Once upon a time I used to travel light. I could be ready and off and out the door in about ten minutes with a little rucksack on my back and my purse in my pocket. That was before the days of mobile phones and digital cameras. I think life was simpler then but it might simply be that I was - simpler, younger, lighter.
I began to acquire stuff when I acquired my own house. Prior to that I had lived in a series of furnished, rented places where moving from one flat to another could be done on foot in an afternoon with a couple of cardboard boxes and the aforementioned rucksack. Buying a house was part of getting married and that was followed very swiftly by having a baby. We didn't have much money but nevertheless stuff poured in remorselessly through the door like floodwater: furniture and pans and crockery and cushions, a cot and a pram and toys and a steriliser and a car seat. When we separated while the children were still small my then husband didn't want any of the things which had been in the house. I think it was partly that we had created a home for the children and he didn't want to leave it with gaping holes in it and partly that he didn't want to divide things into piles, to talk about it, to be either too nice or too grasping. He would rather start again.
I minded a little bit although I understood and honoured his motives. I would have liked the chance to get rid of the cast offs and hand me downs with which our house was furnished but that wasn't going to happen. There was no money so there was no choice.
And here we are a lot of years on and the hand me downs are long gone. I don't think I am a materialistic person yet if you asked me what I would save from a burning house I would say nothing. The important bits of my life are people or they are in my head. Would I miss things? Yes I would - the picture of my parents on their wedding day, my children's school reports, the piece of driftwood brought back from the side of a Scottish loch. I like my best china, my sewing machine, books by the lorry load, the beautiful 17th Century Welsh cupboard which is the only valuable (and we are talking relative here) piece of furniture I have ever owned. But would I save one thing over another? No I don't think so. If the people were safe, only the cat.
So how is it then that we have so many things? I have books I never read and clothes I never wear. We have CDs we never listen to and DVDs we never watch. We have outbuildings bursting at the seams with stuff. We have all our own stuff and now we have my father in law's stuff, although edited quite cheerfully and ruthlessly by him in a practical, laughing way which was a model of its kind.
I think this has been brought on by moving into our new kitchen, which is another materialism I suppose. I have never had a new kitchen before and I love it. It is beautiful and has not cost a lot because of a combination of an unease with spending which on a grand day might be called ethical, plain and simple meanness and Ian's ability to do so much himself. I shall show you some pictures next time. But in moving back into the kitchen after nearly five months of squeezing around the end of the table and carrying the dishes outside, I have been amazed that we can still can find things to send to the charity shop. We had the biggest clear out in the world, well in my world, six years ago when we came here. I don't think we buy much. The pans I am using were mostly bought nearly twenty years ago. In 2008 I bought a single Furi knife which I refer to mentally as my new knife as I still use every day a couple of knives which I have had for thirty years. So how come there is all this stuff?
Does it breed? Do other people smuggle their stuff into my house when I think they are coming for coffee? Do delivery men bring a case of wine which I sign for and a couple of cases of not very useful and slightly grubby things which they sneak into a dark corner of the kitchen while I am wielding the electronic pen?