Posted on 31 Comments

Getting Ready to Move

Getting Ready to Move

I like this painting. I  find it very calming. I especially like the clouds. I also like the emptiness of the beach. That is something I aspire to in my home.

View from Dunmore Strand (Donegal)
View from Dunmore Strand (Donegal)

This painting is actually wraped in bubblewrap in in the upstairs hallway. It had been hanging in our bedroom with three others for a couple of weeks. They had been refugees. They were evacuated from my attic studio because I had needed to paint the ceiling.  I have since painted the bedroom wall. I still have the floor to finish.

Almost painted!
Almost painted!

All of my other paintings are wrapped in bubblewrap and stored elsewhere.  We are in the midsts of packing up and redecorating the house to put it on the market and move to Ireland. It is a mammoth task. The more we do the more it seems to grow.  We are at the wall-papering-and-painting-floors stage. I say “we” but  I should say “he”. My husband, Séamas, has done 98%  of it.  He has spent months and months working at it. I have been putting stuff in boxes and labelling them. I have only recently started helping with the decorating. It is exhausting. I wake up every morning and think, “I am so tired”. It has taken me weeks but I am 80% there. Unfortuantely, I feel like I have been 80% there for several weeks now. I once read somewhere that you should start packing a month before you intend to move. I have been doing this for at least three!

I initially spent months trying to pretend it was not happening because I found the thought of it too stressful. I am not alone, many people (only 40% amazingly)  say that moving house is more stressful than going through a divorce and most people (60%)  say they are put off moving because of the change involved. That’s me.

I have been getting rid of stuff for well over a year and a half now. I started with selling my surf boards on ebay then my old academic books on Amazon, but the pandemic put a stop to that. I have been getting rid of other stuff lately; clothes, china, novels, picture frames. I have found it utterly exhausting and it provokes all sorts of emotions, not all of them pleasant. There is a wierd sort of grieving in throwing things out.

A visit to the Council Dump (sorry, Recycling Centre) is one of my favourite things to do. It takes so much emotional and physical energy to get stuff there, it’s a joy to come home without it. There has been the occasional jumper or pair of shoes that I decided to keep or put on ebay rather than send to a charity shop, but mostly it’s gone. I cant believe how much stuff I still have. It’s like a bottomless pit. Everytime I think I am getting there I open another cupboard or wardrobe and find more! Our house certainly has a lot of storage space.

This process has been like shedding many “skins” that I inhabited in the past.  One skin has been the academic books from when I was a lecturer and researcher in Medieval History. Another were the “tidy” clothes and lots of History books and DVDs, from when I was a school teacher.  I threw out a lot of running gear. I have accepted that after breaking my leg so badly that I will never pound the streets for exercise again. So the boots and shoes with anything but the flatest of heels went for the same reason.  I also finally admitted to myself that I will never go back into the classroom as a teacher. It has been 4 years now. Who am I kidding? I didn’t renew my teacher’s licence this year. What a relief. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was sent a renewal notice. Never mind. It amounts to the same thing.

This has made me see how we gather “stuff” around us. I think I do it to give myself a sense of security and identity.  Maybe this is because I moved house a lot as a child. I lived in 5 houses in three different parts of the country and went to 7 different schools before I was aged 11.  Apparently,  moving house when you are a child isn’t terribly good for you. Setting off for university, my father had to tell me to decant part of my record collection because there just wasn’t enough space in his car for my stuff and us! He had to bring it all back at the end of term too! As an adult I have lived in three different cities; Cardiff, London and Swansea. We have been in Swansea for 21 years. I have gathered a lot of “moss” that time. Séamas has also gathered a fair bit of DIY stuff,  those sealing guns in particular (see illustration).

Sealing/Caulking Gun
Sealing/Caulking Gun

I don’t know where I get my hoarding from. Not my mother that’s for sure. She has been doing her version of Swedish Death Cleaning for years. “Welsh Death Cleaning”, you could call it. It is a sort of a minimalism for older people. She very disciplined about clearing stuff out so that she can either a) move smaller one day or b) so we don’t have to do this when she is no longer with us.  No object or piece of clothing stays in my parents home for very long if a) it is no longer worn on a regular basis b) regularly used or c) very decorative. Otherwise, off it goes to the local charity shop. Many years ago, when my sister moved to London “temporarily” to do an MA at the Royal College of Art, she left her old Morris Minor car at my parent’s house . After a few years, when it was it clear that she wasn’t moving back home, my mother sold the car. She gave the money to my sister.  Jane is still a bit mifted about it. If you left to her it would still be in the drive! I guess all that moving house over the years taught my mother discipline.

When we bought this house over 20 years ago, I declared I was never going to move house again. My mother said that’s what women say after giving birth, but most of them go on to have more children! Yes, life has a way of making you eat your words. Here I am preparing to move house.

My tendancy to gather of stuff accelerated after I had my breakdown. I once tried to do the Marie Kondo thing (in fact I found a few rolled up in my airing cupboard Maire Kondo-style) but I got overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep it up. I lacked the energy to do anything much, let alone decide what to chuck out and then do it. It is a form of hoarding.  Yes, it’s an ugly word.  I am not as bad as those poor souls they make TV programmes on Channel 5 about, yet. I am still somewhere on that unpleasant spectrum. It’s a sort of compulsion. I can’t let go. Breaking my leg, didn’t help either. When everyone else was decluttering in the early days of the first lockdown, I was confined to the bedroom! Then, when I was ready to get rid of stuff, all the non-essential charity shops were shut! For months.

The strange thing is that once I have cleared space, I can see and appreciate what I have choosen to keep better. I now look at stuff and think, do I really need that? I go back to the packed boxes and take things out; thinking: why did I pack that? It’s like the ebb and flow of the sea. I clear out stuff, feel some satisfaction and then I find more stuff and have to go through the process all over again.  The other side of the coin is that twice yesterday, I went to find something, only to realised that I had chucked it out!

I need to be tougher and get rid of more stuff. I follow “Be more with Less” decluttering account on Instagram in the hope that some of the inspirational quotes will sink in. I know I have a long, long way to go.  The only “skin” I want now is that of an artist and blogger. I don’t kid myself that I won’t buy more stuff in the future, but I hope I will be better at shedding it more regularly. I will be following my mother’s example! She’ll laugh at that!

Here’s another of my recent paintings, it was also hanging in the bedroom.

Painting of Three Chimneys Arch, Gower
Three Chimneys Arch, Gower

31 thoughts on “Getting Ready to Move

  1. Good luck with the move and the decluttering and the packing. I imagine that by the day of completion you’ll feel light as a feather. Getting rid of stuff can be hard because of all the emotions involved. I really like your metaphor of shedding skins. I have many skins to shed too but there is comfort in hanging on to the people we once were. Even if we don’t want to be them again. Hang on in there – as we used to say.

    1. I had a moment last week where I thought I could see the bottom of the bottomless pit but it didn’t last! Another stash of stuff stored in a cupboard was found. The problem is that I need to clear stuff to sort through the next lot of stuff. I also have a thought that there’s one more wardrobe with a couple of bags of stuff I have’t got to. The back garden is full of stuff waiting to go the the dump. We have to book a slot and pack the car (quite a few more times).

  2. Think of it as passing your things onto other people who can find use for them. Don’t throw anything out,just pass it on.
    Good luck in Ireland!

    1. Thank you, Wayne. Yes I am trying to pass on as much stuff as possible via the charity shops. they only let you drop of three bags at a time so I am a frequent visitor! It’s mostly going to an rescue animal shelter charity so I take great pleasure in that.

      1. So after you get to Ireland,…… remember this one word………Spartan.

      2. Lol! I will try. I think my husband will chant it like a mantra at me!

      3. do you have “Garage Sales” over there?

      4. Yes but we dont have the space in front of our terrace house (we are right on the street) for a yard sale and I am not letting people through the house in a pandemic. In ordinary times, it would have been a good idea.

      5. I see,sticky wicket.

  3. I like your new painting! By the way, they say that moving three times is like having a fire, but we have moved three times and have more stuff now than before, especially books.

    1. Lol!! The books I can forgive. I have had loads and passed on loads. I know I will acquire more again but they are like tickets to another world. It’s the old curtains, DIY stuff, old handbags, clothes are are just a bit too tight etc! Things I think I sorted through only to find them in a shed and I have to think about them all over again. A fire sounds tempting at this stage!!

  4. Moving is up there with death and divorce in terms of stress but it is a great way to get rid of “stuff”. My husband is a hoarder and we have nofbmoved for 20 years so hisnhoard in the basement is significant. All thenbest for your move. Where will you be going to in Eire?

    1. Donegal. Everything seems to be going wrong at the moment so its super stressful and we are both exhausted! There’s probably a link there!

      1. Oh dear. Well do what you can and I hope things will sort out better going forward. Ans if they don’t maybe it means it will not happen right away.

      2. nobody has fond memories of moving, which is why nobody likes to move.
        This is the last move you will ever make Emma…………as it could kill you~
        A year from now you’ll be so happy and painting like Van Gogh!
        ………who is your artist of choice out of curiosity?

      3. Yes, you are right. No one has fond memories of moving – just sad stories. Oh, no, I dont believe this will be my last ever move (although it could be). I think it’s the downsizing that’s killing me. I have a lot of artists of choice, but today, I would probably go for David Hockney.

  5. My last two moves (11 years apart) let me get rid of a lot of stuff. I was fine till the pandemic pushed my guy to “camp out” at my place for the duration. His place has always been somewhat overstuffed and now it somehow has migrated here. The crux of the matter is that I can’t just go through the extra stuff and pitch it because it’s not mine to pitch. My latest tactic has been to create an “I don’t know what to do with this” box and just stuff it with all the scattered detritus I find lying about the house. The guy promises regularly to sort through it but right now it’s serving as a cat bed…😂

    1. Ah, yes that is a problem. It’s so much easier to chuck out someone else’s stuff and yet have to ask them first so that slows you down a lot. I like that you have “I dont know what to do with this” box, I am impressed it just one.

      1. 🤣🤣It isn’t just one, just the first of its kind. There is a bag of stuff in the closet, tons of shoes and other miscellaneous stuff under the bed, and a garage full of old bicycle and motorcycle tires and parts. Stuff that’s hard or expensive to recycle somehow ends up here because I have “room”.

  6. Oh Emma, keep going. I am in complete empathy with the issue of getting rid of stuff, I struggle and struggle and everytime I clear a space more stuff seems to fill it!

    I also love the shedding skins analogy, as I realise that I will no longer need all those craft supplies etc that I no longer have interest in. I cleared a lot of shoes too, too tight as my feet spread as I get older (eek).

    All the best for your fresh start in Donegal.

    1. Thank you for undersatnding Leonie. I have chucked so much stuff (still many trips to the dump to do) and packed so much but I look around the house and still see stuff that needs dealing with. It’s like a modern morality tale about (over) consumerism!

  7. I’ve moved more times than I can remember over my lifetime and most of them were not into a new good place, just another temporary one. Most of those moves were done mostly by me alone. Moving a lot makes you realize that you can’t hoard. Getting things is easier than getting rid of things! I am now a minimalist…! Good luck Emma, I know it’s a big job.

    1. I think that you must have become very “Zen” by now Pam. A painful but useful process. You can’t take it with you, afterall!

  8. Good luck with it all, I can sympathise having a LOT of stuff myself – books (of course), craft materials, clothes, etc etc. I am forever having good intentions to declutter – nah who am I kidding! But I think it is brave and cathartic to realise some of your old ‘skins’ can be let go and released. I have things, like undergraduate notes, that I know i don’t need, that I still feel a tug from when I try to get rid of them. I must try harder! Karen

    1. Dear Karen, It’s an unending nightmare.I am very familar with that “tug”. The other day I was struggling to gwt rid of a pair of walking trainers that were never that comfortable or stylish. What was I hanging on to them for? It was such a relief to put them in the “out” bag but now I have to take them somewhere. I find more and more “stuff” to deal with. To be honest a third of my remaining stuff is Art related – paints, canvases. I have done a lot of organising – putting materials in plastic boxes with clear lids (the ones you used to get a school, they come in all sorts of sizes and are loads better than the ones you buy in the shops). Emma xxx

  9. Happy moving! I better not say much more, my blog is not called Mexcessive for nothing. 😉 Suffice to say – I would struggle. Do NOT get rid of your art just for getting rid of stuff sake. But you know this. <3

    1. Thank you for your kind words, the art is sort of lean now. I destroyed a lot of stuff last year. In fact, that’s the healthiest part of my stuff. The problem is that I have “found homes” for many things in the past. I need to evict a lot of them now!

  10. Hi Emma, first of all – why in the world are you moving to Ireland? Do you have family/friends there? What’s your connection?
    We’re planning to move in about a year. The biggest reason is we’re living in a townhouse with lots of stairs (4 floors/45 steps). Lived here for the last 20 years, the longest ever in one place. I want a one level home! I’m 72 (husband is 63) and still in good shape, but have to think ahead. Reading about your move is daunting. Right now I can’t imagine having to pack up everything.
    Thank you very much for sharing your experience!
    I’m hoping you will share pictures of your new home!

    1. Hi Ursula, I too have a townhouse with 4 flights of stairs for the last 21 years and I am rather tired of losing things because they are 3 storeys away. although the house has an amazing view over the park. My husband is Irish and he is longing to return home. It’s been a difficult decision for me because I have family in England but Donegal is incredibly beautiful.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.