Two Chanel Handbags and a Satin Dior Slip

  MY mother is a hoarder.  You name it, she’s got it…  Or possibly two.  It’s reaching Channel 4 documentary proportions.  If you need a wet-suit; a snare drum or a flapper outfit circa 1920 you've come to the right place.  “But mum,” I say, “If you took £20 and went to the nearest big supermarket you could get practically anything.  Immediately.”  And to that my mother says, “Well I don’t need to.  I have it all here.  And it might come in useful.  One day.”  There’s no argument.   One day, indeed, it might come in useful.  Never mind that the spare room is uninhabitable; that the double garage has yet to see even one car inside, and that if you can wedge the door open and force your way into its dusty tunnels and piles of ‘stuff’, you are a braver (and thinner) person than I.

Dad has to pole-vault his way out of bed in the morning to clear the mountain of shoes by the bedside.  (I picture the phone-call:  “We’re sorry Bethany, he was last seen at shoe base one.  If it’s any consolation, he was found clutching the moccasins he had always loved, but mislaid sometime back in the mid-80s…”)
You just never know when a yellow plastic elephant might come in handy…
Yet it seems, apart from a slightly more eccentric family than most, I am not alone in my experience.  Western Culture demands constant consumption.  We are a throw -way society gone mad.  The unusual thing about a hoarder is not the incessant buying and collecting; it’s just the inability to actually get rid of any of it.  My mother can do the buying part no problem.  It’s only later, when the-dress-that-will-never-quite-fit finds its way back into the wardrobe and the past-its-sell-by-date yogurt is put back in the fridge once again that the problem begins to solidify.  After all, you never know, they might come in useful one day.

The hoarding drives me mad.  But I have a guilty secret.  I am a facilitator.  No sooner have I flicked through my glossy mag, and looked adoringly at the Chanel boucle jacket, or Dior pill box hat that I could never afford, than I say, “If you see something like that at the jumble-sale – you will get it for me won’t you?”.  Bingo – I've paved the way to a pile of hats, and six jackets on my bed by the time of my next visit.  And what’s worse, I've asked for it.  The problem is – sometimes mum hits the jackpot.  My beloved Prada shoes are courtesy of the Sunday market, lest I forget and get above myself.  The jeans I have on as I write are distressed Levis that were too tight on someone else’s bottom, but fit perfectly on mine (50p well spent a la mum).  So can I complain? (I do) Should I complain? (I just don’t know).

Visions of mum crawling next to the ceiling on a false floor of clothes and books, newspapers piling up at the windows, does haunt me, but as I depart from my latest visit, Chanel handbag and brand new bread-maker in hand, I have to remind myself that hoarding does have a silver lining.

And who needs a spare room, or space to park the car when you have second-hand Chanel..?


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