“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” maybe Mark Twain?
Fine words but easier said than done! We didn’t own a house and giving up renting felt good but our bowlines were “STUFF”! I reckon compared to many we didn’t have that much anyway but still the process of sorting it out felt epic. Although we’d been getting rid of stuff for some time we still seemed to have a houseful when we decided to set sail.
A photographic feature in a Sunday supplement years ago has stuck in my memory and reared its head. Visual representations of the possessions of families around the world never left me. The photos were from: Peter Menzel Material World: A Global Family Portrait. At the time I recall my emotional response to that stark contrast of what a typical family owned in a ‘developed’ society compared to one in an ‘undeveloped’ one. A reflection of our excessive lives left me thinking about difference, perhaps feeling guilty but more about the misalignment of the have, the have-nots and the complex questions about who was really the better off? Have a look!
And of course there is “The Story Of Stuff” – a 20-minute look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns, exposing the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues – and reminds us that it is STUFF that keeps the wheels of our consumer driven society firmly on track to resource depletion, environmental chaos, and greater inequality. If you’ve not seen it please do. Mum have a look!
The other big cultural event about consumption, possessions and self definition in 2001 was that of Michael Landy the Turner Prize winner who shredded all his stuff in an exhibition called BreakDown.
There were, however, no feelings of artistic expression in our efforts! Just a long hard slog. To sort out the stuff of two people in a three bed house it took one or the other of us about six weeks. We made a decision about absolutely everything we owned: carboot sale, Freegle/Freecycle, charity shop up the road, charity shop Oxfam books, Amazon books, storage, Ebay, landfill! Nightmare!
It took ages and I got VERY bored with it! And do I feel liberated – not really. Do I feel on a spiritual higher plane? Am I closer to heaven? Do I identify less with my stuff and more with my inner self? Do I feel this act is like giving the finger to consumption – NO, no, no! I felt pretty screwed up about it from time to time though. It’s hard to let go of your base and the things in it that make it work. I’ve moved 14 times: I’ve sailed away from the safe harbour before and I’m under no illusion. Life beyond the shore will not make me super happy or a different person but it feels like we have to go there – and packing up is a tedious job!
My mum rearranged her garage at the nth hour to house some boxes and my dad let her! Synchronicity kicked in and there was a month overlap between our friend Sondra returning from the US to an empty house and us leaving. My mates in Swansea decided to have at least a winter off their titchy boat and offered us space in the empty garage of their new abode. Rob’s mum’s similarly found empty drawers and offered loft space. Lancaster friends kept us fed, watered and humoured every day in the last week. Thanks to Mavis, Ben, Sondra, Janet and Martin, Ann, Caroline and Brian and finally the Lancaster Transition ed group for taking away the dregs of our stuff on the very last evening!
We will explore, dream, discover and make headway a lot lighter than we were before but with enough of our stuff safely stashed that we won’t have to start completely from scratch again – cos some stuff is OK! Maybe? Maybe it isn’t and I’ll write some more another time…. This consumption, ownership thing is complex!