So once again the clear out process starts. Another move may be in the offing.

Slowly history is cleansed. Old photographs. Slides of 20+ years of birding travel.

Books to charity shops. LPs sold. Clothes to recycling. Camera gear offloaded. We are learning the ropes at the local recycling plant. A broken printer. A hair dryer that will never blow again. Boxes of birding and wildlife magazines going back to the early 90s – nobody wants them. Everything is online now. What is physically available is redundant.

What surprised me most was going through box after box of slides. I had over 40 of Galapagos alone. 36 to a roll. No chimping. No histograms. And 95% properly exposed. I was a better and slower photographer then. I really must try to scan them. What was also surprising was my ability to recall almost every image taken. I struggle to remember what I ate for breakfast but I remember shots taken in Australia in 1998. I suspect that is not a good sign.

Some things fall into the ‘what to do with it’ category. Old ornaments my parents hung on the wall. Tasteful in 1960 but now suitable only for a glimpse back in social history. Akin to Hilda’s muriels. Dad’s pewter retirement tankards: To Jim from the Lads. In 50 years time someone on Flog It (probably the same presenters) will cradle the finest tankard in his or her hands and speculate on Jim. Who was he? Who were the Lads? Engineering students. Where was he working? A wonderful artifact, they will opine. And you found it in a car boot sale! Except we won’t have cars then. Well I’d like to put it in to auction with an estimate of £4-5,000 and a reserve of £80. Just in case. To protect it. But very collectable. It will fail to make reserve just like everything else we have auctioned.

I sold two framed prints for £35. Less lot fee and commission. I was convinced I had paid £90 for them. Ah well. Then I found the receipt. I paid £245 for the pair. But they are gone and I wish the new owner well.

The purpose of all this clearing out is twofold. If we return to Hong Kong it will inevitably be to a smaller apartment. At some point if I don’t do it now it will fall to the memsahib to do the work. Simplify, declutter now. Much better. And cathartic. Don’t wait for the probate inventory. If it seems a little like throwing away your past I take comfort from the fact that what had lain untouched for over 15 years triggered instant recall in my memory. Maybe the software of the mind is all I need and the hardware can crash and go.

And with that cheery thought, I shall return to reading about the Thucydides trap.


15 thoughts on “Catharsis

  1. we are getting close to the same “major de-clutter” activity, so I can fully identify with your posting!

  2. You are a lot more ruthless than I, Andrew. Most goes into the ” but it could prove useful” bucket.

    • You don’t have the challenge of constrained space Rob. If we end up back in HK we will have substantially less room and we have to make choices. Easier (physically if not mentally) to do now than later. I’ve been putting things in the ‘might come in useful’ bucket for 40 years.

  3. Good Luck with the de-clutter – it can be a wrench, but generally I’ve just been glad the stuff is gone (and I’m sentimental over objects, too).

  4. Yes, Andrew. It is so important to de-clutter. I am on my last socks now, hankies and shirts. At last count I had thirty shirts. It might be stretching it a bit that I might well be on my last bottle of shampoo, but it is possible. I had my RM-William shoes resoled at great cost but I reckon they will see me out. It is different with H. She still shops with enormous enthusiasm and going by the bulging wardrobe, she must be counting on at least getting to 2079 years.

    • Only 30 shirts Gerard? That’s very modest. I have lost count but they are all either white or some variation on blue stripes. I still have shoes 20+ years old. Been resoled many times. Wonderful to wear. The biggest challenge is the books. I am down to my last couple of thousand.

  5. I seem to have caught you at a busy time. I was around my second thousand in books when the boxes arrived, first from T’s mum’s old house and then from my dad’s. Both two thousand book folk and no siblings with the slightest interest in reading or putting up some shelves for 1940s novels and Arthur Mee encyclopaedias. I’ll be sorry if you move back but can understand that this country may not have turned out quite the go-ahead, outward-looking, let’s take advantage of our geographical position at the ‘meet me on the corner’ part of the world that you were looking for. I’d always thought I’d come to see Winchester and call in to say hello. Instead I’ve signed up (at 58) to study law and am planning on taking it seriously and turning into another Rumpole without the Chateau Thames Embankment. Disturbed a mean looking, and generously proportioned moth in the garden and wished I knew more about them. Took a photo just in case. All very best wishes in whatever you plan on doing. I’ve enjoyed your company very much indeed.

    • Ah Simon, the law – what a noble calling. I toyed once with reading law but it somehow slipped me by. I have turned 60 and spend too much time trying to get some stability back into our lives. Britain is beautiful and we prefer the climate here. Nevertheless Shirley misses the children and the food. She has not adapted well to the British diet. Even Waitrose has been a huge disappointment. We struggle with poor infrastructure in Hampshire and generally getting anything done is a battle. I thought second hand books might have some value but the prices I was offered were so low I decided to give away what was not on my keep list. I have retained my natural history books in the main, photography, art and some fiction. If I look around I am down to my last thousand I would imagine. I too had a set of Arthur Mee (and some Bulldog Drummond to boot)! I know it is emotive but I am afraid Brexit did it for me. The politicians on both sides don’t deserve to be in government. I find IDS, Gove, Fox, Redwood and co deeply disturbing – quite offensive in their poisonous outbursts of hatred. Only dear old Ken Clarke seems to see the bigger picture. We will be around for a few months yet. We are in HK for a month starting in two weeks then back here. Poor Lulu had major surgery and we need to make sure she is fit enough to return home. I am rarely on WP nowadays but if you post on the law studies I shall be fascinated with your progress. Travel well my friend.

  6. A good direction to all of us with many thousand books, papers, inherited furniture etc, but I am saddened by the all the implications of such a move. So much work and stress went into returning to Britain for both of you, I hope the moths and other wildlife helped to make it all worthwhile. We are looking at some tricky times too. Best of luck.

    • I hope you navigate the tricky times safely Hilary. It is a difficult time for me but we need stability and a sense of harmony back in our lives that are both missing here. I will drop in on WP occasionally and look forward to your next book. Good luck to you too.

  7. Will you be moving back to HK? We recently left HK – though our things are still in storage over there as we have not decided where we want to go next. Meanwhile, I’m back in Singapore and staying with my parents. I spent the previous week decluttering and cleaning my bedroom. I got rid of old textbooks, mouldy books (boo!), and clothes that still fit but I can’t bear to be seen in them. There are still a few more boxes to go. It always feels good to declutter and often I wonder why do I need so many A/B/C. I’d like very much to simplify my life and possessions (books aside).

    • We have taken an apartment here from Oct 7th. Ours does not allow dogs so we will let that out. We are back to Britain next week to start the removal process. I have all my old textbooks to a local school about 15 years ago. Very cathartic. I hope you find somewhere interesting to settle. I have always thought Spain or Italy would be perfect for me. Decluttering sounds easy but isn’t. So much might just come in handy. One day. 🙄

      • I’ll need a visa to live in anywhere outside of Singapore. So it’s going to take some planning and time. The Mediterranean would be nice. I’m thinking of Japan in the medium term but I want to learn some Japanese beforehand. About decluttering – I always think of a Marie Kando tip (if something doesn’t bring you joy, give or throw it away). Of course, there will be many things that don’t ever bring me happiness but could be useful to have around!

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