Your Life is Like a River

The Prądnik river, Eagles Nests Trail, Wielka Wieś-Hamernia

I have been so caught up in preparing to publish my book Stress Free Dinner Parties, explaining in a delightfully amusing fashion (if I do say so myself) how to plan and host a dinner party.  I’m so tired I just had to take a break and do something different.

I was re-watching Mohamed Tohami’s interview with Colleen Madsen of 365 Less Things, part of a series called The Lazy Person’s Guide to Decluttering.  One of the issues they discussed was how to get rid of certain kinds of items, like things that bring back happy memories, gifts from loved ones and items that were very expensive.  And this made me think a little about my ongoing declutter journey.

And I was thinking that in metaphorical terms, my life is like a river flowing from birth to death (I’m staying away from what happens next for the time being).  As my river flows forward, I pick up twigs and rocks and carry them with me for a way before casting them off in another direction.  Sometimes an insect skirts across my surface and sometimes I suck them to the bottom never to be seen again.  Now and again, there are immense storms that turn me all around and muddy my surface or that freeze me solid.  Occasionally a tree or boulder falls across me and restricts my flow, hopefully not to the point I get stagnant…  As you can see there is a lot going on in the river.

I think this is actually quite a good way to describe a life:

  • the twigs and rocks are people and things that we keep for a while before letting them go: the friends we make at school that we let go when we go to university, our colleagues from one workplace when we move onto the next. If we are determined, our fat clothes when we slim down, or maybe our VHS cassettes or Tom Clancy novels.
  • our insects are the people and things that don’t have an ongoing place in our life: the dishwasher repair technician, the nice boy who gives up his seat on the train, the soup tureen for one (has to be the most ridiculous gift I have ever received).
  • the storms are of course the big stuff: getting married, getting sick, having children, nursing dying relatives, getting a transplant.  These are the sort of events that you come out the other side a different, and hopefully better person.
  • the obstructions are the things Mohamed and Colleen were discussing.
    • disposing of happy memory items is not a problem for me – not because I don’t have them, but because I record happy memories in my journal and stick photos and tickets and other memory joggers in there too.  I know Colleen doesn’t necessarily agree with this approach, but I enjoy sitting in the peace of my garden in the early morning with a hot drink recording the memories as well.  But then again, if those things really make YOU happy, then take them out of the box, give them a good clean and put them on display as highly treasured items to be enjoyed every day.
    • I confess to having received and stored some really appalling gifts in my time, but they didn’t make me happy and every time I looked at them I felt sad and guilty and as if I had snakes slithering around in my belly.  A very unpleasant feeling I really don’t want in my life.  I got to the point that I had stored so many gifts I didn’t have room for the things I did want (and I am not fond of storing things in attics) so I had a temper tantrum and donated them all to charity.  And I immediately felt better.  And one day when I asked about a particularly ugly vase, they said an elderly lady had been delighted to find it.
    • and as for expensive things…  I make mistakes all the time – bad haircuts, clothing choices, my first husband (who is a lovely man by the way – just not the one for me).  If I can let those things go there is no reason why I can’t let expensive purchases go too.  Perhaps there is a young couple desperate for a deep fryer.  Or someone looking for an 80s outfit for a theme party.  Or someone who broke the exact same ugly vase in their grandmother’s house and needs a replacement.

All in all, my river flows freely.  I am finding it easier to spin items off in new directions as time goes by – I am even gradually disposing of my less loved books.  I have come to appreciate the peace and beauty of absence, and I find that this inspires me onwards.

And in closing, if you don’t want to use or fully admire your belongings, at least, make the time to clean and maintain them properly regardless of what memories they evoke, or who gave it to you, or how much it cost.  If you don’t want to do that, why do you want to keep it at all?

Do you keep things you don’t want?  What would it take to make you give things up?

1st March 2015

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