We’re doing some work in our flat at the moment. Some rooms are being moved around. Like many 130-year-old tenement buildings, it has been chopped around a fair bit by previous owners. We’re doing a bit more. We like to think we are undoing some of the previous bad work.
As part of the process, the room we had been using as a study has been completely emptied. The new study will end up in a substantially smaller room. I’m currently sitting in a makeshift study, in the corner of the spare room, surrounded by haphazard piles of the stuff from the old study.
This has all left both of us — but me in particular — facing up to the reality that we need to get rid of a lot of stuff.
I’m not really a hoarder (he said). But people do accumulate things. In the past, if I was ever in any doubt, I would keep a thing. Whether it sparked joy has never been factored in before.
There are broad categories of things that I’ve kept. For instance, media takes up a lot of space.
Most books I own keep their precious position on the bookshelves, even if I never look at them again. A separate shelf contains an ever-lengthening parade of unread books.
I recently calculated that in the past 20 or so years I have bought an average of one CD or record every week. I won’t stop, because music is one of the only things that helps me switch off these days.
Of course, I have long realised that most of these music purchases will be worth very little money — certainly far less than I’ve spent on them. Not that money is the point, of course.
But I have recently found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the size of it all. There are some albums I’ve bought during the past five years that I’ve barely listened to. And how to balance that with the collection I already have? Let’s face facts: Some of these CDs will never be listened to again. I just don’t know which ones.
I won’t be getting rid of any of them. Although I did recently let go of the plastic wrappers, which I had been collecting for at least 18 years.
Then there are the video games (and the hardware that takes so much space). There’s a certain sentimentality that makes me hang on to these. I’ve heard older people talking about selling all their games then regretting it.
But how many of these games will I ever play again? And even if I wanted to, I could probably find another way, be it as a mobile game or on an emulator.
Other things have sentimental value. Bits and bobs accumulated through old jobs. Souvenirs from holidays. Gifts from wonderful people.
Some decisions are easier than others. Things with little sentimental value, and dubious monetary value, are now finding their ways to alternative destination.
We’ve tried, semi-successfully, to offload some of the better looking things to charity shops. But truth be told, the shops act like you’re being a burden for them. That’s because we probably are being a burden, by dumping a load of shit on their counter.
I’ve started experimenting with selling some things on eBay.
20 years ago I had this idea that I was going to collect a 1:43 scale diecast model of every F1 car that had won the drivers’ championship. This had an appeal when Mika Häkkinen won in 1998 and 1999. I plodded on when Michael Schumacher started winning. But drew a line at his fourth championship in a row. My “collection” therefore consists of two Häkkinen McLarens and three Schumacher Ferraris (along with a couple of older ones I randomly picked up).
Each of these diecast models at the time probably set me back something between £20 and £40, if memory serves. I’ve always kept them in good condition on the expectation that one day someone might want to buy them. But the F1 diecast model collecting community appears to be substantially smaller than I ever expected. By the looks of things, I’ll be lucky if they sell for any money at all.
(If you happen to be interested in Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F1-2000 at 1:43 scale, check out my eBay listing.)
I have every issue of F1 Racing magazine published between 1997 and 2011 — 162 of the things. They are occasionally interesting to look at (for the bad noughties sunglasses fashions, if nothing else). But they take up way too much space. And of course, the chances that anyone would want them are slimmer still than the 1:43 scale models.
(I’m dipping my toe in here by trying to sell all the issues of F1 Racing from 2005.)
Lego models. Fun to build once. Difficult to bring yourself to dismantle. If they are accidentally dismantled, you just lose pieces. They gather dust easily, while being impossible to clean. The space taken up is not negligible. Now, they’ve been put back in their boxes, and I’ve been informed they’ll only come out again once I have kids.
Does anyone really understand why people keep special bottles of booze like little trophies? Many of them have now gone, but Alex persuaded me to keep a handful of them. I’ll probably revisit this problem in five years’ time when we next have a space crunch.
Throwing stuff away doesn’t even solve the problem. We’ll accumulate more stuff. More well-meaning gifts. More odd knick-knacks from holidays. More strange hobbies that mean the world for a few years, then nothing for ever more.
The slow, dawning realisation I have is this: All that stuff I accumulated over the past 33 years has little sentimental value, and even less monetary value. The ultimate destination for it all is most likely under the ground.
Just like us all.