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since adolescence, the seminal works from university days, the much-loved reference books which may in some cases be outdated.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.
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.