The Clearing

Earlier this afternoon I carried a bag of Sarah’s books down the road to our nearest charity shop. She’d sorted them out as being ready to go while doing some clearing yesterday afternoon. They were a mixture of horticulture, kayaking and even one about how to make books. I’d bought her that one as well as a couple of the others, but they’d come to the end of their time with her and are now gone.

When I’ve done with writing this post and need a photograph to illustrate it I’ll sort out a small pile of my own books and, once photographed, they’ll be ready to follow Sarah’s down to the same charity shop.

We’ve always done this, not keeping things we don’t need. These days we’re much better than we used to be at not acquiring things in the first place. But even so, things accumulate on shelves, in corners and even in plain sight, attempting to become part of the household landscape, until they’re noticed, identified as beyond their usefulness, and cleared.

We enjoy it and we like living in a home without much stuff, so there’s room for us. Clearing, be it books, furniture, music, gadgets, clothes or old interests, always fills us with the energy and ideas to do whatever’s next. And it always has. At times when we’ve felt our lives becoming becalmed and stale a good bit of clearing has usually helped us to move on and then look back and wonder ‘what was all that stuff for?’

Which fits perfectly with the ‘year to live’ thoughts I’ve been having these past few weeks. As well as clearing things we’ve also regularly cleared the things we do. Like, years ago, when we cleared our jobs. Often surprising ourselves with the activities that go and how quickly they can move from ‘interesting’ to ‘not.’

‘Walking the Leeds Liverpool Canal’ for example. You may have noticed that this has been one of our main weekend activities for much of 2017. Walking the canal in twelve sections has taken us from Liverpool back in February, to Gargrave in Yorkshire by the end of July, a little over thirty three miles from our planned conclusion at Leeds. Except we’re not going to finish.

This decision got taken on Friday evening when Sarah looked at me and said:

“You know the Leeds Liverpool Canal? If you had a year to live would you bother finishing it?”

“No” I unhesitatingly replied.

I then did a bit of experimental backtracking involving “picking it up again next spring” but Sarah, not to be persuaded, came straight back with:

“But you know we won’t.”

So that’s that then and that’s how clearing so often goes. We both felt immediately happier, freed of a commitment made only to ourselves, both acknowledging that after the twelve walks “we’ve got the general idea about the canal” and even admitting to a mild recent boredom with the mere writing up of the said walks for this blog:

“Here’s a bridge. Oh look, here’s another one.”

None of this takes anything away from the joy we felt as we set out and the pleasure we’ve undoubtedly had spending so much peaceful time together. But another three or four of much the same walks to get to Leeds? Life’s too short.

So, possessions, jobs, activities and, whisper it, even friendships don’t necessarily need to stay with you forever. And when I have the ‘year to live’ talk with people, it happens, I always view going through the clearing of redundant things as the relatively easy conversation before we arrive at the trickier “Having cleared some space then, how will you spend your time? Because with only 365 days to go you might want to think carefully about the activities and people you spend each one of them on?”

Enough is enough.

For a kick off I won’t be spending any of my precious days walking the Leeds Liverpool Canal. That’s been cleared. Now, let’s find some books to clear so I can stick a photo on the top of this post.

If you do fancy any of the books in the photo at the top there they’ll be in the Oxfam near the Penny Lane bit of Smithdown some time this week. Be careful though, you might just want to skip straight to the part where you clear them?

There are three ‘The Clearing’ posts. Read them all here.

11 thoughts on “The Clearing

  1. hirstsj

    I wish I lived near that shop. I also need to take a lead from you and do some clearing. I’m interested in your comment about friendship, I think sometimes they do run their course as our lives take new turns.

    Reply
  2. Helen Devries

    I cannot part with a book…or much else. There have been so many unwelcome clearings in my life that I resist any further attempts with vigour. I like to look back on a book…enjoy the find in a brocante..remember how I came across them…
    They are not a burden to me, but a pleasure.

    Mother, one hundred and one years, has been clearing down for years – except for clothes. She is ruthless…I am not.

    Friends…that can be another matter…some things run their course and friendship is one of them.

    Reply
  3. memoirsofahusk

    Like Helen, I find it hard to part with books. Recently, acknowledging I still have way too many of my father’s books, I was looking through them making ready to dispose… but, to my amazement, found letters, postcards, notes in the margins, holy pictures with funeral details on them – and even published illustrations I never knew he did. I now can’t bear to part with any of them! I’ve had many clearings-out – we’ve moved nine times – and had to clear my parents’ house. But I do look back in regret on some of the things I cleared. Like my mum’s great clump of knitting needles. Sounds daft, but I keep seeing a pair that were a plastic version of tortoiseshell… Hey ho, perhaps someone in Bradford on Avon is using them.
    Friends – I think all human relationships (including family) are only as strong as the feelings that keep them alive. If the feelings go… That said, I’d rather those relationships faded than end them abruptly – hurt is neither necessary nor desirable.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      I get that clearing is a sensitive subject and the doing of it needs handling carefully. But I do think we have a tendency to hold on to too much stuff in our lives. Filling up the spaces we have and sometimes even needing to build or rent extra space merely to store our stuff. I feel energised by clearing stuff that no longer resonates, jobs I no longer love and, yes, friendships sometimes too. I’ll think through the human stuff more though and maybe write more soon.

      Reply
      1. memoirsofahusk

        I do agree – cleansing is liberating and burglary (which happened in London flat) early on in my life-beyond-parents made me realise that we can lose things. I think with these books it’s the knowing that things lurk within them that might .. oh never mind, one day they will all be food for worms anyway! And I notice we haven’t touched on family yet, just friends 😉
        Oh – and finally, we downsized massively nearly 4 years ago, don’t miss anything we got rid of.

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        Glad the massive clearing of 4 years ago turned out to be painless. And I do check inside books for what lurks inside. Didn’t stop me trying to return a few Oxfam-bound books to the local library this morning though!

        And family, yes that will need touching on in the ‘people and other friends’ blog post.

  4. Karen

    I’m genuinely disappointed that you won’t finish and chronicle the full walk, but I totally understand why, and am grateful for the vicarious pleasure! Thank you!

    Reply
  5. blithespirit

    I’ve really enjoyed your posts on the canal so far. Pity you aren’t finishing it – you have denied yourselves the great pleasure of going by the Bingley locks and popping into Salts Mills which has one of the most beautiful bookshops. But if you’re not feeling it any more, then absolutely, life is too short to feel obliged to do things that you’d rather not. I know the part of the canal you haven’t done quite well, so thanks again for shedding a light on all the other parts you did complete. It’s on my list one day to take the train to Leeds and walk home – maybe a walk like that is better done in one long go over a week or two, taking it slowly and stopping along the way when there’s something good to see.

    Reply

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