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This Unencumbered Life

THEY say divorce and losing your job are way up there on the top-10 stress list. Dealing with a deceased estate doesn't get a mention, but believe me, it should.

In the process of finalising my mother's estate, apart from the sense of sadness and loss, I found myself overwhelmed by practical issues as well as reflecting on a lifetime spent accumulating possessions that, in the end, are only encumbrances.

I contact several second-hand dealers and am quoted a few hundred dollars for some of the furniture. Nobody seems to want the whole lot. One group that claims to be the biggest second-hand dealer in Melbourne actually offers me a considerable amount to clear the entire house (rubbish and all) but then wants to charge a removal fee that almost equals the sum they had offered. I'm still shaking my head over that. But it has been educational. I have discovered a shady world in second-hand business that smacks of profiteering and exploitation. But I don't have the energy to question, and decide to donate most of the furniture and household contents to a charity. It will require less energy on my part and will hopefully be appreciated by someone in need. It is then I discover charities only take things with a resale value. It seems I can't even give things away.

Time is running out and I am forced to call in the rubbish removalists. They are less discerning and take just about everything; some to be recycled and some destined for the tip. At this stage I have no time to quibble over what is valuable and what isn't.

After the initial sense of loss that comes with the sale of the family home, practicalities take over. There is little time for sentimentality as settlement creeps closer.

The sense of burden becomes almost oppressive but I have decided to be ruthless and to keep only what I can easily fit into a box. I remember hearing an interview with an artist who had divested herself of all her possessions and kept only a few photos and mementos, stored in a small box. She was asked how she had achieved this and where her home was. Her response, baffling at the time, was: " Home is where I am." Suddenly, this makes a lot of sense.

The process of letting things go has been therapeutic but not easy. I realise that one day it will be my life that is assessed and reduced to "keep" and "throw away" piles. I also realise that to cling to objects is, in the end, pretty meaningless. As I walk through the empty rooms I feel liberated. Even though I know how important this house and its contents were to my parents, I also know that material possessions matter little. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of being able to fit all my possessions in one box and go through life unencumbered by material things. After all, in the end a box is all we need.

By Ida de Pastena

Source: The Australian

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