I’ve always thought of myself as a reasonably organised type of person. I don’t have years of old newspapers piled in corners, hideously out of date clothes hanging in my wardrobe, or an attic full of faulty televisions and broken Christmas decorations. I’m not hugely sentimental and have never considered myself a hoarder.
Just recently though, I’ve begun to wonder whether this sense of orderliness has less to do with my personality, and more to do with the fact that I have moved house a lot. In my 32 years, I have lived in over 20 different houses. Moving so frequently, you just don’t have the time to build up collections of junk you don’t need. You’re forced to continually sort and review your possessions, and if you know you’re going to probably be packing, moving and unpacking within the next couple of years, it makes you think twice about holding onto things ‘just in case’.
Where we are now is the longest by far that I have ever lived in a house, it will be five years in January, half a decade. How this has happened I don’t know. Maybe it’s just true that time speeds up as you get older.
The other day I thought I should perhaps have a sort out of my filing cabinet. Sorting Things Out is the kind of household chore I enjoy and I regularly empty draws of useful but annoying bits and bobs into the bin and give away Belle’s toys to Oxfam. I find it soothing.
When I opened the top drawer though I was not so soothed. It turns out the last five years have passed just as quickly for my filing cabinet as they have for me. Since 2006 I have been living under the illusion that I run my home and my finances like a well oiled machine, that important documents are filed neatly away in date order. God knows where this idea came from.
I take out a file labelled ‘home’. This really isn’t a very helpful description. It seems to contain everything from five year old car insurance documents to scraps of wall paper and dulux paint sample cards. Another labelled ‘bills’ is completely empty – what? I have no bills? An intriguing file I once optimistically called ‘holidays and outings’ contains an interesting collection of brochures for exhibitions that closed in 2007, and sumptuous looking pictures of holidays I will never be able to afford.
My favourite is ‘Misc Personal’, a confused bundle of passports, old love letters, particularly well drawn pictures by the children (I throw away the rubbish ones that don’t look like things), and old medical information.
Hmm… seems I’m not so well organised after all. It was all a myth…
I stare at the piles of paper for a while but can’t figure out how to solve it other than either just throwing it all away or moving house, so I just shuffle everything into tidier piles and put it all back in the drawer. I wonder how other people make decisions about what to keep and what to throw away without the threat of the limited space in a moving van to motivate them? Looks like I am destined to be one of those crazy hoarding ladies after all, surrounded by cats and bits of paper cut out from magazines.
Now where did I put my scissors??