From the ages of 17-34, I moved home at least once every 12-months and in 2001 peaked at a ridiculous six different residences in one year. I’m discounting the ‘travelling years’ when I was bed-hopping nightly – not necessarily with the saucy connotations that statement implies – more usually on an unofficial bed-share basis to keep costs as low as possible.
During those years my possessions became familiar with the newspaper/cardboard box combo and my clothes were used to existing for long periods in bin-liners; the more seasonal-specific attire sometimes going into hibernation for several years at a time depending on the amount of storage space available, length of lease and the state of my positive feelings towards the place as a potential long-term dwelling.
On reflection, there were some relocations that merited no more than a toothbrush, change of T-shirt and radio but then I do tend towards an optimistic outlook plus I never was any good at travelling light. Even during said nomadic period, my rucksack acquired its own offspring – mini bags of paper, card, pictures, cuttings, shells, stones, sticks, beer mats, match-booklets, letters, post-cards, scarves – or bits of material that could potentially be used as scarves, fliers, tickets, maps and of course clothes – in fact all the tell-tale paraphernalia that indicates a hoarder.
So is this the confession that my family has been awaiting for years? My name is Melanie and I’m a hoarder? Not bloody likely! There may have been times when I was less than ruthless with the memorabilia that adorned my life including possibly the in-class note collection from circa 1988, every birthday card from the ages 10-18 and the endless shell fragments that were collected from beaches around the world but which out of context had the look of those bags of sea-debris available from Wilko for about £1. Perhaps when making the choice in Western Australia to pack up a trunk-sized box and ship the lot back to Blighty rather than throw it away could have been a sign that my ability to pare away the detritus from my life was limited.
However, I know I’m not in the danger-zone like the documentary subjects who have piles of newspaper stacked into a maze of corridors leading to their bed, although I definitely do sympathise with their rationale. I have even done some streamlining of late, although the moment that the raggedy T-shirt from 1990 kept purely because it reminded me of a brilliant Pixies gig at Reading Festival went into the bin (I couldn’t even salve my conscience with the Charity Shop pile) was truly gut-wrenching.
The possessions I’ve been carrying around from place to place like a massively mis-shapen bin-baggy snail are things of little monetary value but they are the effects which enabled me to build an instant home no matter which carcass of a dwelling I happened to be in at the time. By having an enormous scrap-book of my life close by, I could feel a more immediate connection to friends, family and formative acquaintances that may well be many miles away.
Besides I recently read an article that said those people who surround themselves with mementos of their life are likely to show greater emotional intelligence than those who live a more minimalist existence. And there you have it – all those years spent humping bags of “crap” about with me have finally been substantiated – I’m actually an emotional freaking Einstein mum!