Our family life seems to be dominated by moving house at the moment. Even though the event itself doesn’t happen for another six weeks we’re already in full swing: sending stuff to charity shops, having furniture collections and piling items on eBay. And even though we are getting rid of this stuff on a daily basis, our house doesn’t really seem to be any emptier.
We moved into our current house about six years ago and, because we moved two houses worth of stuff into one, it has never been empty. In fact our car has never seen the inside of the garage because the garage has always been packed with furniture and unopened boxes.
So, over the last couple of months, we have made a really effort to identify and pass on things that can hopefully be used by other people. This often hasn’t been an easy thing to do because we seem to get so attached to our belongings, or hoard them just in case we might need them in the future. And yet the fact that we have boxes unopened from when we moved in speaks volumes about how much we actually need.
So we have said goodbye to many boxes of books, bags of clothes, cases of kitchenware and at least a van load of furniture; much of which we’ve had for years. I’ve even said goodbye to the wardrobe that was my parents when I was growing up, and has subsequently accompanied me on every one of my house moves (the new house has built in wardrobes). It has been replaced, in the short term, by a cardboard wardrobe supplied by our removal company. Sure it’s nothing special to look at but it does the job.
I notice this too with the boys. They become extremely attached to items very quickly, and usually quite unpredictably; Jake has currently forsaken all his soft toys in favour of a stuffed caterpillar (who he has now named ‘Mr Bendybus’) that has sat untouched in his room for at least two years; and Sam often takes DVD cases to bed with him, and places them in a crenelated fashion around the edge of his cot. As with most children, what they most desire at any one particular time is what the other one has and so Karen and I are always having to act as referee as another conflict breaks out over a Lightning McQueen Lego car, or a Thomas train. Like the rest of us children rely on things to make them feel comfortable, to attach memories to, and help them to find their own identities.
We all put values on items then, often something that has no bearing to what they actually cost in monetary terms and, like with shares, the sentimental value of them can go up as well as down; which is why I was able to finally get rid of so much of the stuff that I’d been hanging on to since my student days, including most of my academic books.
So for me part of moving house is also about moving on in other ways too, I can let go of many things, and grow attached to new things too. Although I don’t think I’ll be hanging on to my cardboard wardrobe.