Friday, February 24, 2017

If in doubt ...

It was a principle of mine while editing: if in doubt, cut it out.  The decisiveness of it made me focus narrowly on the problem to clarify what exactly was the doubt.  I did not always cast 'it' out, but came to a positive path to solving whatever the problem was.
For some time now I have been wrestling with the whole question of getting rid of stuff.  Throughout the years we have acquired more space which we have carelessly filled with accumulations, useful (sometimes), potentially useful, sentimentally potentially useful, ... so it goes.  As long as there is space in the house, attics (at this point it is definitely a disadvantage to have two attic spaces!), garden, garage, then we might as well hang onto whatever it is.  It might come in useful.
As we rapidly approach three score years and ten - I know that's just middle age these days - I want to be in control of the disposal while I am in control.  So begins the turmoil.  I am disciplined about acquiring new stuff (except books, and that will probably continue till I drop - in any case we donate box-fulls to Oxfam regularly), but am still a little lax about hanging on to shall we say occupational accumulations.
Sharper, 2005 (patchwork felted knitwear, metal mesh, cotton, flint)
Recently I have grasped the nettle of forcing myself finally to look at the yummy felted knitwear to see if anything positive can be made of it in my work.  Could I move forward through using it?  I have used it successfully some years ago as a patchwork background to Sharper (above).  And I recently have experimented as written about here and here.
There are also various inherited items which cause problems; items which have been in the attic almost as long as I have had them.  There is for instance the samovar suddenly brought to mind as mentioned in the previous post.  There are the ivory items from parents' time working in Africa, etc.  We have no children or other suitable relatives onto which to push the problem.  Ebay is not a solution in most cases as the value is only sentimental - and marginal even then.  And of course ivory cannot be sold - nor taken to the recycling centre.  But this year I am determined that decisions must be made.  I want to enter my 70s feeling as light and positive as I entered the 1970s - well, almost.


  1. I also am having this problem. And I am already 70. We are doing estate planning and I don't want my two children bewildered by the accumulated goods, as I was, in emptying my father's house. I had thought of Ebay. As some items are antiques and in good condition but it seems like such a bother. I have given some as gifts--but wonder if I just moved the problems further?

    1. Hello Joanne, thank you for commenting. I must admit to never having used Ebay. Freecycle is a great boon, and adds a feeling of satisfaction that at least someone believes they can put the items to use. But mostly, as you say, it's a question of simply moving the problem elsewhere. The main thing is to stop the accumulation - or at least limit it as far as possible.
      Good luck with your solutions.

  2. We also have two attics and a large garage which give much too much space for accumulation and is perhaps part of the problem. I too am nearly 70 (which I find almost impossible to believe) as are many of our friends. This problem crops up so regularly in our conversations that it seems the approaching milestone is concentrating minds. However, actually deciding on the criteria for the cull and then sticking to it is so difficult. It seems to require more steel and determination than we both want to devote to it. There is always so much else to do and so many things that are more immediately attractive ... or am I just making excuses?

    1. Margaret, I think that it is not only our age, but also changes in society. We are of the generation who hates waste and perhaps has not fully accepted the casual acceptance of obsolescence. Another aspect is that time flies past and we cannot quite believe that we have had something and not used it - for how long?
      Freecycle is a great invention, and we have regular givings away. But this year I simply must clear at least my own discards - even if joint decisions perhaps take longer.

  3. A cull was forced upon me, and after emptying a house, some of "it" is now in my flat. The former studio will be a storeroom for some time, I'm afraid. My stepdaughter took about half the furniture and various "bits" (packed in many boxes), tough decisions for her, plus she had to do it in a hurry.

    The rest we gave away. We invited friends and neighbours to come and take away not just mementos but shelving, chairs, appliances, etc, and we collected donations of money for a good cause. But mostly we wanted them to take the things away, and we wanted the things to go on to a new life.

    It was sad to see some of the items go out the door, but after several weeks, I hardly remember what they were.

    We grouped smaller items on a table and took photos, as well as photos of the rooms before dismantling them. Having that sort of record is a memory prompt. I think the fear of forgetting the stories and people associated with the items is such a big factor in what keeps us hanging on to them. Why not have one folder of (printed-out) photos instead?

    Taking the photos also brings in a useful step in the discarding process - that you handle the item, and stop to consider and connect with it, before you let it go.

    It's a long, slow process, that's for sure.

    1. It's a brilliant idea of yours to take photos both of the rooms and of the groupings of objects. I so agree about the distress being about the forgetting of stories. I am putting together stories about folks that I remember from my childhood to go with photographs to pass on to my great niece. I keep remembering what my great uncle used to say - he who had been a refugee - that objects were just stuff; it was the people that mattered.

      It is a long slow process, indeed.