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Past pleasures

Kate Townshend is an avowed declutterer, with one exception – she keeps a hoard of treasured keepsakes, which she dips into to bring back memories sweet and sharp, and to keep her grounded

Did you know that Mary Shelley is said to have kept the heart of her dead husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in her desk drawer? Apparently, it was wrapped in one of his poems for added pathos. She is a heroine of mine, for her writing and politics and, while I probably draw the line at actual body parts, I have some sympathy with her attachment to this tangible reminder of her husband.

One woman’s junk…

My own less rock-and-roll version of a heart in a drawer is a trunk (it used to be a suitcase, before that a cardboard box and, once upon a very long time ago, a simple paper folder) literally brimming with old birthday cards, notes passed in idle French lessons at school, love letters from exes and terrible adolescent poetry – all palpable detritus of my past.

It’s my one concession to hoarding (that and books): I am brutal when it comes to throwing out general rubbish. Clutter makes me feel claustrophobic and panicky and my husband has learned the hard way that, if he leaves an object on our kitchen table, it is likely to find its way into the bin or the recycling. But give me a crummy old receipt with a scribbled note and some kisses on it, written as he leaves the house on a random Tuesday morning, and I’ll treasure it forever.

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