You’ll need to do some serious decluttering!” Huh! I was seriously offended. I’d invited Pádraig the estate agent in to give us advice on how to sell the house quickly and get a good price. I thought he’d tell us to paint the bathroom, weed the garden and bake some bread every time there was a viewing.
But he basically said, “Get rid of half this stuff!” Furniture, books, ornaments, kitchen equipment. I never thought we had that much - most of our friends have a lot more than us!
But not much sense in looking for advice and then ignoring it. So we “de-stuffed”! It took a while and it was hard work but, lo and behold, it felt good! We felt lighter, easier; the house was less crowded. It felt like we’d both shed a few pounds or even a few years.
On top of that, we sold the house in four weeks and got the price we had asked for. And that was before the market had started to pick up.
I was reminded of that this week when I got a letter from a pension fund. It’s an old one - linked to a job I left aeons ago. It’s in trouble - the fund I mean. Isn’t every pension fund? Or maybe they’re not any more - I honestly don’t know. But at least this one is. The result is lots of forms to fill, convoluted terminology to decipher and decisions to be made.
Now, whatever message you take from my little mugshot on this page, the reality is that retirement is still a good bit away for me. There’s plenty of time for an economic crash or two between now and then. And yet, I have to make decisions based on how I think things are going to be when I reach that far off day.
So the lesson of the de-stuffing came back to me. Travelling light has a lot going for it. And the closer you get to your destination, the less you need for the journey. So if like me, you’re nearer the end than the beginning then maybe it’s time to lighten the load - those books you’ll never read, the clothes you’ll never wear again - even that money you’ll never spend - you can give that to my old pension fund!
And even if “over the hill” is still some way in the future, it might still be worth considering two pieces of wisdom from the sage who is still consulted more than any other on the global stage - the carpenter from Nazareth.
He said: “Life’s not defined by what you have.” He also issued the invitation to travel with him and, “You’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” I want to live freely and lightly. You travel better when you travel light. Life’s too short to live any other way.
If you ever tackle the ancient pilgrim route of the Camino de Santiago from the traditional starting point of St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees then you’ll find a little centre where gracious volunteers provide you with maps, encouragement and some tips for the journey. They’ll also offer to weigh your rucksack for you and, if there’s too much stuff, they’ll tell you how to post some of it straight to Santiago.
“You won’t need it on the road,” they tell you, “and carrying that weight will give you blisters on your feet and a pain in your back.” Wise words. Lighten up. The journey matters too much not to. There are still places available on the Nazarene’s de-stuffing course.