Note to self: don't get plastered the night before moving house - you might do something stupid.
I persuaded my husband it was a good idea to go out and reminisce about the times we'd spent in our flat. We'd lived there for ages and it was the first place we bought together. (When I say together, I mean he paid for it and I gave him some coins from the bottom of my bag.) We moved in when we were just married. We chose the colour of the walls, the carpet and the soap dishes. We skipped round John Lewis discussing the pros and cons of each salt and pepper shaker.
We were really looking forward to merging our stuff and becoming a team. Unfortunately, our stuff didn't exactly match. I claimed ownership of an extraordinary quantity of rattan bowls and dark wood furniture from my student days. I also brought an Indian-inspired coffee table covered in cigarette burns and five trunks full of half-used candles. And I was very proud of a family of bongo drums that a school friend lugged back from her gap year. He, however, arrived with a collection of pale wood stools and an awful lot of Danish art. Yes, Danish. Our walls were covered with still lifes of herrings and in the corner of every room there was a small Copenhagen soldier holding a red-and-white flag.
It was an odd mix, but we got used to it. Our music collections were lined up together on our shiny new shelves. His Bob Dylan and Stones, my complete collection of Now That's What I Call Music. Strangely, there was harmony. We may have been totally different in our tastes, but we had one big thing in common. Our mothers are hoarders and it's a trait we've both inherited. Thus, harmony really chimed in our spare room, where there were two boxes of old nursery rhyme books, two old baby rattles, and several bags of yellowing school reports. Not long ago, my mother turned up to solemnly hand over my first lock of hair wrapped in a tissue, and we've added love letters and Bon Jovi concert tickets (don't ask).
What makes us keep such things? Is it that one day we think we'll be fascinated by our early crayon drawings? Or is it that it's just too scary to throw them away? Why, when square footage is so expensive, do we insist on taking up more with cycling proficiency medals?
Two nights ago we went out and drank vodka. We toasted the kitchen where we once had an hour-long argument about cheese. (I can't remember how it started but it ended with his plea "I can't cope with all this cheddar, all I want from you, all I need from you, is jarlsberg. Don't you know me at all?") We laughed about the size of his television (if he was allowed to, my husband would live in an Odeon) and I got emotional remembering where our three-year-old son took his first steps.
When the doorbell went at 7am we woke up feeling sick. My husband had a sock on his hand (there might have been an impromptu puppet show at some point) and I was still wearing a beret that I'd found on the street outside a bar. The three handsome Australian removal men on our doorstep smiled, left reels of industrial tape and nine enormous boxes and said they'd be back later to pick up our stuff.
My husband doesn't cry easily but I saw his bottom lip wobble. Two hours and several aspirin later, I found him methodically and very carefully wrapping individual cotton balls in bubble wrap. I wasn't doing much better. When I had to make the monumental decision about whether to take a half-used bottle of Tabasco with us I was ready to jump out of the window.
And just when we thought we'd done the tricky stuff, it was time to sort through the boxes of memories from the spare room. Did I really need to keep a half-crushed Coke can a boy called Daniel gave me when I was 14? Did he need his first fuzzy felt creation?
"We never sit and look through our old postcards and surely you don't need that 'I can make a quiche' badge you got from home economics? Let's start fresh," he said. In a sickly mist of alcohol fumes and bravado we made a snap decision to chuck it all away. We packed up our books and our clothes and went out for pizza. But here's the thing. Before it was out of the oven, I was missing the Coke can and wanted to read his old maths reports.
In our text-message, e-mail world, there's just less and less to keep. We might want a minimalist white house but we also need a "junk" area for the stuff that actually isn't junk. Our children just might want to see his first pair of shoes (clogs, obviously) and I bet that when we're old there'll be nothing we'll like more than a flick through some of our early depictions of oxbow lakes.
The good news is the rubbish truck always arrives late in our street. I've managed to save most of it from the bins but his Planet Hollywood menu (a particularly hot date, since you ask) smells of Tennents lager, and my Reading with Jack and Jill is torn. Still, we're taking it all with us. Our mothers won't be furious and we'll continue to add to the pile.
I'm not sure I've learnt why we need to hoard but I have learnt that if we ever move again, I'm going to stay sober the night before.Reuse content