Now that day to day life has returned to something like normal, after weeks of disruption by medical appointments, I feel ready at last to tackle a vital task which has waited far too long, namely “decluttering”. Our small modern house is just about as delightful as small modern houses can be but it is too small to allow the luxury of an ever-growing collection of books and other goods with which we fill our lives these days.
From time to time, during the few years that we have been here, I have sat and looked around me wondering what I could get rid of to create some space. Once in a while a few books will find their way to the Oxfam shop in the city centre and other items will be moved to the garage, where clutter is marginally less offensive, mainly because it is out of sight. It is difficult. It is even difficult to define the difficulty. Some books and other “things” have been part of my immediate, personal environment for decades. It sounds ridiculous but they seem to be part of my very identity. And then there is the nostalgia. Moreover, many are irreplaceable (despite Ebay) yet of no actual monetary value. Sometimes, when feeling ruthless, I resolve to clear the decks, get rid, make some space, reorganise, make a fresh start. But you know how it is. The very week after you get rid of something, all of a sudden you need it and nothing else will do.
To some extent it is a matter of recognising that the world has moved on and a new mindset is required. No longer is it essential to house a large reference library (most of my books are non-fiction) when a few clicks on laptop, tablet or phone will call up whatever information is needed from the Internet. No longer do I need to keep fat files of sheet music when sheet music is readily available online, much of it free and even accompanied by tolerable midi files which can be played as an aid to rehearsal. And no longer do I need to keep a garage full of tools and equipment “just in case” when a few acres of B&Q store, less than a ten minute drive away, stands ready to supply my needs in the unlikely event – made more unlikely by the fact that from now on someone else will be paid to “sort” the kind of problems that I might have tackled as a matter of course a few years ago.
This time it will be different. There is no space to spare. Something has to go. In fact a lot of things have to go. It is time to recognise that much of the cosy collection of clutter has now become baggage and an obstacle, psychological as well as actual, to moving on.
I will keep my collection of essential books and tools and painting equipment and this and that – and how will I decide what is “essential”? Simple. If it has not been read, or used in the past two years and/or is unlikely to be read or used before the end of this year, out it must go.