BT 329 & TalkTalk 329
THE WORST THINGS I HAVE EVER THROWN AWAY
One thing we learn quite quickly from Hoarders is that hoarding sometimes stems from the legitimate fear of throwing away something you actually need. Anyone who has ever held a boarding pass in one hand and a Zinger Tower Wrap wrapper in the other will know this is not irrational.
I cannot empathise with anyone who mourns the end of paper. Paper things can be gorgeous and stunningly crafted and imbued with all sorts of sentiment. They are also devastatingly easy to accidentally slip into pockets, which get thoughtlessly emptied into bin bags. Yes, it’s frightening that our digital footprint is indelible and various governments will be able to access all our thoughts and secrets forever, but it’s much less frightening than arriving in a strange city where you barely know one person, and the napkin with their phone number written on has gone in the bin at Waterloo Station with some pasty crumbs. And just because something important isn’t paper based, I cannot be stopped from tossing it aside as if it’s a used Kleenex and I am a 14 year-old-boy. If the Hoarders team have a strategy to help stop me needlessly chucking things, I’d like to hear it.
1. My degree
“These days, a degree in English Literature isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” is a thing baby boomers like to say. SO, GUESS WHAT I DID? Framing proof of three years of hard work and low interest loans is for show offs, so I stuck my degree in a drawer, along with nearly every back issue of NYLON magazine from 2005-2008, and a few copies of Elle for good measure. And as an ecologically responsible citizen, I recycled the lot. Apart from a limited edition Avril Lavigne punk pop fashion pull out, which I remembered I wanted to hang onto just as it hit the bottom of the paper bank. I realised that I’d accidentally binned my BA a few days later. To be honest, if I’m capable of mistakenly trashing a degree, I don’t deserve to have one.
2. My dinner
Cooking for family is stressful. Cooking for friends is stressful. Any cooking that doesn’t end with the toast popping up and being buttered is stressful. But there comes a time in every person’s life when they feel like they might be the sort of person that can conjure up a delightful rustic feast just from accidentally brushing the fridge with their bum. “I’ll make a roast!” they think. “People make and eat roasts every single week. How hard can it be?” Quite hard. This is what happened when I made my first ever roast.
Once I’d wrestled with a sweaty, glistening, clammy, gizzard-y chicken, I thought I was on the home stretch with the veg. I hit upon the genius idea of peeling and prepping it all first, so potatoes, parsnips, onions and red cabbage were all ready to go. And because I think there is nothing less civilised than eating a delicious meal and then having to stare at piles manky old potato peel afterwards, I threw away all the detrius as I went. I also zoned out at some point and chucked away most of the actual vegetables too. At least we had frozen peas with our chicken. And Birdseye potato waffles.
3. My sister’s house keys
Losing my house keys is something that happens often enough for me to set up a monthly direct debit to a locksmiths’ company that I am unwilling to promote because they have charged me hundreds and hundreds of pounds and don’t give discounts for repeat custom. But I have only lost another person’s keys once, and it was horrible.
My sister had just moved to a brand new, East London flat. She reluctantly entrusted me with her keys while I job-hunted and she holidayed in Brazil. At this point, I had previous. She spelled out exactly what would happen if I did “the usual”. She was a year younger than me, but about four times more strong.
After repeated warnings about the keys, she left for the airport and I decided to do some helpful tidying. I was childishly excited about using the old-fashioned rubbish chute, and after carefully shutting the door and congratulating myself on my security consciousness and key-remembering skills (they were in my hand and not still on the hall table), I then placed the keys in the chute, tipped it, and spent the next seven minutes staring in confusion at the pizza boxes under my arm. Then I cried. I thought about climbing into the bins, shoeless and pyjama clad, to hunt for the keys. I thought about climbing into the bin and just waiting to die. My phone and wallet were inside, and I was so horribly broke from my locksmiths habit that even if I did call someone out, I’d have no money to pay them with.
I spent the next four hours crying, running at the door really fast and attempting to jimmy the lock with Chinese takeaway leaflets. The former was probably the most effective. Then a miracle happened. The housemate who wasn’t supposed to be coming back for another two days had returned early, after her camping trip got rained off. She let me in, I copied the keys and I bought her dinner, which was tastier and cheaper than a new lock. And my sister never found out. Until now...
4. My friend’s clothes
I can barely bring myself to talk about this. It means that the Mitchell And Webb sketch ‘Get Me Hennimore’ is not an occasion for laughter, but an unbearably poignant reminder of the havoc that can be wreaked when things are mixed up.
When a friend left her London flat to spend a year teaching in China, I enthusiastically offered my parents’ house as an alternative to the Big Yellow Storage company. Friend brought many, many boxes of pricey, priceless vintage treasures, all mothballed and wrapped in tissue paper awaiting her return. She had been gone for a couple of months when I responded to the parental pressure to sort out my rubbish, and filled many, many bin bags with polyester corsets from Pilot and Morgan. I owned no priceless vintage treasures, preferring the contents of my wardrobe to be cheap, plasticky and flammable. When Mum told me she’d “sort out” the “stuff to go to charity” I assumed she would see the bin bags and think “Aha, for the bin!” But the boxes foxed her. Despite looking a bit more permanent and organised than anything I would have managed on my own, she thought they were my charity shop donations. I only found out what had happened during a chilling telephone conversation a couple of weeks later.
My friend, and my Mum, are still understandably very angry with me. I am still replacing my friend’s wardrobe, one eye wateringly expensive piece at a time. (I once offered a girl at a Northern Soul night fifty quid for her skirt, which was similar to one that had been given away. I was quite drunk.) My friend laughed bitterly when I asked if she wanted my old clothes, so they got chucked too. I suspect the bags also contained diamond rings, property deeds and early versions of the Magna Carta.