I have been oh-so-proud of myself this year. For the first time in almost 14 years I have managed to stay at one address for longer 24 months. But now I’m moving again, this time after 27 months. I know, I know, it’s not really what you would call a settled existence.
Moving house, they say, is one of the top five most stressful things you can do. The others are divorce, bereavement, terminal illness and, well, you get the picture. Moving is unsettling, disruptive and tiring.
But the way my life has gone ever since I left home to go to university is that I’ve moved every year or two years, and these moves appear to me as regular opportunities to clear out and live lightly again, to let go of my stuff, and work out what matters to me.
In spite of my many addresses, over the course of a year it’s incredible how much bumf you can accumulate that you don’t need. Every time I’ve moved I’ve been through the cathartic process of throwing things out. You’d think that moving so often means I do already live lightly, and perhaps in comparison with a house lived in for twenty years, I own comparatively little. Still, halfway through packing for this move, I’ve already filled nine bin bags with rubbish, three bags for the charity shop over the road, and a large box and possibly more of stuff to donate to a women’s refuge homestart service.
I found strings for a bass guitar, though I don’t play bass, three remote controls for electricals I don’t have in my possession, books I borrowed more than two years ago, and endless packs of bobbles and hair grips. Inconsequential stuff that fills up my space without adding any meaning or value to my existence.
Then there’s stuff that’s almost useless but I can’t part with it. I have a small bag of cassette tapes – mix tapes made for me by old boyfriends and that I made for my sister when I was a student. No one listens to tapes anymore, but they’re valuable relics, not just of my own past, but of an out-of-date way of showing you care. A Spotify playlist isn’t quite as meaningful as the handcrafted cassette sleeve artwork to accompany a C90 with favourite tunes and hidden hinted messages. It’s almost a nonsense to keep them, now they’re rarely played. But still…
Every move is a resifting of the clutter, a questioning of why I’ve kept things at all, and whether I should keep them still, a demonstration of what I value through what I possess. And in the process of sifting, I hope I’m sifting my character too. I hope to live lightly, to set store in lightheartedness, to give away openhandedly, and to create a spacious and openhearted, generous life, filled with the capacity to love, rather than with inconsequential stuff and useless nonsense.