4 July 2009

Moving house while staying put

On Monday I'll be going to work to have a good rest. Or at least to sit down. We've been having the house painted, and I've spent all week moving stuff from one room to another ahead of the painters and back again. The process has been exhausting -and sobering. We have so much stuff.

Some of it is easily classifiable stuff - rugs and curtains, pots and pans, pictures and chairs. But a lot of it is just space-occupying clutter. Boxes full of bits and pieces that might come in useful one day, if I only knew what it was useful for. Drawers full of power cords, telephone cables and other technological string that I daren't throw out because I don't know what two bits of technology they're supposed to connect, or if we even still have the relevant bits of technology.

We could also fill a room with the toys, books and furniture left over from our daughters' childhood. A lot of the toys and furniture were lovingly made by my father, and perhaps one day they'll be passed on to our grandchildren. But what to do with them in the meantime? So much of what we have is kept because it has sentimental value, or was given to us as a gift.

And books. With so much information available on the internet, it ought to be easy to reduce the number of books and bookshelves in the house. But which books should we ditch? It doesn't help that my husband has completely different reading tastes to mine. If we shared the same taste we could halve the number of books. "Surely you'll never read this again" I say, holding up a biography of some politician. "Do you really need three different books about gardening?" he responds.

The house is starting to look great with its fresh coat of paint. The op shop is benefiting from my zeal to reduce the clutter and the recycling bin is overflowing. But I'm still wondering what this accumulation of worldly goods says about who we are and what we believe. As I carry another armload of stuff from one room to another, I find myself thinking, 'do we own all this stuff, or does it own us?'

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