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?”
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.