Opinion

It's hard to let go of possessions. I need Stacey Solomon's help

How will our loved ones know what is precious to us in amongst all the stuff we accumulate over a lifetime?

Stacey Solomon in a warehouse holding boxes

Stacey Solomon in Sort Your Life Out. Image: ©BBC Pictures

I’ve had stuff on my mind recently, both literally and metaphorically. A life contains so much of it, and figuring out what to do with it is a massive undertaking.  

It turns out that when you leave this earthly plane, all the stories and memories you attach to your possessions will go with you. Nobody will truly understand why you kept a special elastic band in a box, or an old bit of twig, or a birthday card from someone called Margaret, or a newspaper cutting about cucumbers.  

It’s a humbling and heartbreaking truth that possessions only really fall into two categories – things that other people can be sentimental about, like photos or a fondly remembered vase, and items of obvious value, like diamonds, gold bullion and Dutch Masters. When it comes to the final inventory, your family will have to be ruthless, and unless you explicitly state that you want to leave someone your collection of Waitrose magazines from 2001, they’ll be going in the bin. 

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It’s made me think I need to have a massive clearout. I will be definitely torching my diaries from the ’90s containing excruciating Diamond White-soaked passages about being dumped by boys called Steve that should be lost to history, along with inflatable chairs and the Cheeky Girls. But also, I’ve realised that I need to make my feelings clear about what I hold dear and what I could happily chuck. How are my loved ones going to know what my most prized possessions actually are if I don’t tell them? They’ll assume my grandmother’s engagement ring, when really my top two items to save in a fire are a lychee shell called Colonel Lychee and a very inept painting of Patrick from SpongeBob.  

What I need right now is Stacey Solomon. Sort Your Life Out is all about the stuff we inexplicably take with us on our life’s journey. It’s such an elaborate concept: individually display people’s possessions in a massive warehouse, upcycle their furniture, give their home a complete makeover, then colour-code and label every single utensil and piece of Lego so they return to a house that’s like the archive at the British Museum. Solomon is joined by the usual cleaning and decluttering experts and a carpenter/DIY person, but there’s so much behind the scenes work going into this that the production team must be like the cast of Ben Hur.  

Yet Solomon always brings a sense of mischievous joy to even the most chaotic scenario – she can literally cut through the crap. When a woman is crying because she needs to give away one of 650 bottles of out-of-date Heinz Barbecue Sauce, she empathises, but is firm and fair. She understands the emotional complexity of possessions, yet she also loves an absolutely batshit storage solution involving tension rods and pegs inside a kitchen cupboard. “LOOK!” she coos, flipping through packets of sweet and sour and Cajun rubs hanging on a rail. “It’s like a wardrobe for sauces.”  

When you watch this show too much you start daydreaming about walls of pristine storage boxes, or under-stairs shoe racks. It’s a nice idea, but we all know it’s a short-lived fantasy. Being alive is to accumulate a load of guff. You can organise it meticulously in beautiful jars with labels that say ‘Pen lids’ and ‘Hair bobbles’, or you can throw it into a room nobody dares to enter – it’s all the same. Unless you are a Buddhist monk, you are destined to leave a trail of newspaper cuttings about cucumbers and illegible birthday cards in your wake.  

But while I’m here, I wouldn’t mind Stacey Solomon’s help with my overflowing sock drawer and a cupboard full of expired felt tips. I would also love a display case where I can put Colonel Lychee and Patrick. And of course, if she could make me a wardrobe for my sauces, I think flipping through a library of Crosse & Blackwell would be rather therapeutic right now. 

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist. Sort Your Life Out is showing on BBC1 on Thursdays at 8pm, and on iPlayer.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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