A few weeks ago I began living as if I have only a year left to live. Not thinking with any certainty that I do, but wanting to value my days and my life and see what differences it makes if I act as if I will soon be no more.
As soon as I made the decision some things changed.
I immediately ditched the ‘Finding the work you love’ course that ‘A year to live’ had been part of, and removed it from this website. Realising that with a year left I’d want to talk with people about their lives, not simply their careers.
I re-started the Friday Walks, the ritual and the rhythm of walking and therefore never working on Fridays. And immediately started to feel calmer, less driven, quieter. Me and my friend Sarah Jones writing about this calming in ‘A quietening down of the rage to succeed.’
What I hadn’t expected was that our house would begin to empty out.
If you know me you might have thought this house was fairly empty anyway. Well it’s a lot emptier now. The ‘year to live’ thought didn’t only clarify my thinking, it began to demand clearer spaces to live in and work in. Spaces free of things I no longer want or use. And as an enthusiastic clearer of extraneous stuff, my partner Sarah was only too glad to join in with this clearing.
We began here in the studio where we do most of our work. Clearing out files, books and bits of equipment no longer used we found we could clear the sideboard they were hiding in and also the glass desk I was working at. These were picked up by Oxfam as were our CD shelves from the hall. (I’ll come back to the CDs later.)
So we’re now both working happily, with our computers on the same wooden table in a much emptier room.
Clearing is contagious so the living room was done next. First thing to go in here was a computer. We’d used this to play music and watch the occasional programme on the BBC iPlayer – so it was sort of the television, (though we never watched ‘live’ programmes, Mr License man). I sold the computer, didn’t get all that much but the space is worth more than the machine ever was. This freed up the large glass hi-fi stand sort of thing the computer was sitting on, which was also taken away by Oxfam. The collateral damage of this was that the poor turntable then spent a week out of action on the floor – but we’ll come back to that too.
Next the couch went. A rather grand thing we’d bought from Dane, when they were in Bold Street in the late 1990s. We noticed we’d been sitting on it less and less over the past few years and so decided we’d like the space back. Twitter helped here, as we wanted to target the couch at someone who particularly needed one. Asking contacts who worked around housing and social support for ideas soon turned up PLS Liverpool, a social enterprise from Walton Road, who came with their van and took the couch off to its new owner.
The other thing to go in the living room was a bookcase and its contents. It’s easy to clear books if you’re thinking there’s year left to live and whether you’ll bother reading them, so two bookcases full in there were condensed into one. And I carried some things into Oxfam I’d always thought would be with me forever. Like The Beatles Anthology DVDs and their great big Anthology book. The book was too big to read and I’ve watched the DVDs, twice I think. Gone.
Then all the CDs were cleared from the shelves that Oxfam were picking up. I’d sold half of our stock last year as part of helping Sarah raise the money to train as a Funeral Celebrant. Leaving us with about 400 of the things remaining. As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my ‘turntable’ posts, I’ve never much liked CDs. Irritating little things that don’t even sound all that great. But this time I’m not prepared to spend one of my precious days putting all their barcodes into Music Magpie like last time. At first I thought of selling them for a worthy cause. But do you know what? Looked at from the point of view of a year to live even this ‘selling’ feels like hard work I don’t want to do.
Instead, buoyed up by the joyous feeling of giving all the other things away I’m going to give the CDs away too. Where to? Well, probably Oxfam again. 400 of them would swamp the smaller charity shops along Smithdown. Or maybe you’ve got a better idea of where could best use them? Better be quick if you have. Clearing creates a sense of momentum and I want them gone and soon.
The last thing on its way, for now, is our tent. This has been much beloved, but it’s a big thing that takes up storage space, needs a car to carry it around and if we have a tent at all in this year to live, it’ll be one we can carry on our backs, living more lightly on the earth. So it’s up for sale on a specialist tents website (yes there are such things). Better sell soon though, or we’ll be forced to give it away!
And the house is feeling great, like we’ve just moved in. Emptying of things we didn’t need or want anyway, and full of light and space. This year to live needs light and space and so this clearing has been a necessity as well as a joy.
And the turntable? In case you’re worrying, that now has its own little wooden table, found for £20 outside ‘Remains to be seen’ on Lark Lane, and is much happier than when it was squatting next to that big computer.
So, clearing over? For now, yes. But it’s as much an attitude of mind as an activity so who knows?
Find the rest of these posts by searching on ‘A year to live’ in the Search box above right.