The urge to purge

We are moving house at the moment. Slowly, over several weeks. It’s odd trying to carry on writing in a sea of chaos, boxes, bubble wrap, and piles of things marked ‘Why did we ever buy this’; ‘Gifts that we hate’; ‘Take to dump immediately’; or ‘To be accidentally-on-purpose lost in transit’ (all Himself’s football memorabilia is in this pile but I suspect he’s on to me). In some ways I’m like a cat or one of those gorillas who builds a nest to sleep in each night. I’m very affected by my home and I don’t like uprooting myself. I’ll be in a state of heightened anxiety until the pictures are hung on new walls and I know exactly where to find that specific book I need. But I can’t afford to take a week out of writing just now, I need to keep going. Is this a sign I’m taking it all more seriously? Last time we moved, two years ago, I’m almost certain I didn’t write a word for weeks. So I’ll have to manage, even if it means squatting among boxes with my laptop.

In other ways I quite like the excitement of shaking things up. When I was little I loved rearranging my bedroom furniture. It felt like a whole new room – a whole new life, even, possibly. I like looking through old things, taking stock, clearing out. I wish it was easier to do this in my head. At times like this I’m seized with an overwhelming urge to purge – get rid of those trousers that never suited me, shred the old bills, dump all the gadgets and saucepans and CDs that never get used. Equally I sometimes get urges to delete or throw away old writing – it’s no good, I’m never going to use it, it’s broken and stained and frankly, an eyesore. So why not ditch it?

Sadly, over-zealous spring-cleaning can lead to regret. I’ve always felt bad about selling some of my course books after university (Understanding French Vocabulary was a veritable treasure-trove of idiom). This time in moving I’ve already lost my E-reader cable, which I suspect Himself accidentally-on-purpose (playing me at my own game) threw away because I asked him to chuck the many, many leads we didn’t use (I perhaps didn’t ask him quite so nicely as that, but still…). Likewise I deeply regret losing anything I ever wrote, whether through the many upheavals and country relocations of the past ten years, or deciding to purge it myself, or failing to back up old laptops and floppy discs (remember them?). I miss it all, every word, no mater how dreadful. If I’d taken them to a charity shop for words, I’d be round there now buying them back. I wrote all through my teens, awful angst-ridden diaries and risible imitations of whatever I was reading at that time, from historical sagas to comic fantasy. However terrible– and it would be terrible- I would love to have it to look over. There’s good ideas even in dreadful writing, and it’s always interesting to view the strata of your growth.

So maybe we need some middle ground between hording and purging. I’m moving now to my first owned house, and hope to be there for some time. I hope I’ll write a lot there, and only add to the box of tatty notebooks I’m already toting round with me. Perhaps we should all have a yearly spring-clean of all our old ideas and titles – junk some, realising they were laughably bad. But also find some forgotten gems, spruce them up, and hang them on the wall?

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