diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 03, 2013

I have a lot of stuff.

I'm not one of these people who could squeeze their life into a suitcase and move on. I have lots of bits, and things, and stuff. It accumulates, it hangs around, it hides away.

You'd notice if you came round. Most people have a bit of stuff, like ornaments or bookcases or racks of DVDs. I have that and then some, mostly paper-based, piled up tidily and stored away. You might even call it clutter, although it's no obsession that'd ever be the subject of a Channel 4 documentary. But my amount of stuff generally increases, rather than ebbs away, which over five decades rather adds up.

I have an album of greetings cards announcing my birth, and a 1970 tube map, and exercise books from infant school, and a completed Brooke Bond Race Into Space tea card album (price 5p, 1/-), and the cuddly rabbit I used to take to bed, and a dozen awful photos I took on the Channel Islands when I was ten, and those free gift Dr Who cards they gave out with Weetabix in 1975, and some board games I was given back when I had people to play against, and a set of part-filled-in I-Spy books, and five sets of Top Trumps cards, and every Christmas Radio Times since 1979, and two (correctly orientated) Rubik's cubes, and the letter they sent me saying yes you can come to university, and a checked shirt I really loved in 1984 but doesn't fit any more, and a national newspaper from the day after The Great Storm, and a train ticket from the time I went to Penzance, and an old cable that probably once connected something important to something important, and my first mortgage statement, and an ammonite I found on a Dorset beach, and a shelf-full of cassingles, and the Bedfordshire episode of Treasure Hunt on VHS, and a mug from Disneyland, and a 21st century-incompatible computer, and the magazine that came free with the Brit Awards in 1997, and my Cornwall solar eclipse glasses, and the box my second mobile phone came in, and a tin of butterscotch drops I cleared out of my car when I sold it but have never eaten, and the 2001 TfL fares leaflet, and a stack of writeable CD-ROMS, and three juggling balls, and a Woolworths carrier bag, and some loose change from Iceland, and a London 2012 teacosy, and that isn't even scratching the surface.

Don't worry, I do go back and revisit this stuff sometimes because it's quite interesting to look through. Sometimes it's even useful as research material, although more often than not I just like knowing that it's there. That's my life stacked up in the spare room, a hoard of irreplaceable keepsakes and memories, almost the very definition of what I'm about.

It is therefore just as well that I'm a very bad shopper. I don't rush out and buy myself a new outfit every month, or keep up with all the latest gadgets, or replace my soft furnishings regularly, or trawl Amazon for yet more stuff to own. When I buy something it's invariably because I really want it, not because it's impulsive and disposable, so my purchases tend to hang around. Indeed when I visit shopping malls I invariably walk away empty-handed, unlike the hordes I see there dangling several bags apiece. Do these people have even more stuff than me, or are they just much better at getting rid of it more quickly?

As a non-shopper, my amount of stuff shouldn't be excessive. My DVD collection fits a half metre shelf, my shirts fill up one rail, and I probably only buy a couple of books a month. Except yes, that makes 100 books every 4 years, which is a lot of books over several decades, and I can rarely bring myself to dispose of one. It's the same for music, which I own in a variety of physical formats collected over the years. I have hundreds of cassettes and CDs, but I'd never dare upload them all and bin the lot for fear of electronic data loss. And I have a particular weakness for paper-based stuff - books, important newspapers, leaflets, special copies of magazines, maps, that sort of thing. Paper's bulky and heavy if aggregated, but it's also the 20th century's storage medium of choice, and absolutely not the same if stashed away as a stored image.

So, yes, I know that I don't need all this stuff. I know that I could bin a fair amount without adversely affecting my life, apart from leaving a hole, which is probably why I don't. I do bin some of it sometimes, but barely enough to make a difference. And I do try to be a bit ruthless in not keeping this stuff in the first place, but inexorable accumulation eventually takes hold. I'm sure if I ever had to move house I'd manage a thinning out, but I wouldn't enjoy it, it'd be like chucking my past away.

Whatever, I do worry that one day I might walk in front of a bus or have a heart attack or something, and then someone'll have to come round and try to find the 5% of stuff worth keeping in amongst the 95% that meant something only to me. That someone is probably reading this post today... and if it's you, sorry, my apologies in advance. But I'd hate you to miss my grandmother's teenage autograph book, or the announcement of my father's christening in the local church magazine, or my tiny maternity ward wristband, or the Coronation edition Radio Times, or my complete set of Red Nose Day red noses, lurking somewhere in the spare room amongst several other hidden treasures. Do please have a thorough rummage before you bin the lot, won't you?

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