Decluttering. I was determined to sort out all this stuff accumulated over the years as the result of the hoarding gene that reigns supreme in our family. I’ve written about it before, this inability to dispose of things that are no longer necessary, and which do not meet the strict criteria of “functional or beautiful”.
Clearing out my bedroom ready for the new carpet to be fitted offered me the golden opportunity to empty the drawers and shelves holding my mother’s hoard. Or so I thought. She has already done her triage and what is left is treasure: there’s no way I’m going to dump those old books and toys that have lived peacefully in the cupboard for the last half-century. They are old friends.
The sentimental bonds binding us to our junk are far stronger than standards of intrinsic worth. My father spent many happy hours recording Bing Crosby, Max Bygraves and Mario Lanza onto cassettes, carefully typing the labels for each. How can I heartlessly throw away those labours of love, even though nobody wants to listen to them any more (assuming we can find a functioning cassette recorder)? No, they will stay neatly stacked where he left them. The old analogue TV set, bulky and obsolete? It has a built-in VCR player, and Mom has many family videos that she intends to watch one day, so that’s also staying.
In fact, it seems there is really very little for me to get rid of. Before I began, I had noticed piles of old magazines and was all set to drop them in the recycling bin. Then I noticed this one: Family circle, no 1, cost one shilling. Published October 1964. The rest of the pile was all sixties and seventies issues of Family Circle, with Country Living and Saga from the past two decades.
“I’m keeping those,” said my mother, who knows her Antiques Road Show. “They are valuable. And anyway, they’re interesting. Good articles and lovely photos.”
Google confirmed that what cost 1/- in 1964 is now selling for £12.99. Call it £13, and that’s 260 times its face value. The others won’t fetch quite as much but even so, seem to be going for around £6 to £7, so they probably won’t end up in the recycling bin after all.
My daughter has her eye on these, not because of their monetary value, but for the sheer pleasure of reading them. Their recipes, knitting and sewing patterns are still perfectly useful today, and with the revival of sixties and seventies fashions in household goods, even the decorating tips aren’t out of place.
Sadly, though, they do reveal how far inflation has affected daily life. “Win an all-electric £5,000 house” shouts the competition on the cover. If my memory serves me aright, we paid just under £3,000 for our brand new three-bedroom house in 1969, which was also all-electric, with underfloor heating to boot. So a £5,000 house was a very des res indeed. Probably the equivalent of half a million nowadays. And with state-of-the-art appliances to match: how many ordinary English housewives in 1964 had a dishwasher or waste-disposal unit in the kitchen sink?
My decluttering really hasn’t progressed very far or fast. I have only about 25 more Country Livings to read, and then I can move on to the Sagas …