I unlocked the padlock, swung-open the metal door and peered into the poorly-lit storage unit. My heart immediately sank when I saw what was in there. The first thing to catch my eye among the carefully stacked boxes was a plastic shopping basket filled with the most random selection of items ever collected in one small space. There was an ancient tin of shaving foam, two bow ties, a pair of thick woolen socks I’d never worn, some old letters and, bizarrest of all, a Wendy and Lisa LP.
We’d hired this unit at the beginning of the year in preparation for our house move. For the first couple of months, there was an introductory offer and the cost was incredibly cheap. Somewhat unrealistically, we’d hoped we might move by early spring, so it seemed like a reasonable investment to rent the unit and store items we knew we wouldn’t be needing until we’d moved to a new property.
Here I was, seven months later and months after my last visit, returning to clear the unit out. That introductory offer had long-passed and it was proving to be an unnecessary financial burden that we wanted to deal with quickly.
There were some really important items in there. There was a box of gifts the kids had been given when they were baptised, the kind of thing that could get damaged or lost in a house move.
There was our tent, something we certainly hadn’t required over the winter months. There was my kilt, my rarely-worn dinner jacket and my DJI Phantom drone plus a large box of books I am itching to get on a book shelf.
I didn’t have to look too closely to see there were also items from my youth I had kept for years…..just because. When I took it all home and riffled through what I had returned with, I took a deep breath and started putting it into three piles; one for recycling, one for possible resale and, finally, a pile of items to be thrown out.
I was vicious, purposefully keeping the resale pile tiny because I didn’t want this stuff hanging around. There were several LPs, LPs that had once meant a lot to me, although that Wendy and Lisa album was not one of them. I have no idea how it came to be in my possession. All of it went for recycling.
The number plate from my first car? Nah, I really didn’t need that. A letter from my old MP about data protection? No, this could be shredded.
There was also an item of military uniform that I somehow acquired while backpacking in a questionable part of the world as a daft 19-year-old. I’d kept it as a momento of my travels although it had spent many, many years stuffed in a box with the shirt I wore on my last day of secondary school. The military uniform was recycled. I kept the shirt at first but the messages written on it were so horrible, a reminder of my unhappy school days, and so I reconsidered and got rid of it.
Before I explain my next find, one that had me in hysterics, I should explain that I have no affiliation to any political party. I haven’t done for many years and in the current political climate, I really struggle to find any party offering a viable solution out of the mess the UK has created or offering an appealling vision for my daughters’ future.
With that disclosure out of the way, let me tell you what I found. It was a letter on House of Commons headed paper from Ed Davey MP, a big-hitter in the Liberal Democrat party.
This letter was almost 20 years old, dating back to when he would have been a young and upcoming politician. At the time I was working as a local newspaper reporter on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. I didn’t like my newspaper’s management and I was unhappy in my job. I was looking for an escape route and applying for a vast number of jobs, any job that would provide an escape route, ideally to London which seemed like a lot more fun.
What had me in hysterics? I have absolutely no recollection of doing this, but I had applied for a job as a parliamentary press officer for the Liberal Democrats. The letter from Mr Davey was to inform me I had been unsuccessful but stated he was “impressed” by my CV and wished my “the very best of luck” in my future career.
Even if I say so myself, I have to admire my confidence. I wasn’t a member of the party and I had no background in politics whatsoever. While I found the letter very amusing, no, I wasn’t going to keep it. Or the bracelet that I think was made for me by an ex or all manner of items that had sat unused for goodness knows how long.
I kept any photographs I came across. I always struggle to get rid of photos and I have a huge collection that I’m presently trying to digitize, but a lot of the other stuff in that storage unit was stuff I thought I wanted to keep.
As I threw it all out, I felt a little like I was throwing away my youth. Shouldn’t I be keeping things that reminded me of nights out in the the once buzzing Cowley Road in Oxford, where I spent many a Saturday night in my teens and twenties? Did I not want that article of military uniform because, you know, it was quite cool to say the soldier who quizzed me at passport control as I left the country hadn’t noticed it strapped to the outside of my rucksack, something that could easily have got me arrested?
No, this stuff belonged to the past, to a different me. I can’t say I was always happy or confident as a teenager. Allowing so-called friends to write the most horrible comments on my shirt on my last day of school, well, that was the kind of thing I did to try and make myself popular. As a father of two with much bigger responsibilities, this stuff, stuff that once meant a lot to me, well it no longer meant anything to me at all.
Sure, it would have been nice to keep some of it. A few items genuinely reminded me of happier times and fun times but with space in our home a premium, that’s simply not justification enough to keep it.
Most of this stuff has spent its existence in lofts, sometimes moving with me as I’ve gone from house to house. It’s rarely been looked at and never dusted. My priorities have changed.
I should have got rid of all these items a long, long time ago. These items meant very little to me, but I thought they’d make great momentos. Getting rid of them has been very therapeutic.
On reflection I wish I’d never kept them. At the very least it would have saved me a fortune in hiring a storage unit.