I'm convinced my mother has a carrier bag fetish. I've just spent the last ten days at her house clearing out cupboards and drawers of stuff that she'll have no room for when she moves out of her 4-bedroom house into the 1-bedroom retirement flat to be closer to me. Moving day is drawing ever closer as the solicitors and agents do their searches and wotnot so I have been cranking up our clearing out and preparations too.
My mother doesn't just keep a few things out of sentimentality. She hoards them. Not only that but she then wraps them in plastic carrier bags. The plastic bags are then put in groups inside larger plastic bags. Each bag is tied with a tight knot (presumably not only to stop things falling out but to keep them airtight too.) Sorting through her possessions has resulted in me tying to unpick knots from plastic bags, find more plastic bags (also knotted) within and eventual finding the contents - birthday cards going back decades, receipts of furniture bought in the 1950s, hospital appointment letters going back decades, a cocktail stirrer from a cruise, letters from relatives, restaurant bills, picture Kay drew as a child, pictures I drew as a child. They are all carefully put back in their envelopes (the stamps alone tell the history of the rise in postage over the last few decades).
Sorting through her wardrobes has also been an eye-opener. Birthday or Christmas presents carefully inserted back into the original wrapping paper lie unused (she would hate to insult the giver by using the present and ruining it!). We have enough unopened bath foam to open a shop. As she's moving to a flat with a walk-in shower we may need to! In one of the bags in her wardrobe, I found two of my old school hats and a primary school blazer. She even asked me if I wanted to keep them. I mean, I am sixty-two.... would I still fit into them? Needless to say they were relegated to the textile recycling at the local dump. In the kitchen cupboards were at least twenty empty glass jars, just in case the urge to make jam or chutney descended upon her, as well as countless gadgets hardly used.
In ten days I have filled a huge packing box with hundreds of discarded plastic carrier bags (to keep just in case...); made several visits to the refuse tip with discarded paper, cards, and irrelevant items; humped countless bags full of stuff in reasonable condition to charity shops and filled my car to the roof on my return journey with stuff I might possibly be able to sell on ebay or keep myself (perish the thought that I am turning into my mother and Kay will be doing all this for me in a few years' time).
I have left her to fend for herself over the next few weeks (her cracked ribs are now nicely healed and she can cope on her own again). She is under strict instruction to wade through another 6 large containers of letters or documents inside bags inside bags and be RUTHLESS. She is only to keep the very precious things to a minimum. What are the chances when I get back there, she's put them all back again in a knotted bag within a knotted bag?