There have been a lot of articles in the paper lately about how to simplify your life. These range from helpful suggestions for de-cluttering your home, to articles about being less connected to our digital devices. All of these resonate with me because I have reached that age where my elderly parents and in-laws are needing to move to smaller accommodation more suited to their needs.
This means that they need to divest themselves of all the memorabilia that they have collected through their lives and many of these items (some lovely, some less lovely) are making their way into our home. It’s quite a challenge because my husband and I are also going through a phase where we would also like to get rid of a lot of the things we no longer need, but they are being replaced by things that our parents no longer want or need. It feels like there is an endless stream of stuff that no-one really wants or needs that is insinuating itself into our lives. The problem is that it’s not just stuff of course. Every item has a story or a childhood memory attached to it, so whilst its easy for me to say ‘we don’t need that in our home’, it’s less easy for the person to whom the memory is meaningful.
I have read a few articles about how to deal with the problem of too much stuff, and the solution I like best is to take a photo of the item as a keepsake, and then divest yourself of the actual item. Another suggestion is to keep one representative item from a whole batch. For example, keep one teaspoon from a whole collection. Keep one linen tea-towel from a pile of a dozen. This can feel a bit less like you are being ruthless and uncaring.
I am only too aware that it is not the stuff that’s the problem. It’s the emotions that are attached to things that trip us up. We are human and need to recognise that our attachment to things is natural but we also need to recognise that there is only so much stuff that we need to remind us of who we are and where we have come from.