Sorting Things Out by Angela Caldin


We’re hoping to move house soon. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But behind that straightforward

statement lurks a disturbing state of emotional as well as physical upheaval. I’ve heard it said that

moving house ranks with death and divorce as one of the most stressful events in life, and while I

think that there must be many worse things than moving, such as serious illness or loss of a job, I can

bear witness to the fact that the whole procedure is causing me much angst and turmoil.

Difficult Decisions

We haven’t exchanged contracts yet so we’re still in that state of agonised suspension where

anything might happen to derail the whole procedure and send us unceremoniously back to square

one. However, we are not only moving, we are downsizing, so we must use the time to sift through

30 years of accumulated possessions in order to decide which ones will make the journey to the

promised land of our new two-bedroom flat.

It seemed a good idea to start with the books because there were thousands of them, accumulated

over the years throughout the assorted careers of three children as well as after the deaths of

various family members whose collections we had inherited, not to mention books to which we

ourselves had taken a fancy. Many of these books we had never even opened, but we’d nonetheless

found it comforting to keep them against the day when we’d suddenly feel impelled to read them.

Now the crunch had come and after four journeys to the local Oxfam bookshop with car loads of

dusty books with yellowing pages, we have finally managed to corral the remainder into one room;

but there are still far too many and it’s clear that another cull will be necessary.


The next target was the numerous files of papers relating to a lifetime of different jobs, financial

matters, children’s school books and reports as well as the loving and lovely letters that we all wrote

to each other once upon a time. I found my very first pay slip from my first proper job as a civil

servant which showed that I was paid £83 for the month of September 1970. In another drawer, I

came across a certificate presented to my youngest daughter when she came a stunning second in

the egg and spoon race at her primary school and which I had proudly put in a golden frame. The

problem is that looking at these relics of the past propels the person sorting them into a nostalgic

emotional journey. One flimsy piece of paper can evoke a whole era of one’s life so that all sorts of

unbidden memories and feelings come flooding in.

Finding a Good Home

Then it was on to the vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs. Nobody has any use for audio and video

tapes these days, so we were off on yet another journey to the local tip with them. We did better

with our LPs and CDs though: we took them to a shop called The Music Exchange in Notting Hill Gate

and came out £59 the richer. I’m particularly pleased about the final destination of my much loved

Dansette record player which was a trusted companion throughout the 1960s and 70s – you could

balance up to eight records on its mechanism and they would drop down one by one to play the

Beatles and the Four Seasons and other cherished classics. I discovered that there’s a factory in

Rochdale which specialises in repairing and restoring these vintage Dansette record players and,

with the help of a friend who lives nearby, I’ve been able to donate mine to them for spare parts.


Despite all these valiant clearance activities, of which the above is but a small sample, the house

looks exactly the same. That’s because we haven’t started on the furniture yet, preferring to wait

until there is the certainty of exchange of contracts before calling in the auction room and the local

furniture project. We have lots of empty cupboards and drawers, but this hasn’t made any

difference to the general outward appearance of the rooms. Meanwhile we, the occupants of those

rooms, are emotionally wrung out and exhausted from endless journeys down memory lane and

worn out from countless trips to the local tip and the charity shop.

There must, I feel certain, be a lesson for future generations in here somewhere: first and foremost,

don’t, whatever you do, be a hoarder; you don’t need all this stuff; unload as you go along and live

gloriously uncluttered in the present.

7 Comments on “Sorting Things Out by Angela Caldin

  1. You have our sympathy and admiration. We have been in our house for 39 years and I know exactly what you mean – it takes forever to clear out a drawer or a box from the loft, because you become immersed in the ‘backstory’ of what you find and it is really hard to throw things out – I don’t try often enough! Good luck!

    • How lovely to have your comment together with your sympathy and encouragement. It has been a very long journey into the past, but at least, even if everything falls through, we will be wonderfully pared down.

  2. Uncluttered yes – but not without my books … :mrgreen:

    Lot’s of truth in your musings. Hopefully, everything smoothes out as intended and wished for.

    Greetings from the other side of the pond,
    Salva 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind thoughts, very welcome as always. I had no idea we had quite so many books and once you take them off the shelves, they seem to take over!

  3. Oh Angela, my sympathies too but I have to disagree with you. (Of course I know I’m just rather hopelessly defending my own status as a hoarder of ‘special’ things…) Those trips down memory lane indeed require some very intense emotional fortitude…. But wouldn’t you rather experience that than, say, to have forgotten completely that wonderful egg-and-spoon memory? Much love and fortitude to you on this journey. Keep smiling through the tears and just remember your new flat’s new drawers will also slowly fill with memories just like this house did… These are the ‘things that go to make up your life’ and you don’t really want it any other way! xo

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