‘Don’t worry babe, it will only take me a couple of hours, I think I only really have my shoes to sort out.’
Upon opening my wardrobe I realised the true ridiculousness of that statement.
The truth is, despite a lengthy career in Fashion Editorial, I have never been particularly adept at editing my own life. So when Sean and I had a standoff over whether I should bring my grandmother’s mink to Africa, I knew I needed to have a word with myself. Needless to say it is now safely hidden in a 40 foot storage container.
I am an unashamed hoarding magpie and after spending my entire adult life in London, my home is reminiscent to Ariel’s cavern, before her father dashed it all to pieces.
The dressing room conceals a sizeable fashion collection – some of it good, some not so good. A selection of fur that would see me through the coldest of winters in Moscow – not that I’ve been. International and contemporary fashion treasures, thanks to years working for Net-A-Porter and Harvey Nichols. A plethora of ill judged purchases from Topshop/Zara/H&M. Too big or too small sample sale buys. A hat for every occasion. More bags than one would need, but not as many as one might want. Shoes, boots, shoes, sandals, shoes, sneakers, shoes…
The rest of our home is no better. A mishmash of antique and ‘retro’ (god I hate that word) furniture from Chiswick Auction House and The Old Cinema; both worth a visit if you’ve never been. I’m also an enthusiastic and clueless art collector, every wall is occupied. Every shelf is covered and every cupboard full.
But it’s the worthless stuff that is the most priceless. I have kept every engagement, wedding and new twins card we received, some from family and friends who are no longer with us. If I touch the pages with their familiar looping letters, it’s as close as I can get to holding their hands again. The Champagne cork from the night we got engaged. A beautiful ceramic match box from the Amalfi coast on a favourite family holiday. I have kept the name tag from my first job out of uni, working on the Prada shop floor. Even though it reads Immanuel and not Joanna and I have no idea why I can’t throw it away. I have Arthur’s first puppy collar which barely fits around my wrist. A tin full of Paddy’s tail hair, before we lost him to colic (my childhood pony if you were wondering). I call these souvenirs of the soul.
How do you pick apart a ten year exhibition of your life and decide what and skip, store and set sail? The answer is with great difficulty. The two hours I had set aside turned into three solid days and I restocked the rails of every charity shop in Chiswick by the time I had finished. Topping the standout out donations list were:
32 pairs of jeans
12 dresses, from Whistles to Westwood, that I have been certain I would wear again (for the last 12 years)
9 pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of boots
3 bin liners full of high street disasters
42 books, most of them read, some not so read
A juicer, a fondu set, a pasta machine, a dish you are supposed to bake a whole camembert in, and 3 sets of martini glasses (I kept the other 4 sets)
Downsizing by a third of your possessions is a very cathartic process when you get into it, but it has also alerted me to just how much I have bought over the years which has gone unused. Waste and excess stares back at me from every drawer and we are moving to a country where poverty levels are high and the minimum wage is unimaginable. It’s not a nice feeling. And while I’m not quite ready to trade my Givenchys in for a pair of environmentally friendly hemp sandals, I have promised myself to make a conscious effort to be much more mindful of how I spend money.
As for packing… we are packed. Our lives are now bundled up into a 40 foot shipping container, which as I type, has already set sail across the atlantic ocean. Strange to think our sofas will arrive before I will.
And the next time I sit on them, we will be living in Senegal!