Thursday, July 23, 2020

Downsizing – or the benefit of relatives

Stanley - Thursday

I recently started moving into my newly renovated flat, which is 105 sq. m. compared to the original 270 sq. m. For those with curious minds, Mette and I owned a 270 sq. m. flat on two levels. With a little sleight of hand, we divided it into two – one upstairs, one downstairs – and were then fortunate to sell the top half. That left us with the lower level of about 101 sq. m., one garage instead of two, and one storeroom instead of two. I then bought Mette’s share and renovated the lower apartment, adding a small second bedroom, extending the living-room area by 4 sq. m. and installing two sets of folding doors that open onto the patio overlooking Table Bay.

New folding doors
The new reading corner
Unfortunately, the renovation was two weeks from completion when South Africa’s lock down was put in place near the end of March. So I had to continue renting a neighbour’s flat until the middle of June. With the easing of the lock down, work continued and three weeks ago, my flat was finished.

That meant I had to cull the STUFF of my past because I made a decision I wasn’t going to put anything into off-site storage. So everything faced a keep-or-go decision. For most larger items, such as spare beds, and so on, decisions were easy. Go! It took me a long time to decide on the second sofa. I needed to keep it to for when guests came over. I needed to get rid of it because there wasn’t enough room for two sofas and a dining room table. Eventually, it made the Go list.

I had to decide what to do with my parents’ lovely round wooden table, or their glass-topped half table or their set of three stackable side tables. I wanted to keep all of them, but didn’t have room for any.

It was the smaller STUFF that was difficult and time-consuming. STUFF like my grandfather’s cigarette case or my high school first XI cricket cap or my father’s First-Hole-in-One-at-the-Wanderers Club trophy.

Silver cigarette case
First XI cricket cap
I have this habit of acquiring works of art, both two- and three-dimensional. Where to put them – obviously I had far less wall space. And some of them are very large. I’ve more or less sorted out the two-dimensional STUFF, but have made little progress on the three-dimensional objects.

Bushman art work

Sudanese grave marker (how did it get to South Africa?)
Heave ebony spirit sculpture - Mkonde tribe, Tanzania

Some detail from the sculpture
Meerkats, seed-pod birds, and a kubu. In front of another Bushman painting.
And then there are the books. Finding space for them was difficult, but getting rid of them would be painful. And the libraries are closed, so I couldn’t drop them off there for them to keep or sell. So I found some nooks and crannies that could be used both as bookshelves and places for sculptures.

Bookcase just fitted inside door
And so on. All very painful and sometimes wrenching.

Then I started feeling overwhelmed by the thought of getting rid of the stuff on the Go list. Who would take an old refrigerator? Or old wooden tables? Or a box of classical CDs? Extra pillows and bed linens? And DVDs?

My parents had a soda-water maker that used carbon dioxide cartridges. Unfortunately they don’t fit any of the current devices. So how do I get rid of them? If they land up in a fire, they could explode. I know they can explode because when we were kids, my brother and I would take a used one, fill it with the material from match heads, insert a fuse, light it and run. It exploded. When we found a waterproof fuse, we did the same thing and dropped the bomb in a 44-gallon barrel half full of water. The blast ruptured the barrel! In a larger format, I believe it is called a depth charge.

The deadly canisters
It didn’t take long to find a way to get rid of all of the STUFF, except for the carbon-dioxide canisters. My nephew, who lives a few hours away, was offered all of the STUFF on an all-or-none basis, with the exception of the box of CDs and an electronic muscle massager that had to be shipped to my niece in Durban. The offer was accepted, and I’m pleased to report that he now has the decision of what to do with the STUFF.

Even I didn’t have the heart to include in the STUFF, a box of VHS tapes including, inter alia, All Quiet on the Western Front, Jack Nicklaus’s Golf my Way, and The loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.

VHS tapes

So I am open to suggestions on how to dispose of the canisters and the video tapes.


  1. Oh, boy! I don't envy you. I think I may never move from where I live now just because when I think of the effort of sorting stuff and throwing away, I get exhausted just at the thought. Your art works are pretty amazing, I must say.

  2. I agree with Kwei on your artwork. I also must say you're a better man than I am Gunga-Stan. It seems that wherever we live there's no room left. And that takes into account a barn and stables filled with "things." I promised myself (promoted by Barbara) that I'd do what you're doing while we ride out the plague. So far all I've done is reshuffle some deck chairs from one location to another. And oh yes, then there's that off site storage location. ARGH. Do you do interventions?

  3. Yes, love the artwork. Hope you keep it all.

    And book, that is very hard. I've given books to the library and have some boxes packed, but nowhere to take them in this pandemic. And no one to take them either.

    I can't part with books that belonged to relatives or close friends or gifts. So I have works by Plato and Aristotle, which were my father's, books on hiking and maps of hiking trails in New England which I inherited, cook books (?), books on art, my mother's, my old atlas from college and lot sof history books I won't read. They are on huge bookshelves with pottery and a go set (also inherited) interspersed. It's my museum.

    Did you keep any of your parent's furniture?
    Or the smaller items?

    It's so hard to part with sentimental things.
    Good luck.

    That view from the balcony is beautiful.