desperado type begins innocuously with, say, not chucking out the Sunday paper the next day because there was something you wanted to ‘get around’ to reading. Next thing it’s 40 years of Sundays later. There are thousands of papers and thousands of things never read, but, if you keep them, you have some control over all the information you’d like to take in, but just can’t.
Then there’s the flipside fear that you’ll throw away something you’ll need later. I hardly ever wear most of my many shoes, but I might, and that’s reason enough to have too many. Some outfits require a quirky shoe, and it might just be
‘Keep a thing for seven years and its use will come.’ What about the woman with every series of
Buffy – on VHS
those slightly hideous flowery ones bought for a fiver in a sale in ’91, never worn – so far! Shoes are never thrown out unless worn out. Ditto with obscure blouses and weird trousers. Just because I haven’t been in the mood for the gold lurex flares or that ochre nylon batwing shirt for the last decade doesn’t mean the mood won’t take me in the next. If I paid good money for it, it’s not going until it’s ragged. And ditto with makeup, pans, crockery, and that stupid soldier made out of tin and wood that I bought in Tunisia. The thing about pans and tin soldiers is, they never wear out. And worse, if you hang on to things long enough, the old tat of today becomes one of the coveted antiques of tomorrow. Do I want to deprive some lucky ancestor several generations hence of a potential golden moment on the Antiques Roadshow, and a few quid, to boot?
None of the heaps of very old notebooks can go, in case there happens to be the nub of something brilliant in one, even though most are just filled with scraps for unwritten gags – ‘the body of Einstein and the mind of Elle Macpherson’, ‘hips are the new breast’ – less brilliance, more mementoes of years of chaotic effort. I haven’t thrown out anything I’ve worn on stage as a Nuala, ever. But these aren’t bespoke Bowielevel costumery, they’re old high-street party dresses, ripped and dripping strings of unstuck sequins. There are loads of them, going back nearly 20 years, but I can’t let them go, can I? Why? I don’t know. But at least, listening to the radio, I know I’m not alone with this problem.
We live in a ‘ throw away’ age. You keep throwing stuff away to keep on top of things. A few generations ago here, nothing got chucked, because there was so little of anything. ‘Keep a thing for seven years and its use will come to pass,’ a woman said her grandmother told her. Great advice, that I wish I’d tried with my last boyfriend. (Joke.) But how can it apply to the caller who still owns the complete series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on VHS. And her video player doesn’t even work anymore.
The trouble is, ‘stuff’ is not just ‘stuff’, it’s connected to emotions, memories, relative value and a sense of security in an insecure world. There’s guilt about being wasteful, and guilt about being cluttered, and then just guilt because betwixt the two you get stuck. At which point, repeat after the lady: ‘You need honesty and patience. You have to accept the issue as it is…’