If you have a spare few minutes, one afternoon, you might watch “Escape to the Country”; the most frequently used word in that programme is ‘downsizing’. This is about people who say they want to reduce the size of their home and move to the country. The programme is based a round some kind of romantic dream that people have, of moving to the country. As soon as people start looking at properties, the reality strikes home and people start adding “I want a larger kitchen”, “We need four bedrooms”, “I plan to keep horses”. The reality is that you have to think through what ‘downsizing’ means to you, because it is not a term with a universal meaning; ‘downsizing’ means different things to different people.
At my age, ‘downsizing’ for me means (a) a smaller garden to manage, somewhere to grow a few vegetables but not have a vegetable garden (b) a single storey dwelling, could be a flat, could be a bungalow but if it is a flat, and not a flat on the ground floor, there must be a lift (c) a smaller amount of rooms to clean and maintain and finally (d) a reduced amount of ‘things’; things you don’t need; things you have just stored away because you have the space to do so; things that you have lost interest in; things that you have forgotten you still have. For me, the process of ‘downsizing’ has to take place over a period of time; if you are going to clear the unwanted goods, this has to be done systematically, thoughtfully and with reason. If not done this way, ‘downsizing’ will just be one big regret, wishing you had done things differently and bringing on a sense of loss. Doing ‘downsizing’ properly means that you do not leave others to go through this process on your behalf, when you are unable to do it for yourself.
The bottom line for me is that (a) I take all my tea towels (b) ‘downsizing’ will not be an end to collecting tea towels (c) I need my two cats; after that, it is about sorting, clearing, giving away things. I do not currently have anything in the loft and, if I moved, I would not want to resort to the loft as a storage area. I am seriously thinking about ‘downsizing’; I have already gone through all my wardrobes, drawers and cupboards. Let’s face it, why would I keep five skirts that I have not worn for over 10 years, and have no intention of wearing again; the answer is, ‘because I have the space to do so’. The charity shop benefitted from 15 bags of clothes and miscellaneous items. Books are more difficult. I read, always have read, but in the last four years, I have only read on a Kindle. Holding, and propping up, heavy books does not making reading a pleasure any more. So why do I need so many books? There are some books that have sentimental value, a few ‘coffee table’ books, history and geography books, but after that there is about 1000 books that I have no need of; so that is my next task. Then there are the photos: photos in albums, photos in wallets from Boots, slides (with no slide projector), cine films (with no cine projector), photos flung in the odd box, photos in the drawer of sentimental items, photos in a scrap book (actually ten scrap books), photos inherited from my parents and John (mainly of people that I don’t know). In this digital age, so much can be done with photos so they can be seen, looked at and enjoyed, rather than just cluttering up the place. One of the best gifts I have been given is a digital photo screen where you can load over 2000 photos that change every 20 seconds. Here I have an ever-changing image of photos of holidays and people; increase the digital memory, enjoy more photos. So there is another task.
These things give me targets to work to, but every time I embark upon the ‘downsizing’ process, the question of chickens springs to mind. As a toddler, I was looked after by Mr and Mrs Wright who kept chickens. Chickens were there as part of my very early childhood (that is until Mr Wright wrung a chicken’s neck in front of me and my mother decided that these were unsuitable people to look after me). For the last 13 years, I have kept chickens, not fancy feather-footed hens but layers, sometimes ex-batts, sometimes from a poultry breeder. Not only have they offered me a constant source of eggs but also company. Chickens like human company; they are good to talk to at times of stress or when you want advice (they aren’t so good giving advice but they are good listeners). How would I cope without chickens? If I lived in a small bungalow, with a small garden then I could ‘downsize’ on the number of chickens I kept; that cuts out a first floor flat! ‘Downsizing’ is about prioritising and chickens are a priority!
The Emma Bridgewater tea towel, at the top of the blog, sums up how I feel about chickens. I love the way she draws chickens; she is able to capture their quirkiness, their differences. When I use this tea towel, I remember the shop where I bought it, in the middle of Ross-on-Wye, a delightful town and it does keep my focus on the process, importance and priorities of ‘downsizing’. You will note there is a second tea towel on the subject of chickens. I bought that one in Lavenham, where there was a great tea room serving loose leaf tea. Beyond that, I assume I bought it because it was chickens and I like chickens. That, too, was in 2010. It could probably be regarded as a bit excessive buying it but I like a good tea towel with a chicken or two and let’s face it, I know there are more to come as they rise to the top of the airing cupboard pile!
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