From writer to pack-rat

Photo credit: Moving-MINI-Pepper-White

Photo credit: Custom Mini-Shop

Helga’s Post #78: I have been rather occupied this past week. Not with writing, which would have been my preference, but something else entirely. So this post is more like a status report than insights or reflections on writing.

It’s official: we are moving. Not immediately, but we decided after twenty-five years in the same house it’s time for a change. Two people don’t need a four-bedroom, plus den, plus family room house. Really. Sure it was nice to have overseas friends visiting who loved a vacation in Vancouver. Or have granddaughter Emma live with us for a year when she was in Grade Four. Or parents from Vienna who liked to ‘camp out’ with us for sometimes six or more weeks at a time because after all, their wayward daughter left her parental home decades ago and they had to make up for those countless daughterless years.

So here we are, organizing our move ahead of moving day. We won’t even know where we’ll move to, but we do know this: it will be a place much smaller, where not even half of our stuff will fit in. Can you imagine the stuff that somehow makes it into your house over a quarter of a century? We, like most people I guess, did not throw out or otherwise dispose of a piece of something every time we bought a new piece of something. Oh yes, there were countless times when I bought a new piece of clothing and looked for an older piece I already had to exchange it with. I would turn the old piece around, touch the fabric, try it on only to find there is no way on earth that the zipper would close, and after much soul-searching put the old piece back in the closet rationalizing, oh well, I’ll lose weight again and then it’ll be useful.

Ditto with kitchen stuff. And towels. And blankets. And – here comes the hard part – books. What to do with towers and towers of books which you have read in the past? And manuscript drafts # 1, 2, and 3, of your first or second or third novel, filed in binders, printed on single page, Courier Font 12? And not to forget piles upon piles of critique notes of said old manuscripts, lovingly prepared by my five writer colleagues Joe, Karalee, Paula and Silk (do note the alphabetical order, please).

Hard decisions indeed. This week we did four trips to the Salvation Army, the car loaded to the brim with stuff ‘free to good home’. It feels definitely liberating when these good folks, volunteers mainly, smile and accept old skis, boots, baskets, canning jars galore, dog kennels, Christmas lights and books, yes the afore-mentioned towers of books. Bless their heart. Sally Ann will be my charity of choice comes donation time.

Then there is the camping equipment and fly-fishing gear. More memories, more nostalgia. We remember trips to Stein Valley and the Chilcotin and so many others, as far back as twenty years. All with our two Black Lab companions, and later, when Sofie passed away, only with the younger Tuva. I felt a stab of pain when I wiped the dog kennels and found some soft black hair on the sponge.

And we haven’t even gotten to all the stuff we brought back from our three-year stint to Indonesia and S.E. Asia. Now there’s a collector’s paradise. How we used to love every single hand-carved re-claimed teak piece! The dowry-chest, the baskets, the Lombok pottery, the animal carvings and hand-woven textiles. But like everything else, tastes change and we find that other than memories, we no longer have much use for the stuff.

Yes, I admit we were pack-rats. Not quite hoarders, but at least collectors. And now it’s pay-back time.

But who has the heart to throw out reams of photo albums from half a century ago? Even if we have faithfully scanned onto the Mac every black and white photo from our childhood, every single one of the kids, grand-child, pets – especially photos of pets – and thousands upon thousands of tourist snapshots from vacations long past, and every flower in our garden that made it through twenty-five winters. But decision is made: we will view our photos on screen from now on. No more sticky-fingers on printed pics, and definitely no more watching slides.

Interesting how technology has made our lives so much easier. Books online, ditto with photos, and music too. Thousands of CD’s cluttering shelves are all stored now on one tiny device. We have come to accept that nostalgia has been relegated to the backseat , making room for high-tech.

Still, challenges remain that technology is unable to resolve. Decisions have to be made. Which memento is worthy of hanging on to, which birthday cards to keep, and which of the endless other paraphernalia will escape the recycling box or garbage bin. But wait: perhaps there is a story idea buried in some of this stuff straining to come out? As I thumb through old cards and letters, ideas start to form. What if…. You never know.

Here’s another tough decision to make: My 30-year collection of Gourmet magazines, neatly filed in 30 organizers, starting in 1974 until it closed down. Thirty years of recipes, travel articles, how-to advice, all with gorgeous pictures. I owe my passion for cooking entirely to that magazine. So the jury is still out on those 360 beautiful issues.

But I have hung on to a handful of my favorite books. An easy choice. The Little Drummer Girl. Catch-22. A few classics. My autographed copies of friend and best-selling author Sean Slater. My how-to-write fiction books and a few other non-fiction titles.

Today I am going through my rather large collection of shoes. And then on to shredding old files and bank statements dating back to pre-millennium.

Which books would you hold on to if you had to move and trim down your library? Or, if you had to choose between books and shoes, what would it be?


8 thoughts on “From writer to pack-rat

    • Who knows, Alison. We have certain criteria, but like so many things in life, all of that can change in a heartbeat. Incidentally, I have taken much of what I read on your and Don’s blog seriously and I think some of our planning might have had a tiny influence!. So thank you for your comment and for inspiring us (I say us because Emil has also become a huge fan).

      • Oh we had an influence! Chuckle. I’m so glad. When I think how excellent embracing change and following the inner urge to have a different life has been for us I wish it for everyone 🙂
        You’re gonna have a great time unwrapping the (somewhat dormant?) adventurer in you. I know it’s there – moving from Vienna, living in Indonesia and SE Asia, etc.
        So pleased to hear Emil is enjoying our adventures too.

  1. Ah Helga, you are ‘doing it right’ as they say.

    As you know, we ‘half moved’ last year, out of our old place, everything into storage, – no idea where our ‘new’ place might be.

    But somehow not knowing where we were moving to, -much less what to take with us-, left us in a sort of tortured limbo. We kept asking ourselves: ‘what if we need this for…?’

    Well, suffice it to say, we discarded much, but not half enough. And now the chickens are about to come home to roost.

    Before the month is out, the moving truck will pull up at our new little house on the Sunshine Coast (emphasis on little) and the movers will start unloading… and unloading… and unloading.

    Soon my new little house will be full, my new little garage will be full and my new closets and cupboards will be full.

    Then, I’m going to call you and Emil, my dear ruthless friends, and invite you over for martinis and spiritual guidance for this little pack rat.

    • Paula, that’s the best offer I have had in a long time. Invitation accepted. But remember, it’s not too late to leave ‘stuff” you don’t really need or be passionate a out behind. It’s amazing how efficient Craig’s list can be if you post them under ‘Free Stuff’. Those things literally fly out the door.

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