I’m having a bit of a declutter at the moment. It’s partly a physical thing, as in physically tidying stuff up: in my home – the former marital home – with an eye to putting it on the market at some point in the future, as well as in the home of my father, who passed away in March, and also in a house which my siblings with learning disabilities have lived in for the past 10 years. They’ve recently moved into supported accommodation, which will suit their needs much better, but leaving the bulk of their belongings – our late mother’s belongings – in the house. I’m therefore in the lucky position of sorting through the photos and letters and birthday cards and memories of both of my parents, of my childhood – split unequally between their two residences – and of my marriage, too.
So, it’s an activity which also involves a lot of mental decluttering: sifting through my detritus and theirs, the evidence of decisions each of us made in adolescence and early adulthood and beyond. Of looking over it all and working out what it all means, which things are useful to keep and which should be let go. Of packing stuff away ready for sharing out, though at the moment there’s little sharing going on and things are instead piling up around me, getting in my way, a physical reminder of my inner unease. I have too much stuff to deal with. Too much stuff.
In my own home, there are folders and boxes full of paperwork that I’ve created over the years: teaching materials, snatches of writing, drawings, photos, notes on courses I’ve written, historical talks I’ve given, ideas for things I could do or make or sell to make a living from.
They are stacked or shelved in different parts of the dining room – making it unusable – with each stack representing a different aspect of my interests, and though I try to weed through them periodically, throwing them away feels like throwing away a version of myself, a version which may no longer be applicable but which I don’t want to jettison just in case it is.
For far too long I’ve hung on to all this stuff in case it would be useful – to me or to others. The realisation that wanting to be useful to others is a primary driver of mine has been eye-opening. Letting go of that driver – or at least, knocking it into a healthier, more manageable shape – is my current work in progress.
And it begins, amusingly, with reclaiming the use of my dining room and throwing things in the bin.