Downsizing inevitably means discarding lots of things you will no longer have room for.  Discarded things fall into a number of categories:

1 Things you had forgotten you had.

2 Things you remembered you had but hadn’t used for years.

3 Things you remembered you had but didn’t really care about.

4 Things you care about but you will no longer need.

The last category is the toughest; items where you are prone to dither.  Some things have sentimental value that anyone else would find hard to understand. For example, an old electric fire and hearth rug that used to belong to my late aunt.  As a teenager I often stayed with her in her Oxford apartment on the Banbury Road.  At the time she had a lover – a married man who used to visit in the afternoons. For understandable reasons I used to be banished from the flat and told not to return until a certain time (there are worse places to be forced to explore than Oxford!).  Once I returned at the agreed time and she told me they had made love on the rug in front of the fire. The other day I threw the 60 year old rug and electric fire into the skip at the municipal refuse tip.  Of course, it was absurd to have hung onto them for so long, but I had because they reminded me of my promiscuous aunt, of whom I was very fond, and because there had always been room effortlessly to accommodate them.

Other things were destined for the tip but had last minute reprieves from friends who took pity on them.  An example would be the meter long aluminium spirit level that I had used for 42 years on numerous projects to improve the house.  It was with me as I knocked down a wall and created a new doorway, when I built various sheds in the garden (lots of sheds – all of them straight and true!), when I built book shelves and hung pictures.  I had taken the faithful spirit level for granted and it was only when I realised that I would never need it again that I developed feelings of attachment.  Anyway, it was on top of a pile of things to be discarded when friends called and asked how we were getting on.  I used the spirit level as an example of something it was hard to ditch when, generously, they said they would take it.  I’m not at all sure they really wanted it but it was an act of kindness that I very much appreciated.

But the most troublesome thing to get rid of has been a brown teddy bear, not because I was especially fond of it (I can’t even remember which of my five children we got it for) but because it didn’t have a fire resistant label.  I had tried to give it to various charity shops and they all said they were sorry but they could take it without the label.  I offered it to grandchildren; no takers.  So, reluctantly I took it to the tip in a Volvo Estate full to the roof with things in all four categories.  It sat in the passenger seat on the short journey, looking admirably dispassionate in the circumstances.

I threw away everything else and left the teddy bear until last.  Finally, I lifted it from the passenger seat and, cradling it in my arms, proceeded towards the steps up to the skip.  An elderly man took one look and said, ‘Surely you aren’t going to throw that away?’.  I explained, somewhat sheepishly, that charity shops refused to take it for the lack of a label.  He said, ‘Well, you can’t throw a teddy bear away.  You should never throw away teddy bears’.

So, I gave it to him.  Problem solved.



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