Many years ago I went to Wales to stay with my girlfriend’s father. He had a lovely house but more than half of it was filled with boxes. Crap that had accumulated over decades. Things with cash value. Things with aesthetic value. Things with no value at all. Things. We had a casual conversation about making pasta, and he said “I’ve got a pasta maker!” Then he vanished into the room full of boxes and rummaged around for ages before emerging triumphantly with said pasta maker. She and I had both hoped we might be able to make him understand how much of his space he was wasting by filling half of his home with boxes, but there he was, demonstrably making pasta with a pasta machine he surely never used before or since. But that evening it was justification for a lifetime of hoarding.
I understand the psychological root of hoarding. If I had a pasta maker, I would know that currently I could never justify the expense of buying one. So if my daughter and her goofy boyfriend wondered how pasta is made and I’d sent the thing to a charity shop I’d have a momentary regret at not being able to provide. But that’s all it would be. Momentary regret.
But she and I said to each other at the time – that possibility is not worth sacrificing so much space for. “You see? If I didn’t have all those boxes I’d never have found the pasta maker.” “You don’t need the boxes, dad.” When he dies, if he hasn’t already, based on what I know of my ex-girlfriend’s way, those boxes will be slung into a skip. Done. Maybe at the bottom of one of them is the golden egg that hatches the goose.
But. Right now where I’m sitting I can see: a polystyrene bust of my head wearing a ladies summer hat.
My childhood sweet jar, empty. An almost completely empty thing of aftershave. Two beautiful unframed prints by my cousin, rolled up on top of my “tuck box”. Loads of unused and unloved cookbooks. An old pewter tankard full of pens. A small affectionate cat with pointy ears. Two pairs of headphones. An unused surround sound system. A yoga mat. Bike cleaner. Super sweet cherry brandy. Poetry. Passports. Bills. Wires. Junk junk junk.
I would never miss half of this stuff. Right now I’m trying to get some money, because I have all this time and all these crazy plans, hopes and dreams. My flat is full of junk and dreams. They’re in competition.
My attic is packed – my life is packed – with crap that I’ve been carrying since everybody died and the money collapsed.
I can only sell or get rid of stuff that is incontrovertibly mine. Stuff that is owned by my brothers and I that I’d love to sell and split I find myself unable to because of their inertia. I can’t do it for myself but it takes a week to get a straight answer about anything from my nearest brother and I won’t make the decisions alone.
Maybe it’s time to start…