Hampshire Hunt Cottage
Have you ever counted how many houses you have lived in over your lifetime? You might be surprised. I have just calculated that I have lived in some thirty properties over my 66 years. It seems excessive, doesn’t it? These include homes I grew up in, various flat-shares I did as a young girl and three boarding schools that became my home for a period, as well as the houses I have inhabited as an adult. All in all I do seem to have moved a great many times.
The interesting thing is that I can walk, in my mind, through all those houses. I suspect you can do the same. Spatial memories, even when one is older, are more readily accessible than other memories, such as names or dates, I find. The images of the home I lived in as a small child come in snatched snaps and it is harder to picture the logical route through the house but after 5 years old all becomes clearer. And as I walk through the rooms of those homes I remember people, family, friends and pets, with whom I shared those times and places. They have left an imprint on me just as I believe I have left an imprint on them.
The walls of a house seem to collect the energies of those who have passed through. You can sense a happy home the minute you walk through the door. It is invisible but tangible. It is in the air, in the walls. Enter a church, cathedral, mosque or temple and you are almost hit by the silence of the ages and a sense of the prayers that have been shared in those spaces. Those who have visited prisons or concentration camps talk of experiencing a sinister chill as they entered.
A few years ago I visited the temple of Kom Ombo in Egypt, close to the banks of the Nile. I knew nothing about it but gained a sense that the area had somehow been a place of healing in previous eras. When I asked about it I was told that it was indeed a sanctuary and that local villagers even bring their children or relatives here now because they believe that the stone walls hold some healing powers. The building itself seemed to communicate a message, without words.
And now I am on the move again, from our beautiful Hampshire home (see http://www.hellards.co.uk/full-details?profileID=100820004054) as we have decided to downsize. It has made me aware of how each home is perfect for a specific period of time and yet when one is ready to leave there is a feeling that it is now time for another family to enjoy the space. We only ever borrow a home, even if by law we own it for many years. Ultimately it sits there in its own right, often for many centuries. Others have lived there before and others will follow, through wartime or peace. Each person who visits leaves a trace and if you leave it for a period the home loses a little something until you fully inhabit it again.
Our Hampshire house was originally made of two cottages, built in around 1835 and then extended to create a beautiful house. We have enjoyed huge family parties and cosy quiet times together. The garden is lovely, a mix between a typical English country garden and a few pretensions at a French chateau-style with shaped box and a lovely avenue of hornbeam. These were not of our making. We inherited them but have tended and loved them and added a vegetable garden with raised beds as David enjoys seeing the seeds come to fruition.
But we need to move to a smaller house for this next part of our lives and I woke the other morning with the Animals’ song in my head “We’ve got to get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do. We’ve got to get out of this place. Girl, there’s a better life for me and you”… and so we know deep inside that it is the time to let go and let someone else enjoy it all now.
But oh dear, the decluttering of many years! How difficult to know which books to keep, which family heirlooms to pass on when most of our children prefer Ikea or retro, which CDs or vinyl. Then there are the endless papers of years of work. Do I keep all the articles I published, the original typescripts of the books I wrote or trust in the digital? But I think if my mother hadn’t written down her memoir on paper I probably would never have found it in a computer filing system, so both of us feel tempted to hang on to more than our children will no doubt thank us for. We will try to pick out just those things that will represent enough of our lifetime’s history but not too much. And in moving from 3000 sq ft to around 1200 sq ft will make all this a rather daunting challenge.
So think of us, and the ghastly process that is involved in selling and buying houses in England, the stamp duty, the chains and the stress. I will let you know how it goes and what I learn about decluttering and becoming the person who lets go her past in order to embrace the new where we now hope to live, in Kew. Something tells me it could make us feel both lighter and younger once we have filled a few skips with what others will probably consider to be rubbish. Indeed, in our efforts so far we have cleared clutter that we had intended to tidy many years ago and have made the rooms brighter and more spacious as a result. It has made me realize that, had we done this before, we could have made the house even more beautiful and enjoyable to live in some time ago.
So on that note, my suggestion would be to declutter now, so that you can enjoy the best of your home today rather than being surrounded by things that you meant to clear ages ago. I found the dusty piles just made me feel downhearted and guilty about procrastinating though I do wonder how well my good resolution to never to allow the piles to mount up again will go! Those distraction activities can be just so appealing, can’t they…?