Sunday, 24 March 2013

It might come in handy one day

The phrase "Don't throw that away, it might come in handy one day" is one I try really hard to avoid using these days, unless it's as a joke. There are things lurking in the darkest recesses of our homes and workplaces that should have been consigned to landfill years ago but we simply can't bear to throw it out because "it might come in handy".

The compulsive hoarder is probably the most extreme example of this mindset run riot. I distinctly remember seeing documentaries on TV about these people. One was an old Polish fella who's house and garden were stacked to the gills with absolutely everything. He never threw anything away and as sorry as I felt for him when all his garbage was cleared out of his place - he really was distraught - I couldn't help feeling that anyone who desperately clings on to things like that obviously has a severe mental disorder. A similar case was so bad that even one of the firemen who went in to assess the situation got claustrophobic and had to be hauled out - the only access to the small space in one room of this huge house where the bloke lived was to crawl over the piles of old newspapers and food wrappers, through a 18 inch gap at the top of the doorway. The space beyond was no more than a couple of cubic yards and this was the final bit of space in the entire house where the occupant lived. Sleeping, cooking and keeping warm with an open bar electric heater, surrounded by tons of dry paper. Would someone call the men in white coats please?

As I said, these were extreme cases and most people don't come anywhere near to this level. At the other end of the spectrum I suspect that even the most minimalist household will have a cupboard or drawer somewhere containing a pair of sunglasses with one arm missing, a menu for the local chinese takeaway that's six years out of date, half a packet of polo mints, and an assortment of old keys that don't seem to fit anything but you never know.....
For most of us there's at least one small bit of the house we're just a little bit scared of. In my case there's a drawer that seems to be the central repository for all the cables and chargers for numerous electronic devices, including ones for devices I no longer have. There's always that sinking feeling when I realise I'm going to have to delve into the drawer's mysterious depths in the search for a specific USB cable. It's the certain knowledge that even if I do find the right one, I'm going to spend the next hour trying to untangle it from every other occupant of the drawer. It's the drawer of despair and it will suck out your will to live.
It's not as bad as it used to be though. I used to be a bugger for holding on to useless crap, but I'm much better these days. The attic no longer groans under the weight of back copies of Performance Bikes magazine and all the packaging for every item with a plug ever bought. I now have a 'Five Year Rule' - if it hasn't been looked at or used for five years, it goes.
The exception to this rule has been DVDs which is really beginning to frustrate me. We've got piles of the damn things that never get watched any more, yet it seems so hard to dispose of them. I've lost track of the number of times I've watched 'Trainspotting' and even though I've watched it to death I still can't bear the idea of it not being there should I choose to see it yet again. The whole point of joining Lovefilm was that we'd be able to stop adding to the collection, but with the best intentions there's always the odd one that manages to sneak in here and there. One day we'll take a deep breath and disperse the whole lot amongst the local charity shops. Apart from the Red Dwarf box set of course. And Father Ted. And Aliens is a classic, I can't get rid of that, etc,etc....

The garden shed is a renowned victim of the 'might come in handy'  mentality, and if everyone was to reduce their shed contents to things that are genuinely useful, most would be down to a lawnmower, shears, fork & spade, secateurs, a big ball of string, a hammer and a roll of duct tape because every engineer knows that ultimately the universe is held together with duct tape. This process carried out, the average shed owner would only need a shed half the original size because the shed is traditionally the last resting place for all rubbish. The leftovers of assorted DIY projects like an offcut of skirting board six inches long, the empty reel that a length of power cable came on, and one rusty and slightly bent six inch nail. Every bloke has these things lurking in the shed, and it's important that they stay there because they might come in handy one day. DOH!

The Drawer Of Despair