is awash with designer boutiques, but you know that’s not where I like to shop.

      Leg-Iron Land has no leg-irons, but is full of chains, and these are my favourites: there’s a great chain of stores called Pet Barn that sells pet accessories; Bunnings for hardware; Lincraft and Spotlight which sell scrapbooking, crafting and sewing stuff; IKEA for furniture; a marvelous chain of shops called Ishka where I can buy colourful scarves, throws and beaded goodies; and let’s not forget all the Salvo stores that have loads of second-hand books, and I’ve already started building up my depleted book collection again.

      Oh, and by the way – just to make you drool – there is also a chain of stores called T2 which has the biggest range of teas that you can only dream about, but I can drink! Jealous yet? Want to come for a visit…?

  3. jac says:

    Susan – your cats look totally happy! and, to my mind, books always have the pride of place. So, if you managed to fit in 400, well bully for you mate, And, I thought leg irons belonged in Sydney and Tasmania. . . anyway, why not be proud of at least a small part of one’s heritage?

    • Susan says:

      Thanks, Jac. My grandfather’s diaries may not be exciting reading for action/adventure lovers, but they are an important part of my family’s history. In addition, together with my grandmother’s albums and wartime address books, they inspired the writing of my book “From Daisy with Love.”

      • jac says:

        A lovely novella Susan. Sometimes it doesn’t do to dig too deep. II discovered that one of my illustrious ancestors was hanged at the crossroads as a highwayman!!! and I don’t think I’d been watching ‘Blackadder’ at the time…

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