Monday, March 21, 2016

The Great Purge

I used to love to collect things. Lots and lots of things. I've never been a hoarder, but I had things I collected, and I would collect anything that pertain to it. Like coins. I have a huge coin collection. And Beanie Babies. And collector's editions of magazines.

In the last ten years, I've moved a lot. Most things have stayed in my parents' basement, because there was room for it there. I've done without a lot of things while I moved to and from England several times. And it's amazing what you don't miss. I didn't miss any of that stuff I'd collected. I collected a few other things, but each time I moved back to Canada I got rid of a lot of stuff. My goal was if it didn't fit in two book boxes and two suitcases, it wasn't coming back with me. And I was pretty good about that (I was better the second time around).

But since I've been back I've been purging. And I realise this comes from the time I lived in England and the travelling I've done. You learn to live without a lot of things. But in England, I learned to give stuff away. Charity donations of stuff is big over there, and nearly every month I made a trip to one of the shops to hand over a bag, and most people I knew did the same. It became a thing: the seasonal purge of stuff for the donation box. And as time went by, I got more selective about what I bought or acquired. I started to judge things by whether I actually needed them or not.

That has continued. I have no money now, so not buying stuff is rather a necessity. But even if I did have money, I've become more deserving about asking 'want or need?' And if it's want, it almost always goes back on the shelf.

It feels great to get rid of things. I've got boxes of stuff in the basement I haven't looked at in 10 years. That's a long time to go without something, so out it goes. It feels good to donate. It feels even better to purge. A lot of people collect stuff, or keep stuff they don't need, because they have space or because they think 'I'll need it one day'. But we hold on to a lot of things and things take the place of people. Or happiness. Or whatever you feel you're missing in life.

Getting rid of almost everything has taught me that there are things missing in my life. Important things. And stuff will not replace those empty spaces. I need to fill them with love, with a partner, with a career I adore, with close friends I love. Stuff won't fill them up, and it's only been a bandaid over the years.

But getting rid of stuff? It just feels good. I've always loved spring cleaning, and doing it every week of the year is liberating! Freeing! It feels amazing to rid myself of baggage and start fresh.

There's a world out there and I want to see it and live in it. And now I can, with just a couple of suitcases. The nice thing about that? I can take them with me on the plane. No more shipping internationally. No more boxes and boxes of crap I don't need living 3000 miles from me. Just my clothes, my dearest possessions, and people. And those you can take anywhere.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Who Is Halton?

I live in the Halton region of Ontario. It's one of the oldest counties in the province and it has quite an interesting history, at least by Canadian standards. I've been learning a lot about its history lately, because I'm working on a research project for an exhibition that will open in the autumn called Who Is Halton? about the people of the region, past and present.

We're lucky enough to have a map that dates to 1858 of the Halton region. On it is every land owner in the community in that year. There's quite literally hundreds of names, some so small and badly faded they're impossible to read. But quite a lot of them are clear, and I've been researching each name in turn and finding some incredibly interesting individuals! There's the owner of a shipyard who built ships for his brother, the captain. There's the doctor who devoted his life to helping the sick. There's the founding families of Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and half a dozen other towns. There's just so much history here, and I think we often forget that, because Canada is so 'new', but Halton is 50 years older, and there are counties here twenty years older than that and that date back to the American War of Independence, which is the founding of America, after all, so pretty old. And there's a lot of history tied up between the two countries back then, and it's kind of interesting to see how many people settled in this region from the States, or from the UK via the States.

But I think it's the really personal stories I've been finding that are really the most interesting. There was the gentleman who's first wife died in childbirth and he remarried so his children would have a mother. And there's the guy that had two different mills burn down. And there's the Chisholm family, who is confusing enough I had to actually look up the family tree to figure out who everyone was, but it was worth it because I've been obsessed with the Erchless Estate since I was little. And I really liked learning about all the men who were the first postmasters in their respective communities and I spend a lot of time envisioning life a la Lark Rise to Candleford.

I'm having a lot of fun, anyways, researching all of this, but we've also been doing a lot of talking with people in the current community, to get their stories. It's so interesting to research these 'original inhabitants' and then contrast them with the current people who live there. I can say my own family has been here for 84 years, and I've been here for 32. That's a huge amount of history. But my favourite thing has been meeting people who have only been here a few years and finding out what brought them to Halton. Those are the truly amazing stories I'm looking forward to telling in this exhibition. Stay tuned for more!