I started the new year by listening to an audio recording of my favorite of Jane Austen’s novels, Persuasion. The story begins, as many of her novels do, with an estate entailed away from the daughters of the current holder. The twist here is that the estate is held by Sir Walter Eliot, a baronet who is, I believe, the most aristocratic of Austen’s parents; he is also tremendously vain and awful with his money, so awful that the first portion of the book is dedicated to working out a scheme by which he can move out of the family home and into smaller digs with no loss of dignity because…well, because he can’t bear the thought of staying in his home with none of the “comforts of life” (like multiple carriages and ice in summer, I suppose). He and his daughters leave the house for Bath, where they can live cheaply while still maintaining their social standing. They let the house to an Admiral, and then there’s a love story that’s awesome and all the usual Jane Austen trappings.
I write the above as a way of saying I’ve been thinking a great deal about the Eliots, particularly Anne, the subject of this particular narrative. I began the new year with a burning desire to slough off the unecessary weight in my life. The largest burden? A rented house far too large for my patience, sanity, and budget. After my husband and I split up, I stayed here for continuity–for my son–but it’s been a year and my pocketbook can no longer take the strain.
But could I retrench? I thought of Sir Walter often, of the sorts of social expectations that encourage us to maintain lifestyles for which we are not necessarily suited at various points in our lives. As I sat on one of three couches in my house and watched a show on one of three televisions, I looked around the room and realized that I hadn’t touched anything in at least 5 of the 8 rooms in my house for a month. The dining room had been unused for at least 180 days. My home office housed an unpassable mountain of boxes. Each of these rooms was packed with stuff, stuff that I was paying to store in this enormous space. That’s when the weight felt heaviest. That’s when I knew I had to get out.
And so I’m out. A dear friend had a spare room and bath, and I took her up on the offer to stay. I put the essentials of starting my next solo household into storage and purged a great deal of excess. There’s still a great deal more to sift and sort, and I’m finding that task easier and easier with each item I release.
Will this end well? Who knows? I can only say that I’m tremendously grateful to my friend and I’m entirely loving the freedom of smallness. More to come…