If your ‘tied cottage’ is a six bedroom, two staircase, four reception house with a double garage and three sheds, it is inevitable that when it comes to downsizing its not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
And the reality of moving to a post where there is no ‘tied cottage’, then the ‘when’ is absolutely and immediately and pressingly ‘now’.
So this phase of the sabbatical has been about downsizing.
Some areas have suffered more than others: 100% reduction in piano, 50% reduction in sofas, 40% fewer chests of drawers; 30% fewer beds and bookcases. Desks have flooded away – five have gone already, and two more will be gone by the end of this week. Chairs have had similarly drastic treatment. Crockery and kitchen stuff – say a 15% cull, rising to 100% on jam jars, old margarine tubs and yoghurt pots, together with the spiders within.
Of course a lot of the stuff to go has been junk. Ideally 100% of the junk will go, leaving us with a house full of things that are beautiful or useful, or both.
Yet, working out what the junk is not as easy as one might think. It’s amazing what you can get attached to.
And having space you find that your home becomes a repository for all sorts of things that have no purpose, but are freighted with memory.
There are significant epistemological challenges here. How do you know whether to give diminishing houseroom to children’s books, home recorded cassettes, family wedding videos, boxes full of dust sheets, greetings cards kept from special occasions including previous heart-rending departures, wedding presents that have remained in cupboards, school projects, university essays, a small pile of laptops that won’t boot up, a decade’s worth of desk diaries not to mention a clerical cloak. This was given by a friend of a friend after someone’s clerical grandfather died, the mere chain of donation making it impossible not to accept gratefully, even though I already had one .
Add to this bewildering list a (that is, ‘my’) childhood stamp collection. I recently discovered an easy way to confuse a child – ask him or her if they collect stamps. They may not reply in words but their body language will say either ‘what?’, or ‘why?’, or ‘you can’t be serious’, or ‘I so don’t get that question’.
All that is difficult enough, but even assuming the decisions can be made the practical question of how to disperse or dispose of this precious, though neither beautiful nor useful, stuff is not an easy one.
Landfill is the worst option. Internet selling is okay and if you offer goods for more or less nothing its surprising how many people want them. Several car-book-fulls of books have gone to a local charity which raises money to support Palestinian students by, you guessed it – selling books. Then there are the ever-grateful charity shops where, perhaps, it really is better to give than to receive, though its hard not to have just a little browse when depositing a car load of stuff.
Anyway, the good news is that we are getting there. If you are after a dishwasher, or a very rusty three drawer filing cabinet for your garage, or a fantastic (to my eyes) childhood stamp collection, let me know ASAP. But that’s about it – just about everything else is gone.