(un­en­cum­bered)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Caroline Thom­son Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

The son of a dear friend re­cently gave me pause to re-eval­u­ate how I ap­proach my ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions in the con­text of age­ing.

He de­clared to his mother that when she died he in­tended to hire a skip and dump ev­ery­thing in it, spar­ing noth­ing, for there was noth­ing he wanted.

This was a shock­ing rev­e­la­tion and had a pro­found ef­fect on me. Who will be in­ter­ested in my yel­low­ing col­lec­tion of fas­ci­nat­ing news­pa­per ar­ti­cles or want my 1980s ball gowns, and who will covet my Union Jack drinks tray? I am not sure I like the an­swers. These pos­ses­sions are mean­ing­ful to me alone and I have only just re­alised this.

Enough al­ready of buy­ing stuff; I now wish to head into my dotage clut­ter-free. I fully in­tend to live for 100 years, a spritely, skinny, ac­tive old thing, and so have around 45 years for my plan to come to fruition.

There will be no ex­plo­sive purge but slowly, like sand seep­ing from a pocket, I will dis­card my pos­ses­sions un­til I am left with only the prover­bial shirt on my back and with my cup­boards emp­tier than Old Mother Hub­bard’s.

Thus, when it comes time for my chil­dren to empty my home, it will al­ready have been done for them and they will be saved the emo­tional bur­den of what to do with all Mum’s stuff. Like a re­lay ba­ton, all heir­looms will al­ready have been passed to the next gen­er­a­tion.

This plan pleases me enor­mously. My mem­o­ries re­side in the cells of my heart, not in the clut­ter that has filled my daily ex­is­tence. I know I will never need an­other un­used kitchen gadget. I have pa­per­work go­ing back to the 90s that is now des­tined for the shred­der.

My pas­sion for cush­ions and padded coathang­ers will cease forth­with. I can­not wait to clear my life. But rather than it be­ing empty I am con­fi­dent it will be brim­ful, over­flow­ing with loved ones, lit with all the plea­sure and pain of a good life well-lived. The only pos­ses­sions re­main­ing will ooze prac­ti­cal­ity.

I will cer­e­mo­ni­ally be­gin this process by pulling the plug on the full-size in­flat­able Dalek, a char­ac­ter from Doc­tor Who, that has been sit­ting in our hall­way for more than a decade. (Now you be­gin to un­der­stand the full ex­tent of my stuff.)

I men­tioned my plan to a work col­league; she said noth­ing but her eyes screamed “bonkers”. My chil­dren didn’t lis­ten, al­ready know­ing I am bonkers, but my friend un­der­stood.

And when I have fin­ished with my pos­ses­sions I will start on my hus­band’s. His col­lec­tion of empty wine bot­tles is firmly in my sights. But I haven’t told him yet.

wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity.Send emails to Aus­tralia’s Melville Is­land lies clos­est to which Aus­tralian cap­i­tal city? In 2002, who be­came the first Aus­tralian ar­chi­tect to win the Pritzker Prize? Which one of the B vi­ta­mins is also known as niacin? How many daugh­ters does Mrs Ben­net have in the novel Who won the most re­cent sea­son of

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