We've all had that moment when a certain book comes at just the right time; it seems to be speaking directly to us. The first book to do that for me was Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It's about a man who goes away to live in a cabin in the woods. It came into my life when I was packing up a 3-bedroom house, about to go off travelling. I felt like a butterfly – wanting to explore the world – and was desperate to lose all the “things” I felt were tying me down, stopping me from flying.

"I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust."

I find this sentence so wise and so direct – yet it also makes me smile; the thought of us all dusting trinkets endlessly, and then the thought of the author instinctively throwing three ornaments out of a window – I imagine him handling them like hot cakes just taken out of the oven!

This is an extreme, but there's a basic truth in it that applies to all of us. It's so easy to get mired in “stuff.” And it's easy for the “stuff” to get out of hand – especially with attics and garages at our disposal!

Looking back from my dotage, I know that I'll find more peace through wondering at all the things I did, people I met, chances I explored and challenges I overcame than looking at all the things I collected.

I've never thrown my belongings out of a window, but I do like to live as lightly as possible. I focus on living not keeping – passing on goods, giving them a new lease on life through charity shops. My current preparations to move to another part of Italy include sorting through the drawers and shelves in my flat and bagging up objects to take to the local charity shop where they will find a new owner. Today I've added two books, two necklaces and a bracelet to the pile – I wonder who'll be reading and wearing them next?


Explore More