Bits In Boxes

We’ve all been on those hunts, you know the ones, looking for that thing that you just know you have. That photo, that receipt, that tiny screwdriver that you kept because you knew you’d need it one day. You always know it is somewhere and let’s face it: it is always somewhere safe. Somewhere safe, in one of the many safe places we all have.

They’re typically drawers or boxes in nondescript parts of the house, aren’t they? They can be categorised further, and while we all have our own system, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people can relate, in some way, to the following:

  1. Important Paperwork File with dividers and labels. This is for passports, birth certificates and the like. This is a highly organised zone and no one is to mess with it.
  2. Less Important Paperwork File. This is where the important-but-not-quite essential documentation lives e.g. bank statements and insurances. In this space, everything that should be there is there, but expect a few minutes of rummaging and sweating when trying to locate something specific.
  3. The Archives Box, or: the junk you don’t need but daren’t throw out just in case box. This box is the last resort when you can’t find the thing you want in places 1 or 2.
  4. Sentimental Box (old): a place rarely visited but guaranteed to bring a smile or a tear.
  5. Sentimental Box (more recent), where last year’s holiday photos wait for cataloging and the seeds of a scrapbook await glue and glitter. And finally…
  6. The messy draw. It’s definitely in there somewhere. Everything is in there somewhere. Honey, when, and why, seriously, why, did we buy European-flag themed cocktail sticks?

The system and box collating typically starts around 12 or 13, when, instead of discarding an old shoe box, we keep one, cover it in bright “cool” wrapping paper – it had to be cool, didn’t it? – and store away our precious things: diaries, photos, letters your best friend wrote whilst sitting right next to you, birthday cards, and so on. Just stuff. Just bits and bobs. Yet it was the treasure of adolescence and woe unto anyone who dared sneak an illegitimate peek.

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By 16, the boxes get less decorative, they get pruned back and sorted, but they remain. Under every bed where a teen once resided, or in every parents’ loft, I’ll wager there are a box or two of treasures. I’ll bet there are sticker-covered cartons collecting dust and containing embarrassing diaries and photos of grinning youngsters, smiling proudly in the latest fashion disaster.

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The late 90s, when bright orange was the colour and GHD hadn’t conquered the hair-styling market yet.

Then, we grow up, we move on, and we leave bits in boxes everywhere so that a visit to your parents’ house can always turn into a trip down memory lane. You guard the boxes less secretively now, looking back and laughing at your younger self and smiling fondly at forgotten friends.

Yes, I am sure that bits in boxes will forever be among my greatest treasure. In this flat alone, I can count at least three places where memories are buried. To the undiscerning eye, the contents of these shoeboxes – I never really moved on from being 15 in this regard – look like the contents of a recycling bin. In truth, a good sort out wouldn’t go a miss. However, it’s too hard. Every time I think it’s clear out time, I get distracted. I get distracted by old photos and cards. I get caught up reading letters and flicking through already well-thumbed tourist guides. Almost without fail, rather than sorting and tidying, I end up hunting again. Hunting for all those bits I know I have, all those memories I’ve stored for a rainy day. Hunting for those things I put someplace safe.

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