There was a time when I figured I could do it all myself! I would have been about 21 years of age then, I guess, freshly out of the armed forces, married and a recent immigrant to Canada.
Actually, self-confidence started to kick in around age 17. I distinctly remember the day; I was working in the Chief Accountant’s Office at Paddington Station in London. One of my duties was to call out lists of station cash receipts for the day to Freddy Moyse. He was an old buffer who would check off what I called out against his list, but he still had time to work on the Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle, conferring from time to time with another old buffer sitting opposite. One of the crossword clues that particular day involved the word, “Gallipoli”. I didn’t know if it was a place or anything about the word, but I made the mistake of asking. The two of them openly ridiculed me when I dared to ask. They were quite proud of being able to point to my ignorance of World War I, a war that had ended about 30 years earlier. (My memories were of World War II which had just ended.) I fired back with some comment that I knew enough to get through life with whatever I had learned thus far. It wasn’t really true, but it marked a turning point in my life. I had learned enough to speak up for myself, and answer back!
And so by the time I reached Canada, I was self–assured, arrogant and broke! However, I got a home of my own; rented yes, but it was a place for my belongings. Not that I had many then, but the Book of the Month gave me a start! It was the start of my collecting career. University was another wonderful source. All through my school days in England during the war there was no such thing as taking one’s school books home at night to study. Most of my home studies were, night after night, writing out by hand lists of 500 three-syllabled words, all different, for delivery to a prefect the following morning. So, after getting to Canada and losing a few arguments on geography and history, I realized that I had nothing of my English education to fall back on. That convinced me to hang on to all my future text books. The significance of the fact that text books were being updated every year only dawned me on gradually. I was saving stuff that was getting out-of-date pretty fast! But old habits die hard, and my book collection was one of my proud possessions, so I carried on ……adding.
Thereafter, as time money and interests permitted and dictated, I expanded my squirrel-like habit to include a collection of compact discs. I must have acquired just about every fiddle playing CD ever published. That in turn led to collecting violas! I bought violas and strung them as fiddles until I had collected eight. But I wasn’t finished yet! There was also my very active interest in sailing, and navigation in particular that led to more books and charts. I wasn’t satisfied with that phase until I had amassed a library of over 400 books on sailing! The place was beginning to fill up.
Then came painting! I hesitate to classify what I do as art, but it did entail acquiring lots of art materials. Add those materials to my present computer with its mass of peripherals, two old computers plus a collection of more CD’s, paper records, etc. and you can see how the problem of space might become acute.
Which brings me to my present thought that I may need an agent to dispose of a lot of this stuff. What am I going to do with it all? I have long-since realized that my children have very little interest in the relics of my past. To them, it is all old-fashioned stuff that needs to be junked. I could sell it, but I’ve gradually realized that there aren’t many buyers out there.
Being a senior starts to bring matters to a head! Maybe I have responsibility to “clear the decks”, and not leave it to others. Hmmm, while I did suggest to my wife that we could start on her stuff first, that didn’t get very far. She already does that on a regular basis. Anyway, it was fairly apparent that most of the junk was mine! That tack didn’t work, so now I had to look for another solution.
I don’t know about you, but throwing out my valuable (?) possessions is a very difficult thing to do. Still, I do realize I have to start somewhere; I’m not getting any younger. One thing we have done so far is move all questionable items down into my basement office. Yes, it’s a bit crowded down here right now but at least the problem is right under my nose. There’s too much down here now to deny I have a problem! Something’s got to go.
I am still relatively mobile, so I can physically manage to do whatever it takes to get most of the surplus stuff out of here. It’s the psychological block that is really my problem. Not every senior can handle this problem on their own, and now I realize that I may be one of them. It may require help from family and friends. Failing that, one may have to get some outside help. That is, of course, once you’ve decided that there is anything to go! In my case the answer is self-evident, in fact downright undeniable! But not everyone is a kleptomaniac like me.
The best advice I can give is, don’t be like me! Don’t keep on collecting into your advance years. Give it up and start reducing and simplifying early. I have a neighbour who says his rule is to get rid of anything that hasn’t been used in the past two years. It’s a pretty good idea, but he’ll be the first to admit that he doesn’t follow it.
I think I’m going to get started with throwing out all the saved empty coffee tins. I’m sure I’ll regret it, but I have to start somewhere. Then there’s that old kitchen table I bought in the late fifties. I still have reservations about getting rid of that, but my wife has a large circular one of similar vintage. If I throw mine out, maybe she’ll throw hers out too. I don’t have any clothes to throw out because I wear everything until it’s threadbare, mainly because I hate shopping for clothes! But if the tables go, that would be a start!
After that, the going gets tough! I think the CD’s should go next. Unfortunately, they won’t free up a lot of room. Oh, the two old computers can go…to the dump. That will help. After that I am going to need some outside help, someone not too ruthless but more objective than I am.
If only I had bought a bigger lot and saved some money for my own pyramid, I wouldn’t have this problem! Still, it’s too late to worry about that now. It would probably get robbed anyway by some fiddle fanatic or book bug! A garage sale, you say? Well, I don’t fancy sitting out there all day, having lugged all my precious goodies up from the basement office, just to rake in $2.50. And who’s going to clear away the unsold stuff when the day’s over, anyway?
So you see my problem! I’m surrounded by priceless antiquities that nobody wants! (I’m not looking for sympathy, although right now a little wouldn’t hurt. Don’t let it happen to you; get rid of those treasures soon after you retire.) For some unknown reason, the market value for most of the items I have seems to decrease over time. I’ll probably get a dollar or two for the violas but, even there, I hear the sales commission is around 60%! The empty coffee tins, I’m afraid, will be a complete write-off.
And as I wrestle with my junk, from the distant past I hear the voice of Freddy Moyse still mocking me, “What can we expect from someone who doesn’t even know what or where Gallipoli is? That’s right, Alex, 18 across, “Gallipoli”! Ugh, the youth of today! What will become of the Empire?”
I’m glad Freddy can’t see my basement!