Monday, 1 October 2012

Losing the baggage, or losing my mind?

I heart stuff. From the coffee table books, to the cupboards full of shoes, to the tatty old bus tickets “just in case I need to remember”, I am a master-hoarder.

But in light of the recent decision, stuff doesn’t work anymore. Stuff needs storage, and storage costs money. And second to stuff, having enough money in the bank to pay for a hotel room or an emergency plane ticket is what makes me feel secure enough to embark on the Worst Possible Idea.

So it’s time to delve into the deepest, darkest corners (both metaphorically and literally – I actually have a space in my room affectionately known as ‘”the mouse cupboard”) and embark on a clearout.

Operation Ditch The Baggage operates on three levels:

1) If it can be sold on eBay, list it. Even if only raises 99p, and involves a painstaking triage of “how much will it cost to ship to Tasmania?”, “what is the measurement around the inside of the armpit?” and “can you send me a photo of the underside of the sole?” type questioning, followed by hours in the post office queue (a place where time stands still and iphone signals are zero) it will be uploaded. Even though it makes the minimum wage look like a “Get Rich Quick” scheme in comparison, every penny counts when it comes to the Travel Fund.

2) If it can’t be sold on eBay, it goes to charity. I need all the good karma I can get.

3) If it’s not really selling type stuff (that’d be the old bus tickets then) it goes in the bin. I will admit to misusing wine at this point.

The upshot of Operation DTB is a house full of boxes, carrier bags, rucksacks, envelopes and courier parcels for about four weeks. I make a few hundred quid (extra thanks to the boyfriend, flatmate and my mum for donating their unwanted bits to the eBay cause) and some new friends (my word, not theirs) at the Post Office. I have a lot of weird dreams (sorting through 20 odd years of old letters will do that to you) and end up with two 23kg suitcases of holiday-based belongings and some house things which we will stash in the boyfriend’s mum’s loft.

Two weekends before we leave, we drive the housey stuff up to said loft. Despite a bit of pre-pickup wonkiness (“I might have forgotten which pedal is which in the car”), I discover a natural affinity with the white van man.

You might imagine that these emerging talents, coupled with the newly minimalist belongings, would result in a state of inspired zen calm. Not exactly so. Half the time I’m gleefully transferring 99p increments from PayPal into my bank account, overloading the charity shop, and slinging black sacks into the bin. But in the early hours of the morning, or whenever the wine wears off, I also find myself wondering if I’m perilously close to a breakdown. Is this spiritual cleansing, or some crazy nihilistic attempt to delete my entire existence? Would I be able to tell the difference?

I find myself staring at empty cupboards, thinking “Christ, I had such great storage in this flat, will I ever have such brilliant hanging space again?” The final round of goodbyes, and encouraging “We’ll miss you” declarations prompt legions of “I love my friends and family so much, and I’m so happy, and sad, but mainly happy, actually I’m not really sure” teary meltdowns, to the bemusement of my boyfriend.

But as the last few boxes are offloaded, and my place in the flat is slowly transferred over to the new inhabitants, it dawns on me that even if I’m veering closer to cuckootown than San Diego, it’s a decidedly one-way street.

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