Wednesday 14 January 2004

The Festive Purges

For reasons now lost to me, at the age of fifteen I considered it a good idea to move my limited possessions from the large, spacious bedroom I occupied on the sunny side of my parent's house to the small L-shaped room under the eaves at the front. Perhaps it was so that I could be different to my younger sister whose room was alarmingly exactly the same dimensions as mine, maybe it was so that our playroom would be larger, I can't remember.

Whatever the reason, sixteen years later the room is still mine. I effectively moved away from home at 19 (and again at 23), but I left a large number of my belongings in that cramped bedroom and have never fully reclaimed them. The bookshelves which once supported all the books I'd read still groan under what is now a fraction of the books I own, the wardrobe that used to hold all of my, frequently ill-advised, clothing now holds only those garments I have little use for.

Patiently, my parents have put up with my inability to declutter their house, my mother choosing instead to focus her clearance efforts on my father's Olympic level hoarding skills. And every time I return to spend a night in the battered single bed the fifteen ring-binders full of university notes atop the wardrobe and mounting pile of paper on the desk glower reproachfully at me, a reminder of a life still seemingly in limbo and an inability to properly leave home.

But not this Christmas. Instead of raising the tidemark of detritus in the room with yet more Christmas presents I decided to purge my belongings.

Into the skip went three years of university notes; reams and reams of badly photocopied pages detailing the outcome of hundreds of years of scientific research rained into the recycling bin. Into the bin went the hundreds of grimy back issues of New Scientist, Scientific American, Airforces Monthly and Take Off magazine that I uncovered in the chilly attic, a decade old testament to the hoarding skills of my 18 year old self. To Oxfam went dozens of paperbacks that I decided I would never read again. And into black bag after black bag went random slips of paper, old compilation tapes and empty toy boxes.

I uncovered a few delights. I found a box file of souvenirs from the university black tie balls at which I worked as a craps croupier, fifteen old programs of entertainment and some casino chips. A geological map of Arran detailing the outcrops I visited ten years ago spilled from a folder. In two boxes I found almost every issue of Edge magazine chronicling the history of my twenty year old videogame habits. And on the bookshelves sat a first edition hardback of The Carpet People, Terry Pratchett's first ever novel, priced in pencil at 95p and bought for me to read once when I was 10, now apparently worth well over 600GBP.

For the first time, a Christmas and birthday period has ended with less possessions than I started with and it feels good. My life weighs less.

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