Saturday, March 31, 2012

The weight of possessions

This is the view over the city from our walk today. We'd spent some of the morning packing up twenty large supermarket bags full of books from my parents' flat - those "bags for life" that hold really quite a lot. Then we'd added four or five bagfuls from our house and, in the afternoon, put them in a cellar beneath a New Town flat where books are collected for the Christian Aid sale in a town church in May. It all involved quite a lot of stairs.
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Quite a few of these were gifts that we'd given my parents for Christmas: books on antiques or reminiscences of the war years for my mother and on music or science for my father. Many were full of nice pictures and therefore very large and heavy. I regretted not giving them chocolates instead.
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It's very sobering, this packing up of someone else's life. We came home and looked at our own very many books and wondered how long we would live and if we could calculate when it would be good to give them away.
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Mr Life tends to buy books that he reads once and will never read again and so he often does pass them on to charity shops. (I exclude railway books from this generalisation.) But I do reread mine and cherish them. However, the question is: is there any realistic hope of rereading them all even once - and also reading the many new books that come out every year and that I also want to read - before I die?

Ah well. Meanwhile we enjoyed a bit of fresh air. This is Moray Place, a very desirable crescent near the centre of town but with no through traffic and with a private garden in the middle. If I were to live in a flat in town, it would be here. Well, actually it wouldn't because we couldn't afford it. And anyway I don't want to live in a flat. But Moray Place might tempt me.
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I'm determined that we're not going to do to our children what my parents have done to us: stay on too long in a too-big house full of too many things and leave the offspring with the problems: furniture, photos, ornaments, pictures, memorabilia. But it's hard to work out the timing. Ideally, you should reduce your effects to a minimum just before you no longer have the capacity to do so by yourself. It would be sad but, I hope, a bit liberating. But when? Ah, that's the question.
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It's so cheering, all this talk of death. I like to spread sunshine.

12 comments:

Ali Honey said...

Ah but that lovely grand son might like some of your things later in his life...just like son he might have a flat somewhere to fill!

Harriet said...

I love books - but having to move again soon is making me evaluate their value. I begin to think paperbacks must go but can't quite do it yet. I can't imagine a grandchild snuggling up to me as I read from a kindle - but is this our future?

Jane said...

WE have more books than I like to think about - all of husband's are much cherished and I have plenty I couldn't bear to part with, though I do make regular trips to the charity shop. Daughter is adamant that we shouldn't downsize or feel we need to part with things to make her life easier - which is noble of her as there are all husband's musical instruments to think of, but time will tell.

Mac n' Janet said...

We did a big clear out of books in January and it's hard to do, we tried to keep those we knew we'd read again.

Gillie said...

When you move as much as we seem to do, lol, things seem to get pruned!

Re the Kindle, not the same, I agree, but William caught on sharp ish and began bringing me my iPad as often as a book when I was in Wyoming in January! I had downloaded some free picture books from Amazon for him.

Marcheline said...

It's kind of odd. You, me, and several other bloggers I follow have all been pretty much death-obsessed lately. Wonder if it's seasonal? Though wouldn't you think springtime would be more about new life? Can't have one without the other, I suppose.

Lucille said...

Knowing that you are moving somewhere much smaller concentrates the mind wonderfully. I once found that removal men had carefully wrapped and moved a stick found in the shed. I vowed that I would never let that happen again.

Joan said...

The impossible has been achieved-- we locked the doors of the empty family home (as yet unsold) where we have spent the last happy twelve years. Removal van, bringing still-too-much-stuff has not yet arrived. Post-adolescent children have escorted the cats to their new abode, of which the humans approve. The jury is still out as far as the cats are concerned, since they are confined to barracks (and cross). I am so glad we are doing this now, in our fifties, relatively young and fit.

Repurposing brings with it a sense of liberation.

Books-- oh, if only there were a good English lending library near Bordeaux!

Oh, Lucille's comment made me laugh! The husband finally gave away 80% of his highly prized beer mug collection, unexamined since the Great Move of 1996... He found a duty-free sized bottle of Tanqueray Gin in the crate. It was empty!

Lesley said...

My parents very nearly achieved your ideal but then bottled it and stayed in their rambling farmhouse packed with stuff!! Now it's too late to move, Mum is too far gone and Dad doesn't have the energy. The house is too big for them and costs dad a lot of effort. The thought of us clearing it fills me with dread and I will have to do it while I work as my parents were old parents.

You are right - downsize and get rid in good time!!! I think, if you do it at the right time, you will enjoy the freedom too - maybe go on a big holiday to "reward" you??

Well done for all your hard work though.

Lesley xx

Gina E. said...

As somebody said to me when my father died "Once your parents are gone you are staring at your own mortality. You are the next in line". So that's why our age group are talking about it - our parents are disappearing and we realise what is in front of us! When we were clearing out Dad's home I also noticed a lot of books that I'd given him which he was going to lend me after he'd read them. He never did, so I took them all home to read - never too late!

Thimbleanna said...

I'm with Ali -- what if lovely grandson wants some of your treasures? Timing is everything. It's SO hard to weed things out. Plus, I cherish the few things we have from grandparents -- I wish there were more -- so, what if someday I have grandchildren who feel the same way. I can't imagine how you're managing to part with so many lovelies. On the other hand, I look at my parents large home and wonder what on earth we are going to do with it all. Oh, and books! I have many that I've only read once (and likely won't re-read 'cause there are still so many books to read before the end) and many that I've never read. I should pare down, but I love looking at them so much!

gossypia said...

I love your picture of the city, Isabelle and am still smiling at lots of your comments! Quite jealous of your grandson too. He looks as though he has a great sense of humour.