Thursday, 12 March 2015

The accumulation of stuff

It should come as no surprise that after 40 years of immersing myself in natural history that I should accumulate a lot of 'stuff' because of it. This has been driven home to me over the past couple of days because I have been emptying various cupboard spaces and populating new book cases that we have had built to accommodate all the said 'stuff'. Two things - I already knew that this mountain of 'stuff' was getting out of hand and my denial that 95% of this stuff was mine (and not my wifes or two daughters) was getting more preposterous by the day.

So what is this stuff? To start with, over 350 books, all natural history themed (and let's not get started on the other non-themed books that I own and read). I did carry out a cull several years ago, but regretted it afterwards and vowed not to do it again. And then there are the annual reports and publications that I have been sent in lieu of being a member of numerous societies and clubs. They look nice all lined up on a book shelf, but 40 years multiplied by a dozen memberships makes almost 500 items (minimum)... needless to say, I've ditched most of this over the years, said goodbye to my British Birds, farewell to my Birding Worlds, adieu to my British Wildlifes - you get the picture. The only collections that I've kept intact are my Dungeness Bird Reports, London Bird Reports and Atropos. I cannot let them go, unlike the Kent, Sussex and Surrey Bird Reports. And then there are all of the newsletters and bulletins. I'm getting dizzy now...

Let us not forget 40 years of note taking. Field notebooks, the hard backed 'proper' logbooks where all of the field notes are written up neatly at then end of the day, the one-off trip reports, various lists, checklists, identification papers that have been photocopied (and all of this for birds, plants, moths, butterflies, dragonflies and anything else that can be considered a living entity). God help me, my family and the shelving in this house if I did start to collect all of the keys and publications needed to become a proficient insect botherer!

I'm now looking at a small collection of one-off items. Things like a pamphlet guide to Ben Lawers, illustrated booklets for the flora of Braunton Burrowes and Rye Harbour, a checklist of the moths of Sandwich Bay. Where do I put them? In the bin? In a box in the loft? On a shelf? Is there any room left on the shelves? Oh, and there is the small matter (well, not that small) of all of the CDs and DVDs to go through. Again, 95% of them mine. Can you see a theme emerging here?

I know these are small problems to have, not really problems at all, but at the moment it is doing my head in. Maybe I should just order a skip and declutter on a large scale.


  1. I have the same problem. It is difficult to de-clutter. Each time I have a good go at it and feel like I have done something, things look pretty much the same.

    Books are like hair, both need cutting now and then.

  2. Sounds to me like you need some serious counselling. Now then, what you`ve got to do is use the old Six Month Rule - if you`ve not referred to a book, journal or whatever in the past half a year, lob it, sell it, recycle or give it away. I went through this process two years ago, so out went all my old BBs( dating back to the 70`s) Birding Worlds, county bird reports (although I could not bear to part with a complete set of Beds reports going back to 1946), stuffed birds and loads of books. The result was most cathartic and I`m now left with just, well, three floor to ceiling bookcases, plus my old logbooks, but that`s it - hang on though, there is a box or two in the loft... but its better than it was, honest. Good luck Steve...

  3. Antidote to accumulation: move from 4 bed house to 2 bed bungalow. Stuff simply evaporates!

  4. If you happen to be throwing away a Sphaeroceridae key ...

  5. Gents, I've managed to squeeze all of my accumulated 'stuff' into the space available - but not much room left for anything else I'm afraid!