Car boot sales and getting rid of stuff

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Monday 5th March 2012

“Car boot sale…16 years of junk gone and £150 better off…result!”

Those were the words of my friend Jennie on Facebook last night. Her update status caught my attention the instant I spotted it and I immediately set about trying to persuade someone to do a car boot sale with me. My daughter says she might, so you never know, maybe I’m making progress.

Our family has a real problem with stuff. Accumulating it, I mean. And I’m the worst. I simply can’t throw anything away – from my children’s first shoes to my faded Evening Standard newspaper cuttings.

To everyone’s horror, when my father had a sort-out at home and asked us to go through some of our childhood belongings, I came back with yet more stuff.

I swore that since I was 21 when he and my mum moved to their house in the wilds of Dorset, none of it could possibly be mine. How wrong could I be? Within the space of a few hours I’d found my Brownie badges, my first Timex watch, some Janet and John reading books, a set of scary school photographs and even my university thesis on Christopher Isherwood. I offered my daughter a load of treasures – a Biba T-shirt I thought was the bees-knees, a Squeeze CD and my A level history notes on the Russian Revolution. She took one look and said “er, no thank you.”

The best find of all though was a tiny, yellowing newspaper cutting of my mum’s that fell out of my history notes. I’d cut it out 25 years ago and kept it to read again. I never imagined that by the time I set eyes on it again my own children would almost be grown-ups and she wouldn’t be here anymore. But as I stood in the attic and read her words, time stood still and I could hear her voice so clearly in my head.

“I don’t think my children owe me anything,” she’d written. “I had them because I wanted them, because they’ve given me endless hours of joy. I’m in their debt, not they in mine.

“And if they want to emigrate to Yemen, as long as they’re doing what fulfils them I don’t think they owe me a letter, kindly or otherwise, a phone call, a card come Mother’s Day or Christmas, or even a hand-crocheted shawl, if ever I should come on hard times.”

6 comments so far

  • How beautiful, brought a few tears to my eyes – how very wise, and how totally written from love. I am going to save it to my precious words folder, if I may.

    As to clutter, you are speaking to a fellow addict. And I too have this naive idea that my children will like my memories in their present!

  • Linsey, thank you so much. I’d be really pleased if you kept it – your comment made me feel a bit choked up. And as for clutter, I’m so pleased you’re the same. I knew we had a lot in common!

  • Oh, how I relate to this post. I have some things that I can’t bear to part with – my first 7″ single (Kate Bush – Babooshka) that I remember walking into town to buy, ice skating badges, my uni thesis. My only problem is not having anywhere decent to store the stuff. I’m much more ruthless with nowadays-stuff though, I chuck loads out (but I won’t part with things that come with memories from 20-30-40 years ago). p.s. car boots are great fun and a great education for kids!

  • It’s lovely to hear that I’m not the only hoarder, LaE. Also, I find that even if I do chuck anything out, the house doesn’t seem to look any less empty. I’m working on my daughter and hoping she’ll agree to do a car boot sale in the end.

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