More than years ago when I was away at university I would travel backwards and forwards from my hometown and where I lived during term time with all my possessions in the the boot of a small hatchback. I would pack everything into three blue plastic boxes at home and unload them an hour and a half later at the other end.
I still have the blue boxes; one currently houses our four-year old’s trainset stuff and the others are in the loft. They’ve stayed the same, but today there’s only a tiny proportion of my belongings that would fit into them. How times have changed.
I recall the excitement when I bought my first house (the one 19 years later I still live in); of equipping the kitchen with blue and yellow crockery to match the sunny kitchen and purchasing my first sofa. It seemed as though I would struggle to fill the house with enough stuff to make it homely.
I look at the rooms, which over the years have played a backdrop to various decorating fads (I once painted the kitchen/diner lime green with silver stars) and furniture styles and think just how much my priorities have changed over the years.
I’ve always considered myself to be fairly non-materialistic; I don’t covet gadgets, handbags, shoes, cars, ornaments or any sorts of bling, but I’ve still managed to end up with a house with far too much stuff in it, and the sad thing is I don’t recall how I came to be here. It’s like old age, the changes are so subtle you don’t realise it’s come over you until you look back at photographs of your youthful earlier self.
But, now I want to free myself, and the house, from the shackles of stuff, and, although I don’t want to admit it, some of the history that’s attached to that stuff.
My parents divorced when I was 19 and four years later my dad died, my house ended up the repository of furniture, books and things that had once belonged to my childhood homes and now they were in mine; a reminder of a pre-parental divorce younger me. Someone who wasn’t quite ready to let go of the past. So the loft ended up full of boxes and boxes of my dad’s books – a literal dead weight. The front room ended up with a mahogany sideboard, which was too big for the house and didn’t really have a useful purpose, but I hung on to it because the sound of the drawers being opened reminded me of home and the smell of the wood inside the cupboards brought back memories of family Christmases. It was as though if I got rid of it I would lose my memories.
I did put the sideboard on Freecycle recently, and I’ve never missed it, it was the idea of what it represented rather than the physical object that I was hanging on to. The sad thing was is also stood for unfinished business, an inability to move on from the past, reconcile myself with my parents’ divorce, the loss of the family home and my dad’s subsequent messy and all-too-young demise.
On the odd occasion I’ve watched programmes about hoarders I’ve noted that they seem to be people whose psyches have got stuck in some way; they can’t move on and the stuff in their houses become a physical manifestation of that mental issue. A psychological flaw rendered flesh in suffocating amounts of stuff.
I’m beginning to wonder whether some of the things I’ve kept in my house from my now quite distant past are keeping me on a thought loop of not being able to detach myself from my history. I’ll keep the three blue boxes as a reminder of how little I once had, but it’s time to face the memories and get rid of some of the things that are keeping me mired in my past.