Do you have difficulty using rooms in your home because of clutter? Do you have a problem discarding things that other people would get rid of? Are you experiencing emotional distress because of untidiness? Do you collect free things? Is your failure to get rid of unwanted items having an adverse impact on your work, social life or relationships?
If you answered yes to four or more of the above then you may have a problem with hoarding, which afflicts an estimated 3 per cent of the population – and was re-categorised by psychologists this summer as an illness in its own right.
I spent Saturday doing life laundry. My parents are selling our childhood home, finally, and so I needed to dispose of a short lifetime’s worth of possessions. With nowhere to store them in my own small inner-city flat (I’ll save the tale of the 5,000 inherited books for another day), brutality was required. Memories were consigned to the tip, in five car-loads. I didn’t dare to stop and dwell. Too poignant, too slow.
The 10 crates of press cuttings from The Indy, Telegraph, Guardian? Gone, along with the Mega Drive, disintegrating teddy, tins of knick-knacks, kid’s football shirts, pop cassettes, mildewed camping equipment, Bedfordshire’s largest collection of bouncy balls, and some rather bawdy love letters (received). Quite what the patrons of Age UK will make of the anthropology classic texts awaits to be seen.
I kept my first published articles from the Leighton Buzzard Observer. But the university politics essays, well, they didn’t set alight academia the first time round, so are unlikely to have accumulated much wisdom in the intervening years.
Sad? Yes, to cast aside the clutter of a happy youth. That word “belongings” captures the sense of our own identity that we entwine with our possessions. But how much do we really need to own, and carry with us through each step of our lives?Reuse content