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I’ve been itching to get back to writing here – so many things I’ve wanted to share about the past month’s serious sorting. And I do mean serious. Dozens of bags and boxes from the past – all stored in my sister’s attic, untouched for the past eight to nine years. My sister’s impending house move has forced me to make decisions about a) which items I’d like to keep from the numerous boxes of clothes, books, ceramics, etc and b) whether I have sufficient space to store them.

I’ve collected a considerable amount of stuff in my life – there is no escaping that fact. At times it’s felt like a burden, weighing me down and making me feel completely stuck. But at the back of my mind, I’ve known that there would come a day when I would need (and feel ready) to face the sheer volume of accumulated stuff – head on. Perhaps that time is now. Certainly, I’ve made the decision to fully embrace my collections – to accept the enormity of them rather than remain shy of admitting to the sheer volume of them and to stop skulking around, feeling guilty and embarrassed about them.

Sorting through this latest batch of stuff has been an emotionally as well as physically demanding time, though I’ve managed to stop myself feeling quite so overwhelmed this time round; experience has taught me that a measured and positive approach to the whole process of sorting is more beneficial. An acceptance, too that any kind of delving into the past has the potential for bringing up a whole range of emotions, not all of them welcomed – the losses, regrets, the inevitability of ageing and the passing of time and so on. Being prepared helps, to some extent.

With this shift in my thinking, I’ve started to enjoy the whole process more; to view the sifting and sorting as less of a necessary evil and more like a useful and worthwhile task in relation to my creative work – these things after all, provide the raw material for the art I make.

I’ve had moments of feeling excited about reconnecting with some of the things in my sister’s attic – books, for example, that I remember reading to my sons included a 1960s Deans fairy tale book of my own – classic, familiar tales, beautifully illustrated. In the knowledge that I can’t keep everything, I showed my now grown-up sons the book, eager to know how many of the tales they remembered. Rapunzel? Hansel and Gretel? The Princess and the Pea? Sleeping Beauty? Their reaction was matter-of-fact – they remembered some of them, but it wasn’t the momentous response that I’d thought (hoped?) it might have been. While it meant so much more to me, to them it was just a book from their past. And hard though it is, through accepting this, I’ve been able to let go of the book. It indicates a shift in my thinking – I can’t (and neither do I want) to keep everything.

But like all good fairy tales, there’s often a darker undercurrent at work and as well as joyful reunions, I’ve also had moments of feeling totally churned up about reconnecting with some of the items from my past. There’s a sad and upsetting story behind the 1980s salmon pink, silk dress I refound, for example – the emotional impact of finding it again took me quite by surprise. It’s a story I might decide to share here one of these days but for now, despite the years that have passed, it all feels too raw and in need of some careful processing. I know I don’t want the dress, but what I do with it is another matter. My strong feelings about it will no doubt subside, but my gut feeling at this moment in time, is that I’m just not able to throw it away – that it requires some sort of proper, significant letting go ceremony, whether real or symbolic. Feelings change by the day of course, so I’ll see how it all unfolds.

About a dozen more boxes and bags in the attic to sort through in the meantime – and then the joys of getting back into the studio and focusing on new work that has stemmed from this whole sorting process. I can’t wait.