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I admit it.. I’m a hoarder.  Not like those on the program of the same name.. No, not that bad.. I could never not leave room to get to my fridge, bed or computer. But I do keep things that others would probably throw out straight away or at least eventually. I can hear my mother’s catch cries as I’m typing this.. But I might need it again later.. and the classic…. you know as soon as you throw it out, you’re going to need it..  

Is it any wonder I am a  hoarder.  Now over the years, after numerous shifts, I have thrown a lot of stuff out and have kept the things that take up as little room as possible.  It took me about 15 years to finally get rid of the Golden Foghorn Award I won as a teenager.  Yes, okay it was only an old car horn painted gold and mounted on a spray painted margarine container but it was special as friends had made it for me to point out how loud I was.  I only threw it out when I was shifting to a smaller place, well after I was divorced.  By then it was totally wrecked but I was still sad to part with it.

I don’t feel the need to keep false teeth, every nut, bolt or screw you find on the ground and certainly not receipts and warranties from items purchased 50 years ago as Mum did.  I keep the things that, in my eyes, are important:  the things that remind me of people, whether still in my life or not, but who were once a huge part of me.

Photos and letters would be the oldest things I have, if you don’t count my baby health centre book and the card attached to my bassinet in hospital when I was born.  I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with them and I’m sure my boys will feel the same way when they have to sort through my stuff, but I can’t let them go.  They take up so little space, do they really hurt??

I have boxes and boxes of photos and slides from  childhood to my 40th birthday, when I got my first digital camera.  After that, everything was put onto CD’s.  I am in the process of scanning all my old stuff for safekeeping but still don’t know if I’ll be able to throw the originals out.  I finally succumbed a little while ago to going through some of the boxes of photos that Mum had left and got ruthless in throwing out ones that were no good.  My mother, God rest her soul, was the world’s worst photographer.  Every trip they’d been on, there were numerous photos that were blurry, heads cut off or shots of the footpath or roof of the car.  She obviously didn’t know she’d taken them. It was still hard to throw them out, but I got tough and did it.  That must have brought the pile down from 5 large boxes to at least 4. 9.  Huge cull. Massive!

Photos are so important with the passage of time.   I can remember looking back at photos of me as a teenager and being really shocked by how I looked. I had a low self esteem back then, so to look closely and think that the girl in the photo looked alright, was a big eye opener for me.  To see group school shots and realise that the girls I was the most intimidated by or envious of, really were just like me… a young girl in her teens, fresh faced and ready to take on the world.  I wish I’d been able to see myself then with my “nowadays eyes”. I really would have taken on the world if I’d known then what I know now… Hindsight really does give us 20/20 vision doesn’t it?

My other big weakness is letters.  I know it’s dumb but I still have nearly all the letters I’ve received over the years.  Letter writing is a lost art and I’m afraid I’m lousy at it too.  I have next to me here at the desk, the last letter my Aunty Joan wrote to me. I got it the week she died. She always wrote to me and I would be slack and phone her.  Yes, I know we still got to have a conversation, but it’s such a delight to open a letter and see words written with love. I denied her that same pleasure, though I did write occasionally.

Many years ago, when Mum was dying, I had the pleasure of opening a letter to her from my Aunty Pat.  Aunty Pat had married Mum’s baby brother Bill and so, was Mum’s sister in law.  Mum didn’t have the energy so asked me to read it to her.. I struggled the whole way through, choking back tears, as Aunty Pat recalled meeting Mum for the first time and all she had meant to her through the years.  It was written in perfectly cursive script, the writing itself a pleasure just to look at.  But the words were eloquent, emotion filled and so beautifully descriptive.  I was blown away by it.  We can’t always say what we feel about someone face to face.  Aunty Pat visited Mum regularly but that letter was her way of saying goodbye, I love you, your absence will leave a huge void in my heart.  What a gift.  I have it still tucked away as an example of the most beautiful letter I have ever read.

I have the love letters I got from my first real boyfriend.  I had fallen in love at first sight with this boy in Form 1 at high school.  I said to my best friend at the time, I’m going to marry that boy.  I was totally, completely smitten.  It took another 5 years but I eventually ended up going out with him.  I didn’t end up marrying him but I still have all the love letters he wrote to me.  Sadly, in a fit of jealous rage, my ex husband tore up the valentine’s card I had from him but the letters were hidden away.  I can still remember the poem on the valentines card.. It said.. Come to my arms you bundle of charms and stick to my lips like chewy. Your big green eyes remind me of pies and make me go all gooey.. . Ahhh, they don’t write them like that anymore.  I sometimes read over the letters again and they still make me laugh as they did then.  They were full of love, laughter, teenage angst and friendship with a few word puzzles thrown in for good measure..  I will always treasure them.

I have the letters my best friends have sent me over the years.  They too lift my spirits when I read them as they are hilarious. They transport me back to that time and the things we were doing.  They spoke about the loves in our lives, pets, friends, outings we were excited about, what we’d wear to them.. all sorts of everyday stuff. There were the letters sent to me while I was in hospital with a broken leg.  I was feeling so down and they cheered me up no end.  I still have a letter that was written at a youth group camp.  Our name was written on the top of the letter and then we passed it to the next person in the circle.  They then wrote a line about us, folded the page so their line couldn’t be seen and passed to the next person. .  When we got the letters back, everyone in the circle had written on it but identified themselves. Now, of course, we recognised most of the handwriting as we were all friends, but it was an interesting experiment in how much more freely people become with their feelings when they can do it anonymously.  Some were just generic lines that were written on everyone’s paper but most were well thought out comments about what we brought to each other’s lives.  I still treasure those lines. We all need to hear that we are loved and appreciated.

I was very enthusiastic about penpals when I was at school.  I had penpals in Sweden (who  I have met and am still in contact with thanks to Facebook), Hong Kong, Holland and Peru.  It was so exciting opening the letter box to find an exotic looking letter with my name on it.  The stamps looked so much prettier than anything we had and inside was an insight into another culture.   They told me all about their families and schooling.  I was always amazed at how they did this so well, when English wasn’t their first language.  Here I was, writing letters with badly composed grammar and it was the only language I spoke (other than some really awkward French). It opened up another world to me.  I began to look outside the confines of my own backyard and dreamed of one day traveling to other places.  I still haven’t done it yet but I will.  That love has never gone away.  For that I thank Lena, Patrick, Philip, Lennie and all the others I wrote to.

I have most of the certificates for courses I did, whether they were short hobby courses or nationally recognised ones. I had no qualifications when I first separated so went back and did a plethora of courses so I could get a better job.  It might not have seemed much to anyone else, but to me it was a real achievement.  I’m so proud of them all and I loved doing everyone of them.  I have met amazing people, learned lots of new things and acquired new skills.

I have all the cards I was given for important occasions.  It’s been impossible to keep every card but I have all our wedding cards (don’t know why I bothered with them, but I still have them) my 40th and 50th birthday cards, cards from Aimee’s  & Mum’s funerals and of those sent to me on the birth of each of my children.  One day, my boys are going to be cursing me as they have to go through the emotion and guilt that happens when you are the person responsible for throwing them out..  Oh well, I had to do it for my mum.. I guess a bit of guilt never hurt anyone too much.

I have most of the special dolls that belonged to Aimee plus the first toys the boys received as babies.  I kept an outfit each of them had worn when they were younger.  I even have my wedding dress.  The material is just too pretty to throw out..I think I’ll have to remedy that one.  I have the kids school reports (and some of mine).  How scary is it when you realise that if you covered up the names of the students, you couldn’t pick whose was whose..  They all read the same.. “Yvonne/Aimee/Lachlan/Stuart could do better if they just applied themselves more..  Okay, so my kids take after me.  School was for socialising wasn’t it?

One day, I may get ruthless and cull a few more things, but I highly doubt it.  When I’m feeling down about things and I can look back over a lifetime of love, laughter and friendship, it makes me feel happy again.  Those memories are priceless.  If my house ever caught fire, I know what I’d grab.  The boxes have been pointed out to my boys.  Get yourselves, the dog, the photos, the letters and if you have time, the crystal cabinet, in that order and get out.  I haven’t mentioned the crystal cabinet but that in itself is a story for another day.

Are you a hoarder or a chucker? I think you probably would have guessed what I am, even if I hadn’t pointed it out to start with.  Whichever you are…. I hope your memories are as strong as they ever were.. Thankfully, we carry those with us in our minds.

Happy hoarding… Livvy 🙂