My old school hat.

School panama hat: signed by all my friends before becoming a museum piece.  Or I could have done as some others did, and thrown it into the Thames.
School panama hat: signed by all my friends before becoming a museum piece. Or I could have done as some others did, and thrown it into the Thames.

The fact that I can show you a picture of what remains of my school hat, some 55 years after I first wore it, tells you a lot about me.  I am a hoarder.  I have books that have come with me since childhood, wallets full of photos from places I can no longer identify, mementos from holidays that were reasonably unmemorable, scraps of wall paper from houses I no longer live in.  I keep step ladders deliberately paint-spattered from the occasions I used them when house-decorating because they tell a story of my changing tastes, and remind me of former homes.  I’m impossible, and I know it.

It has to stop.  We’ve lugged furniture and possessions half way across Europe to furnish and personalise our home here, and we’re determined that we’re not going to ship the whole lot back. The house here has conspired to feed my addiction.  It’s … ‘ow you say?  ‘Deceptively spacious’ .  That means that almost every – large – room has cavernous cupboards.  There’s an attic with 3 rooms begging to be stuffed with my junk, an outside workshop, several inside storerooms.  I’ve had no incentive to change.

But when we return to England we’ll be looking for a home of modest proportions.  It won’t have more than one spare room. It certainly won’t have a cavernous outhouse.   The rooms are unlikely to be enormous.  So we’ve both taken a grip, especially me.

Yesterday, I threw out that hat.  I sorted through all those precious paintings my children made when they were under 10 or so, and have kept just a small selection from each of them.  I threw out boxes of tiny black and white photos peopled by unknown old friends, and junked all the letters I wrote home in my very late teens when I was an au pair in Italy.  Actually, for the first time since those days, I read through a few, and then I couldn’t wait to destroy them before anyone else realised what a pompous brat I was.

Now we’ve got the difficult bit.  We’ve put aside a whole book-case full of fiction that we probably bought in charity shops in the first place.  No: that was easy enough.  Now there are all the books we’ve loved since adolescence, the seminal works from university days, the much-loved reference books which may in some cases be outdated. There’s all my history of art books with wonderful reproductions, Malcolm’s language stuff, my vast collection of cookery books.  Of course we won’t get rid of them all.  But some must go.  Last time we did this, 20 years ago, we were leaving our large house in Leeds.  We sold a large selection of our less-used books to a second-hand book dealer.  A week later, I was down at his shop, buying quite a few of them back again.

If you need a new bedtime story, we may be able to help.
If you need a new bedtime story, we may be able to help.

The stuff we’ve so far discarded is, if suitable, bagged up for Secours Populaire here in Laroque.  The rest has been dumped in one of the town poubelles: municipal dustbins.  Don’t be too surprised if in a couple of days, you find me at the tip, desperately scrabbling through the rubbish awaiting transportation to landfill as I hunt for my old school hat.

Destined for Secours Populaire .... or landfill.
Destined for Secours Populaire …. or landfill.

16 thoughts on “My old school hat.”

  1. Such a painful process. I’ve done it several times. Occasionally I’ll perform a thorough search for some loved article, only to remember I offloaded it a couple of moves back. I like to imagine it was rescued by someone who loves it even more than I did. Such is this imperfect life.


  2. I am in between – both my parents and my wife’s parents are advanced in age and I wonder what will happen to it all – certainly there are momentos from my childhood or family photos that we will want to preserve – but there are the collections that were meaningful to them which remain. And to top it all off I am a hoarder and so is my wife. I love books and I feel your angst, take care and continue sifting, carefully.


    1. Yes, older stuff’s easier somehow, isn’t it? We’ve gained a bit of distance. The stuff that’s real and personal is so much harder. Heigh ho. I’ll keep going. Thanks for your support.


  3. So you’ve started -it can be hard can’t it? We’ve packed up a lot of houses and each time less moves with us and as yet there is nothing I regret. Mind you I’m not looking forward to this year – my parents are planning to move for the first time since 1972. And they’re both hoarders. Happy New Year!


  4. I share your hoarder mentality Margaret and each time I throw things out it is just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure that to throw out is worse than to rehome – so charity shops are the answer but are there many in Ariege? I expect there is something incredibly liberating about being almost free of possessions but that enlightened state is a long way from where I am now. Take photos of things you are parting with – it is a small comfort at least to look back on. I once gave my children’s outgrown baby clothes to the playschool jumble sale then bought back my son’s pyjamas at the end of the event because I couldnt bear to see them scooped into the pile for the 50p a bin liner full deal! I still find it hard to believe you are coming back to UK after all the colourful adventures, walks, recipes, harvests. visits, DIY tales we have enjoyed. Good luck with the Great Thowaway!


    1. Oh Yola, I’m glad to talk to a fellow-sufferer. I have produced 2 children who won’t contemplate my throwing ANYthing away. The third just says ‘Oh, junk it’. As far as the blog goes, I plan to continue in some way. Not sure how yet. Do let us have your news, but I hope that 2014 is a good year for you.


  5. ………….M&M………..that kind of action reminds me of something similar….don’t think twice, just go ahead…….lots of energy and luck – happy New Year anyway, AnnAxxx


  6. What you need is me! if it’s not been used, looked at, worn for 6months to a year then you won’t miss it when I throw it out. it worked when I was office bound. Never once did anyone look for somehting I discarded which if asked prior to its final destination in the bin they would have said was invaluable. it works at home too but sadly only with my share of our posessions! I itch to get to grips with the garage and the loft!.


    1. Ah, but as I pointed out to someone else this morning, I recently started to wear again, and to love, a jumper I first bought 29 years ago and put away for several years. I think one’s either a hoarder… or not. I do actually like hoarding.


  7. It’s not easy to let go of some of those treasures. I hear you! I had a good friend who is a complete non-hoarder come and help me downsize and she was brutally efficient. I would be living with all of my “stuff” crammed into storage lockers otherwise. #empathizing


  8. I understand you Margaret! I am too a hoarder (I have never heard this word but it speaks to me). I know every book or thing or chothe I have. They are parts of my life and it’s very difficult for me to throw them away! I move next thursday in a more little house so I junk (to use your word) background papers I’ve never read for years, pieces of furniture (to Mirepoix dépôt-vente), books (to Lavelanet Emmaüs) …Emmaüs comes and takes out of your home all what you want give them. Bonne continuation! Noëlle (Please don’t throw away books! Give them to Emmaüs or others charity shops!)


    1. Non non Noëlle! Je ne peux pas jeter des livres! Je suis en train de les offrir aux amis (toi compris- viens si tu veux)). On a des livres en anglais et français. Sinon, peut-être Amnesty International a Carcassonne – j’ai peur que les livres a Emmaus y restent depuis des années. Je te souhaite une bon déménagement: et s’il te plaît, appelle -moi si tu as besoin d’un peu d’aide.


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