For years, from time to time, I’ve had that feeling that I just want to run away, to get away from it all. Perhaps I’d live in a small croft on a remote Scottish Island. Fortunately the feeling has never lasted long enough for me to act, as I don’t think I really have the required skills. But lately I’ve come to realise that those feelings were less about running away to somewhere and more a deep yearning for more simplicity in my life. For wanting to strip away all the things that I hang onto out of habit, from guilt or just because it was what I thought was expected.
I’ve been trying to de-clutter my life, again driven by that need for simplicity and again with those same excuses and blocks, but now I am starting to see them for what they are, or more what they’re not. Most of the things we keep are just tokens, a way to remember a moment, a person, a place. I totally understand that certain items make us feel closer to someone we’ve lost, or maybe the person that we were, and often not at all proportional to any monetary value, but there comes a point when we start to drown in those items, we don’t really cherish any of them properly because there are just too many. Where that point is, is something that only we as individuals can work out. When do our keepsakes go from being fond memories, to being the thing that makes us live more in our past than living now in this moment. At what point do those same things keep us from really cherishing the people (including our pets) that are in our life now. How often have I said, when I de-clutter then I’ll get on with something that I’ve wanted to do for ages, something I really want to do, spend more time with friends, get the garden straight, just take time to walk in nature without spending that time thinking about all the things I need to do when I get home. But the clutter of things adds to the clutter of my thoughts and another day passes.
For me the time is now. I have things I would like to achieve, perhaps things I’d like to experience is closer to my meaning, but having a crammed packed home, a crammed packed hard drive and a mind that’s thinking in far too many directions at once, is taking up too much of my time, energy and my peace of mind.
One place that I’ve started sorting is going through images on my hard drive, 145 thousand to be precise. When you have that many (and not organised as well as they could be) you don’t really enjoy any of them, they just blend into each other. The above is such an image taken from Palace Pier in Brighton, on a wet day in 2018. It’s no award winner, but the soft tones and misty look drew me to it, until I went through them a couple of days ago, it was just another image downloaded and left. I’ve never been good at sorting my pictures, I’ve felt the need to keep every little detail and in doing so I lost the real meaning in the background noise. I think I’m moving past that need to hold onto everything now. Every person I’ve ever met, every business card I’ve been handed, every ticket, every gift and every image. Those experiences have got me this far, now it’s time to loosen my grip on the past and enjoy this priceless moment.
One keepsake, one image can bring back so much, but I feel if it’s lost in a vast ocean of others, rarely looked at or cherished, then they may as well be lost. A box (or perhaps 10) of snippets and memories from my past is fun to go through at times, but I now ask myself, are they worth the price of another crammed cupboard.
So from today, I will photograph the things that I feel I can’t let go of completely. My first wage packet (with 2p of the original wage) from a school holiday job, where I used to prick out seedlings at a local nursery, the wrapper from a 100% coco solid chocolate bar from a chocolate festival in Perugia, Italy on our honeymoon (think I’m more of a 70% girl really), a Care Bears sticker book from 1985 missing two stickers (yes I was an adult at the time, but who can resist Care Bears), and so the list goes on. As individual pieces they’re fun, as a whole they are overwhelming. I will photograph and record my memories, bringing them together into a time-line that makes sense. One place I can look with ease and remember. It will take time. Fifty plus years of stuff won’t be tamed quickly or easily. Will I get rid of it all? No, deep down, when the time is right I will know what stays and what goes. But that need for simplicity drives me to make the choice.
Moving forward I will be vigilant of what I let in, which in the long run also saves money. Photographs will be sorted quickly and only the best kept. I believe less really can be more. Less stuff, more space, more time and more room to breathe and enjoy the person I am today, more time for the people and pets close to me, and all that life offers, that is where the true treasure lies.