This afternoon, just before the council tip closed at 5pm, we drove with a trailer full of rubbish bags and a boot filled with even more. Apart from the garden bench, which had finally crumbled from dry rot, and the single bag of garden waste, it was all things cleared out of my bedroom.
I feel rather ashamed of how much I have thrown away. It will mostly end up on landfill – we separated paper and card, and anything that is still in good condition will go to a charity shop or be given to young relatives, but even so, we must have cleared a dozen bin bags this week. I can’t decide whether it was worse that I had accumulated all of these things in the first place, or worse that it took me two decades to start throwing them out.
My bedroom still isn’t finished. The drawers and cupboards are crammed with things (I can’t even remember what things) and there are piles of papers underneath the bed. The floor is strewn with numerous items spilling out of bags or tipping over on heaps: things I don’t want or need to take to university, but which I can’t bear to part with. One pile contains a calendar from 1990. At the end of August is a reminder of an appointment: “1.15 pm Scan”. Me, six months away from being born. It’s pointless to keep it but I can’t quite bear to throw it away with all the folded booklets of paper scrawled all over with childish stories, and the reams upon reams of school essays – some of them surprisingly sophisticated, some appallingly ill-informed.
I expected to find it more difficult than this, actually. The main problem has been motivation, because even though rationally I know that we’re making huge progress, the room never seems to look tidier and I can’t muster up the energy to sit for hours at a time sifting through twenty years’ possessions and then have to leap over mounds of things to get to the door. But the emotional wrench I expected hasn’t come. Maybe it’s because I have been away for such a long time that it doesn’t really feel as though the toys and ornaments are mine any more.
On Wednesday my sisters came round and we cleared my dressing table and window ledge, where for the past ten years I had been collecting toiletries, ornaments and dust. Apart from a bottle of nail varnish remover, the toiletries went into the bin bag without a second thought. I don’t wear nail varnish any more. I never did use perfume. The ornaments were dusted and put into the charity shop pile. They’re tat, but some people like tat.
The window ledge was pretty disgusting. I’m not sure what it is about windows that makes them so attractive to insects and spiders, but it was thick with dust and totally covered in webs and dead flies. When we attempted to clean the dust from the white straw hat of my china doll, the straw crumbled into tiny flakes. I should have done this years ago, before it was too late to save it. But maybe I needed to wait until now, when I’m anxious to move forwards instead of hanging back and clinging to my toys and teddies. I’ll keep a selection of the cards, letters, essays, drawings and diaries, just like I keep a selection of the memories to which they are attached, but you can’t carry your entire life around with you forever, and I’m ready to start collecting new things now.