When my parents moved to Spain, there was a lot of downsizing needed after years spent in a big family house with eight children. There was an auction, and most went in job lots, including Grandpa Hayter's library of first editions. I particularly remember a rather beautiful turquoise-covered first edition of Oscar Wilde's Salome. But hey-ho, you can't have everything - where would you put it? And when I regret things gone, I think of my friend Max, who left Europe on a Kindertransport with a tiny suitcase, and all the other refugees that have existed before and since, forced to leave everything behind.
It's good to declutter, but I've learnt to hold my fire when I get into a certain purging frame of mind, and a desire comes over me to throw everything out. I guess the balance is to consider and select only the truly precious things, and to give, sell, or take to the recycling centre a significant portion of the rest. Who would want to end up like the man whose basement, upon his demise, was found to contain a copy of every issue of the Radio Times published during his entire adult life?
Our son is getting married next spring, a significant turning-point for us all, and, looking forwards to the next stage of our lives, we hope to streamline all that stuff stored away in the attic. I never get rid of anything without consulting its owner, but this year finally washed, dried and gave away to the local church's tombola-stall, my son's childhood soft toys (well, most of them!).
There's still a way to go! William Morris famously said that one should have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. Well, some of the items I've hung on to are lovely to me, but they sit on the shelves year after year lacking attention. Here are a few of them:
At moments of crisis, like the illness or death of loved ones, you come to know, again, the truth that love is the most valuable commodity, and all else is passing.
Here's one more William Morris quote from Light from Many Lamps, another 'keeper', one of my favourite books, somewhat tatty now after much use:
"I'm going your way, so let us go hand in hand. You help me and I'll help you. We shall not be here very long, for soon death, the kind old nurse, will come and rock us all to sleep. Let us help one another while we may."