I am a dreadful hoarder. I can’t bear to throw anything away.
When I shuffle off this mortal coil, as the bard so elegantly put it, my kids may have to wade through loads of stuff.
So I am doing my utmost to have a sort out. To throw away some of my life. Meaningless to others but meaningful to me.
I still have my NCT (National Childbirth Trust) Birth Atlas though I did manage to get rid of the plastic pelvis. Then there’s my advertising teaching (books, notes, handouts), copywriting (ads,scripts, books, portfolio), art (scribbles, drawings, unfinished paintings), writing (bad poems that I will never show anyone but have kept nevertheless), unfinished books I’ve written, letters from people no one else will know, workshops (handouts, feedback, teaching plans and notes), schooldays (books, reports), photographs (who is this? where was I?) etc etc.
And that’s before we look in the loft where I have a suitcase full of memorabilia. (See my blog, Memories in a Suitcase, 29/3/2011.) Plus I still have all the stuff from our kids who say they will go through it one day.
You see my problem.
I have to confess I am the same with my PC. I keep virtually all my emails, have too many documents and a very crowded desktop.
As for my desk … you don’t want to know.
In other areas of my life I am very tidy and organised. Although I can’t vouch for my underwear drawer. When I was younger one of my relatives was burgled when they were on holiday. Her mother in law said to me, “Can you imagine, she has 14 bras! Who has 14 bras?” At the time I did think it was astonishing that someone could have 14 bras. But I also found it all the more astonishing that someone (and not the burglar) would riffle through someone’s underwear drawer and take the trouble to count how many bras they had!
I haven’t counted my bras recently but I wouldn’t be surprised if I also have a fair number. But it’s a lot easier to throw out an old bra (though it is like losing an old friend) than all the flotsam and jetsam of one’s life. They say we live in a disposable society. We do to some extent, unless you count all the unnecessary plastic packaging used today. Three layers of plastic before I can get to my avocado or a bar of soap. Food may be instant and disposable but not the packaging.
How will the historians of the future manage without diaries and letters? Future generations will have no sense of history. More importantly, no sense of their own history.
No more love letters tied up in pink ribbon. A sext is not quite the same!
I think of all the people I know who have found letters their parents or grandparents wrote to one another during war time. What a find! What a treasure to pass on to one’s children!
After a bereavement, few people will bother to go online and search through their late parents’ photographs and emails. All will be lost.
Everything is disposable today. Not just paper.
You only have to pay a visit to the municipal dump to see that nothing is kept any more. Televisions, white goods – much of it still usable – all dumped. Children’s car seats have to be thrown away because it’s not safe for them to be used again so they can’t be passed on to another parent.
With Satnav and Waze, who – aside from OH (other half) – still needs an A-Z or a map? Who misses shouting from the car at a passer by for directions and then still getting lost? Or the rows one had back in the day when the passenger (ie me) had to map read. See “My Kind Of Man” a bog I posted on 1 September 2016 BC (Before Covid).
Are you writing an essay and needing some good references to impress your teachers? No need any more to spend hours in the library. Just Google what you want.
Throw away your dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus and your battered copy of Fowler’s English Usage. Want to know the meaning of a word or an expression? Just Google it.
Just as the Internet was getting going, OH invested in a complete set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica. They now take up room on two shelves in my study. Most of the tomes are in perfect condition as they’ve never been opened. Offers anyone?
Remember telephone directories and Yellow Pages? All gone. I do miss those wonderful ads for Yellow Pages. Remember J.R Hartley looking for a book on fly fishing? It turns out that the book is one he himself had written. A 40 second gem from the golden age of TV advertising.
Our parents’ generation were the make dos and menders. I remember seeing my mother darning socks using a contraption called a “mushroom”. Who darns socks now? Who mends tights? Just throw them away.
So many people chuck out fruit and veg that’s still usable or food that is “out of date” without smelling or tasting it first. Who now uses up leftovers to make delicious soups, stews and casseroles? Not even the French housewives do this anymore.
Few people now own CDs and DVDs. It’s all podcasts, streaming, YouTube and Spotify now. Our kids have everything digitised. Go into any charity shop (when they re-open) and you’ll see shelves of CDs, and DVDs no one wants. Even OH and I threw out our videos. But we find it very hard to throw out books. I don’t use a Kindle. I still prefer the feel, look and smell of a book. You can’t read from a device on take off and landing (remember those happy times?) or take a Kindle into the bath with you.
Our grandchildren only know liquid soap. Give them a bar of real soap and they love to play with it. Make bubbles. Blow bubbles. Do anything except wash with it.
Disposable nappies are a great idea except when you consider the land fill. I remember those buckets filled with soiled terry nappies. Yuk. Once I was so busy trying to shake poo off a nappy into our loo that I ended up accidentally flushing the whole thing down. Amazingly it didn’t block our drains.
Today’s clothes are disposable too. Fashion is here today and gone tomorrow. No one under thirty wants to wear anything more than once. If you’ve been pictured wearing an outfit on Facebook or Instagram you can’t be seen wearing it again, I’ve been told.
I remember the brief fashion for paper clothes in the 1960s. One successful paper product I recall is paper knickers. They were incredibly useful in labour. Some women even wore them during pregnancy. However, I confess I found wearing OH’s Y-Fronts much more comfortable – much to the amusement of the staff at my ante-natal check-ups.
I also remember a great line of copy I wrote when I was writing copy for Bowater-Scott – the brand leaders then of disposable towels. “All over the world people are throwing away our products”, I wrote.
Which brings me to loo paper. The one thing that really has to be disposable. Anyone my age reading this will remember the hard toilet paper we had in the school lavatories (we didn’t call them loos then) and in public toilets. When soft toilet paper came along, it was as if one’s bottom had died and gone to heaven. Such bliss. And it flushed away too.
That’s today’s blog disposed of, so to speak. I will be back again at the end of the week and then will be taking a short break from blogging. Hope you will miss me.
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems