This life to the next

Things, objects – why do we keep things?  Things that we don’t touch, or wear, or read or look at or even eat anymore. (go look in my fridge at the jars and see what I mean)

I am packing to leave on an unspecified date and in an, as yet, un arranged manner and it is dawning on me the magnitude of all of this.  Initially, packing is quite exciting – interesting even.  I open the kitchen cupboards, empty things out that have not seen the light of day in the 3 years that I have lived here, dutifully wash, dry, wrap and pack them in boxes that I have been collecting at a rate of two a day from the corner petrol station. I pack in a fine order to be opened up at the other end in an organised fashion.  The boxes grow like interior walls and building blocks under other things – like tables and the bed and I begin to drown. 

Reality of the movement of all of these neatly packed things is brought to a very sharp head when the removal company from Shetland call to say that I have too much stuff for one van and I will need two. The weight is too much and the size is too much – they want to see a video of all the stuff.  A whatsapp video call is dutifully planned and I look around.  It is dawning on me that it might be an idea to burn it all – all this stuff and be free.  The boxes that are packed have things that I might need – a solid frying pan for that camp fire I might have, beautiful embroidered sheets for that guest I might have, my four vases for the flowers I might pick – it goes on and on for things that may never happen and it dawns on me that I am moving things, at great expense, to another place that is tiny where I want to be free. There is an internal argument for keeping these things because replacing them is expensive, they have a history with me, they are good quality – the argument goes on and on but comes to a wonderful crescendo whilst washing a tiny cut glass trinket thing with a battered silver lid with ancient patina going back to Victorian times.  It’s washed, placed onto the drainer but slips gracefully and almost in full technicolour slow motion on to the Portuguese tiled floor and smashes into shards and chunks. Immediately, it’s rendered useless.  It’s neither aesthetically pleasing nor valuable.  It’s gone. And with that simple result I feel nothing and it is let go.  This thing goes in to the bin.

I’ve left previous lives with a few bags and boxes. I’ve travelled to China with a back pack and bag with wheels on. Always, I was starting again and it always felt liberating – cathartic even.

So, when I get time, I will unpack and remove things. Because none of this can come back from that island and no one will want it which brings to mind all of the derelict abandoned croft houses I have been in across Shetland – some containing household objects of the previous occupants; china cabinets with their tea sets all toppled over in dust.  They couldn’t take it with them – wherever they went and no one else took it.  

And, in my case, why would I cover a Shetland life with an English one?

Author: traceydoxeydesigns

Site specific Artist using own created textiles, laser cuts and hand block printed wallpaper to engage with narratives of landscapes, social history and place.

4 thoughts on “This life to the next”

  1. I like you am visual person who likes looking and using beautiful things. 17 years ago I moved from a four bed semi-detached house to a small two bed ground floor flat beside the sea. Progressively I have been letting more and more stuff go. Flylady helped me on my way, then Maria kondo. All the time feeling lighter and calmer. Don’t keep stuff that makes you feel guilty, unfinished projects, things for your fantasy self, I decided to pick a couple of things, sewing and knitting. Keep what I needed and let the rest go. When my parents passed, I kept their wedding photo, two mugs I had bought her, and her tea pot. We use the mugs and pot every day. If the teapot breaks I will replace it with something nice that works. I have in my house now things that mean something to me but more importantly space for me to move forward. You won’t regret it, not really, things are just that, things.


    1. thanks, I have long known that things are things and everything I have has a story and I use. it’s just the boxes of kitchen stuff and papers from previous sales and things like that and art stuff and yarn and it’s quite endless.


  2. Ah, the problems of what to take and what to leave. Have you thought about renting a storage space in Sheffield, or near one of your children and leaving the stuff you don’t ‘need’ there? If you really need it, it could be posted to you, or retrieved on trips to the mainland. If in a year or two you still don’t ‘need’ it, get rid of it then. I’m just thinking that buying replacements once you’re in Shetland is going to incur expensive delivery charges. Or, as you say, you can go for the stripped down, baggage-free minimalist approach, which does sound appealing.


  3. Love the whole idea about burning everything. Get a second truck, the stories are priceless. You could always do a walk out job. I really hope you write the book that is inside you.


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