Friday, August 26, 2011

stuff and nonsense

I was reading Kate's blog post the other day about the deliberations of what to do with 'stuff' as you transition from one life to another and it reminded me of various moves in life but particularly as I packed up my life in Scotland and headed down under.

I too was putting stuff in storage, unsure as to when/whether I'd need it again and indeed how long I'd be gone for. I'm a few steps ahead of Kate now having got to the point of shifting all my stuff out of UK storage and shipping it firstly to a storage unit in Auckland and then to various rooms and the shed of the house I lived in for 4 years. However it is transition time again. Yet again the various boxes of possessions are being reassessed. In the interests of freeing up storage space, and indeed the spare bedroom, of a house I no longer live in I'm gradually moving my stuff a few bags and the occassional car load at a time to another house. However this house is full of yet more stuff! So I can only move my stuff in as we declutter the rest of the house to make room for it...

So decluttering and decisions of what to keep/store/take have been very much a part of my life again recently. Previous clear-outs have been bolstered by referring repeatedly to Karen Kingston's book 'Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui'. Regardless of your views on feng shui and its effectiveness I thoroughly recommend reading it if you are needing help clearing stuff out. She goes through all the arguements for keeping stuff and takes them apart piece by piece in a way that helps you let go gracefully of things and let them live a new meaningful life through whichever means of recycling you choose - regifting, donating to charity, recycling, composting etc. but also accepting that some things simply are rubbish and need to go...

This time I don't have a copy to hand, having leant mine out yet again (about my 4th or 5th copy as I keep donating it too!) so I'm having to rely on memory and the website for those tricky 'but I've kept it all these years, stored it and shipped it half way around the world - I can't throw it out now...' moments. Clearing out other people's stuff is sooo much easier as there just isn't that same level of sentimentality attached to things - is it useful? is it beautiful? do I/we/you need it? are criteria enough, especially now we've found that the museum will happily take things off our hands that fall into the 'but that's history, you can't throw that out!' category (which led to much rejoicing all round).

But there are still things, like my assorted good quality kitchen items that I've collected over the years, that fall into that no mans land of not being needed right now, but really are beyond my ability to replace with equivalent items should I find myself needing them again. Given the lack of permanence in my life that could be anything from a few months to a few years away - so back in the box they go, for now.

In general I've got used to living with owning less than most my age do, mainly from having lived in places full of stuff belonging to others for the last 6yrs. It is much easier to live simply with few possessions when someone else provides the white goods, the bed, the sofa etc etc etc! But one thing I have come to realise over a lot longer period of time is that when I've needed things they have usually turned up, as gifts, helping clear a house, as loans, as offers of places to live. So with that lesson behind me it is much easier to let go of stuff that would do far better being used by someone else than stuck in a box and/or being a millstone around my neck that makes being able to go where the spirit blows me next totally impractical.

So, I'll keep plodding through those boxes and cupboards of my stuff and see what still really does need kept and what I can finally accept is a nonsense to continue hanging on to. But I know it won't be easy, any more than it is for the space to be made for what is left over to migrate into.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

a proud proxy parent

I've been thinking for some time now that one of the unexpected spin offs of years of Quaker youthwork is the number of 'proud proxy-parent moments' that come along year after year. In many cases it is long after the YPs (young people - UK) or JYFs (Junior Young Friends - ANZ) have ceased to be teenagers. This week has been particularly exceptional.

On many occasions Facebook has been means by which I've heard of these events - be they climbing Kilimanjaro, running half/marathons or whatever and organising events to raise money for charity (often Cystic Fibrosis - the 'Anders effect' in action yet again!), standing up for those with little or no voice in society, amazing athletic achievements, voluntary work overseas, working in far flung places, making their way up the academia ladder, publishing books, writing and recording music... The list goes on and on and on.

Also I see them going back and being staff at the very events where I first met them, keeping the torch burning, inspiring further generations to 'be patterns, be examples' and walk/climb/swim/cycle/etc cheerfully over the world. I see them also going back to be speakers, I see them taking responsibilities within the Quaker world as well as the 'real world' out there.

It reminds me of the people who inspired me as a Quaker teenager, who made me want to be like them and come back as a 'stu hel', link group leader or staff - some of whom I still manage to connect with, again mostly through Facebook, and I really value having that connection still there. Which is why when I get a 'Facebook friend request' from any of the YPs from over the years I almost always accept. It certainly adds variety to my newsfeed it has to be said given their age range is mid teens to mid 30s!

But more importantly it reminds me that I am part of a continuum; that I've provided some of those 'proud proxy-parent moments' for others who did a pretty good job of training me up as a Quaker teenager/Young Friend and that whilst I am now old enough to be the real parent of any teens I work with, actually age doesn't really come into it - I still feel like a proud mum whether they are 35 or 15, and what's more I'll probably still be collecting Quaker 'children' for a good number of years to come.