09 September 2013

My whole life flashed before me - in a carrier bag

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?


Isla said...

When we cleared my grandmothers house, we found hundreds of tins of evap milk and rice pudding. We also found lots of crochet balls with money stuffed in the centre. However my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer's.

Nota Bene said...

How marvelous to find your old school wear...it's the sort of nonsense I would keep, recognising that when I get old and flakey The Boy would only throw it away! We have a re-gifting cupboard for presents we don't want but can be given to people more appreciative than us. Good luck with it all...must be quite stressful as the deadline nears

K Ville said...

The problem with my regifting cupboard is you have to remember who gave what for fear of 'returning' a gift!

My husband has hoards of papers in carrier bags. It drives me nuts.

Good luck with the final push :)

DD's Diary said...

This did make me smile, though it's obviously been very hard work for you .... don't blame your mother too much for the plastic bags, they do breed in cupboards you know .... though I can't explain the knots ;)

Hippo said...

When I took the plunge, sold up and moved to the Barra de Kwanza to build a restaurante, I had to be ruthless. I was astonished at how much useless kit I had lugged all over the world with me. I had every single bank statement of mine going back to 1978, every single school report (uncomfortable Reading), all my text books from Shrivenham, every charge card statement, every bit of legal correspondence, every insurance policy I ever took out for cars long since sold. Why had I been lugging all this around?

Dominic and I dug a big hole in the garden and then fed the lot onto a fire, sheet by sheet to make sure it burned properly. It took us four hours!

Flowerpot said...

I was talking to a friend who's an electrician the other day and he said EVERY house has these!