Two summers ago, my daughter and son-in-law made a determined onslaught on the junk accumulated over the years in our holiday cottage, and supplied the local flea market / charity shop abundantly with unwanted treasures.
On my arrival there, however, I was greeted by broad grins as they revealed a car boot full of plastic bags they had unearthed in various cubbyholes. “I thought they might come in useful, “ I protested. “For rubbish … for protecting things … for shopping.” So many possible uses – but who needs a zillion of them? Reduced by force of logic to docility, I agreed to dump them, and experienced that feeling of true exhilaration, that overwhelming joy of liberation that comes with decluttering, that dizzy sense of accomplishment, comparable only to kicking a habit or addiction that has dominated you for years.
After the departure of my kith and kin, whose kind respect for my feelings had prevented them from stripping the house of all its contents, I continued rummaging through the stuff they had spared from the flea market and local dump, and was carried away once more by the badger-like urge to chuck everything away. Then common sense prevailed and I realized there were some basics that I did need, and couldn’t really afford to replace at that particular time. I also realized that every time I took something to the flea market or charity shop, I came back with something else.
The plastic bags have gone, but I still have an extensive collection of cardboard boxes – from tiny jewellery boxes that once contained a pair of earrings, to huge cartons that housed a TV, computer or fridge-freezer, by way of shoeboxes of every size – and decorative tins. My lame excuse is that they might come in useful one day. Birthday and Christmas presents might need to be boxed, I might bake some Advent biscuits or a cake to give away, perhaps I’ll need one for storage, and they always tell you to return your PC in its original package. Sadly, my PC passed away several years ago, and was whisked away for cannibalisation by younger members of the family. Notwithstanding, its box remains in pristine condition in my basement, just waiting for its hour of glory to arrive.
For many years I have battled with this addiction to collecting useless things – a tin with a picture of Prince Charles and Lady Di on their engagement, another depicting Santa Claus, one boasting an appliquéed aluminium angel with wire hair – and the last time I moved house, I downsized considerably. However, that was 5 years ago, and gradually, behind my back, my basement has been filling up with a rising tide of boxes and tins. “That’s a nice little box” has become a by-word in the family, and my daughter is threatening to put it on my gravestone – with “What a nice tin!” as the alternative for my urn when I’m cremated. Where does this uncontrollable urge come from?
My father had a garage full of gadgets and gizmos, and my mother has spent much of the time since his death in 1999 decluttering her home so that we don’t have too much trouble sorting things out when she follows him. Very admirable, and I’m all set to emulate her example. However, on my most recent visit she asked me to replace some suitcases on top of the wardrobe. As I climbed up, my gaze was met by a familiar sight, which seemed almost déjà vu: a stack of cardboard boxes of varying size.
“What’s all this lot?” I asked, accusingly.
“Oh, “ she replied innocently, “They might come in useful”.