3 What’s it worth?
We are meant to be downsizing. That means halving our possessions. But which ones? What stays, what has to go? The house has to be empty in less than two weeks. We have to decide now. But how? What is worth keeping? What can’t we bear to part with? And how do we get rid of all the unwanted possessions accumulated in over 30 years of marriage, four previous homes and 21 years in this wonderful house. There has to be a system.
M favours sifting, I advocate snap decisions. He sorts through a drawer and finds a drawing done by my mother, while I clear a whole bookcase in five minutes. He finds the cartoons he drew in his youth which he thought had been lost years ago and I fill a bin bag with unwanted flannel sheets. He asks me who would like to have his ‘patterned shorts’ and I see he has a pile of boxer shorts and say no one wants his old pants. M opts for the stacking method while I make lists. He has chosen the books he is keeping, he says, showing me the heaps of books in the library. But the piles on the floor are staying and the books on the shelves are going. It’s a method of sorts, I suppose.
Friends offer advice. E-bay they say, as if it is a magical cure-all. But if it hasn’t solved the problem by next Wednesday there will be no more time as the men with vans will be here. M has e-bayed collections of toys, old record decks and walkmans, but it is painfully slow. Yesterday he had to meet a man at the nearest station to deliver a collection of Polly Pocket toys. It didn’t take long, but it was an hour out of the afternoon. The buyer had travelled all the way from Camden Town, just for a box of plastic.
So I have made lists. Room by room I have made a list of what to keep, what to auction, what to clear and what to store for the future. The auctioneer came yesterday afternoon to value the pieces which will be too large for our next home. Some of the figures were disappointing but many were encouraging, considering that I had mostly found our furniture in junk shops. M pointed out the heavy oak and leather chair that “Cromwell sat in” which is identical to one we’ve seen at Ham House. We’ve always doubted its authenticity but the valuer turned it upside down and said it was indeed very old.
And today the house clearance man will be here. He will take the comfy old armchairs that don’t meet modern safety standards, the heavy mirrors that no one wants now they can buy them in Ikea, the cheap bedroom cabinets that now lack handles and runners for drawers. But he will charge to take away our useful but redundant furnishings and they will be discarded and broken. I cannot bear to throw away anything useful, so friends are taking shabby Lloyd Loom, surplus china and spare curtains.
Our house is starting to look sad and neglected. Rooms are half empty, boxes are being filled, it is only half a home now. But we are keeping what has value, although it may only be significant to us. The heavy oak George III sideboard may go to auction and the armchairs to the tip, but we have our children’s’ drawings and a lifetime in photographs. M has notebooks recording his working life and I have a stained fabric coaster, embroidered in nursery school by my daughter, which will never leave my bedside table.