Saturday 1 October 2016

The loneliness of the long-term storage unit and its contents

Katy McGuinness

Published 24/04/2016 | 02:30

'I vowed to visit regularly and do a box or two at a time. I was almost looking forward to it, the prospect of sitting in this little unit on quiet Saturday afternoons, working my way through the detritus of our lives'
'I vowed to visit regularly and do a box or two at a time. I was almost looking forward to it, the prospect of sitting in this little unit on quiet Saturday afternoons, working my way through the detritus of our lives'

I've heard it said that Mr Colman of Colman's mustard fame made his fortune not from the mustard that people ate, but from the mustard that people left on the side of their plates. I've come to the conclusion that a similar principle applies to people in the storage unit business.

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Last week, one of my daughters needed a copy of her vaccination record for a work placement that she'll be doing over the summer in the US.

She thought that it was in one of the boxes that we put into the storage unit when we did the big de-clutter of the house prior to putting it up for sale.

Since we took on the storage unit, I have had reason to visit on only a couple of occasions. There have been very few things that I wanted to retrieve and most of the time when I try to remember what's actually in the unit (this hasn't happened very often), I can't.

While my daughter was looking for the box that contained her medical records, I took the opportunity to stand back and assess what's taking up all that space. You won't be surprised to hear that I'm somewhat embarrassed.

When we took on the unit, I was full of good intentions. In the rush to get the house ready to be photographed, we ran out of time to sort through everything before we packed up the boxes. We were less than discriminating in terms of what deserved to be kept.

In went 20 years' worth of children's drawings and school reports and three decades of kitchen utensils. In went every photograph that we'd ever had developed. In went a lamp purchased in New York that I brought from there to London and then on to Dublin. (It's been broken for the best part of a decade, so who was I fooling?) In went my mother's collection of antique lace that I'm still wondering what to do with, 17 years after her death and my father's suitcase from when he was a trainee pilot in the RAF that's covered in stickers and luggage labels from Rhodesia.

Anyway, I vowed to visit regularly and do a box or two at a time. I was almost looking forward to it, the prospect of sitting in this little unit on quiet Saturday afternoons, working my way through the detritus of our lives. By the time we were ready to move the boxes into our new home, I reckoned, there would be considerably fewer of them and our family would have an archive of which to be proud. I'd no longer dread the round robin e-mail soliciting favourite photographs of a friend celebrating a significant birthday, as I'd be able to lay my hands on them instantly, because they'd have been put into an album and indexed.

I never did get around to sorting any of the boxes, and now it looks as if we're going to be moving them - unedited - into the new house. Either that, or signing up to the storage unit for life.

Sunday Independent

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