Beyond the wallpaper were an unimaginable number of ornaments and nick knacks, baskets of whatnots and piles of this and that covering every flat surface available. The abundance of clutter made the rooms look small and decidedly uninviting.
My daughter was unimpressed and a friend who came with us couldn’t comprehend why I thought it quaint. But I could see beyond the wallpaper and clutter … a cosy country cottage with cream walls; deep lounges and a warm fire alight under the elegant mantelpiece. My daughter eventually bought the house and turned it into a comfortable and delightful home.
The house began to whisper its story as we removed the wallpaper layer by layer, all 15 of them. Era after era unfolding beneath our fingertips, revealing the history of over 100 years.
Beneath all the layers we discovered the walls lined with newspaper and in one room the walls were nothing but hessian. The house is a precious piece of history, dating back to its beginnings as a railwayman’s cottage in 1892.
We could so easily have walked away, put off by the externals, unable to look beyond first impressions to see the gold underneath. I’ve done that more than once in my life, with people and with situations.
At the moment I’m de-cluttering and it’s struck me that these accumulations of a lifetime not only tell the story of the eras of my life, but they also have a lot to say about my priorities over the years. Things that seemed so important at some stage of my life I’m now quite happy to add to op-shop shelves. I’ve changed and my priorities have too. Age seems to have a way of skewing my focus to the importance of relationships over things and the present moment over worrying about the future.
But there are some things that still tug at my heart.
The postcards from the Cotswolds and the booklet about Queen Mary’s dollshouse we collected that time I got to experience Britain through the eyes of a seven and ten year old. There’s the box of cards and letters from my children and grandchildren … the Mother’s Day card they made in Sunday School and the squiggly picture of me they presented with such excitement. For me its not a box of cards and letters but a box chock full of love.
There’s the Bobs board and cue that has been a part of my family for three generations. It still echoes with shrieks of laughter and playful accusations of cheating back when families played together before the advent of screens.
How do I let them go, these priceless remnants of the past, like layers upon layers of wallpaper clinging to the walls of my life? Is this the last hard lesson in the school of life … letting go.
I suspect it might be the hardest lesson of all and maybe it takes a lifetime of learning before we can surrender, not only our possessions but our attachments.
I pack up many boxes for the Salvos and feel a wonderful freedom but the personal treasures remain for another day. Perhaps one day when I’m gone those treasures will whisper to my family about what was precious to me ... a celebration of moments and memories.