It’s National Old Stuff Day - time to cherish the past
- Credit: PA
It's time to get out all your old stuff and show it some love
It's true. March 2 is National Old Stuff Day and that means there are a lot of people out there who will be declaring the junk under their beds as treasure trove.
Old stuff? You know what they mean... those old mobile phones, the box of stuff your mum gave you 30 years after you moved out of the family home.
And then there's the stuff you're still using every day. For example:
• The oldest working television set in Britain was bought in 1936. The Marconi 702-type had a 12-inch screen.
You may also want to watch:
• A 1912 toaster: 'They always burn the toast a little, but still it is fun.'
• A Sony Walkman purchased Christmas 1990. 'I will tell you one thing, this has the best receiver on it I ever had.'
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• In 2012 Harry Cox's 108-year-old vacuum cleaner was still in perfect working order. Harry rescued the American Sturtevant vacuum cleaner No. 4 with all its original accessories from the rubbish, after it was thrown away during a clear-out at the paper mill where he works.
• Npower's 2010 search to find the oldest boiler in Britain unearthed a 42-year-old appliance in Billericay.
• The Metro recently reported that Dave Mitchell, from Hull, claims his 17 year old Nokia 3310 is the oldest being used in Britain.
• Evidence of the oldest refrigerator in service received by the BBC in 2014 was of a Prestcold fridge
Often old stuff marks a paper trail through your life. In my case: the school reports, the cycling proficiency test badge, the 25 yards swimming certificate, the annuals, the back-in-vogue vinyls.
For the next generation the swimming certificates came in metres and there are old videos and CDs.
Old stuff has always been around but the origin of the day is shrouded in mystery, it seems. I cannot find a definitive start year for this occasion.
And to be honest, there is no end to the old stuff in our lives. Check out those television schedules. Bargain Hunt (can other people's old stuff make you money?); Flog It! (Can your old stuff make you money?); Antiques Road Show (is this a real Canaletto?) .
Then there are the shows in which antiques experts compete to make money from old stuff. Meanwhile for very old stuff, you have the likes of Channel 4's Time Team which tends to the archaeological. The Sutton Hoo treasure is, let's face it, old stuff.
Meanwhile in the real world, we have shops that sell old stuff; from charity recycling of clothes and knick-knacks to the retro-chic independents that pop-up and thrive in our towns and villages. Also mopping up the old stuff are shops at recycling sites and the antiques' emporia. Sometimes a shop, sometimes an undercover marketplace with lots of stalls.
There is no shortage of old stuff but some of it is too much loved to discard. For me, that would include the blue baby blanket I have had since my daughter was born in 1981. It has no monetary value but represents a priceless memory. My husband's concept of old stuff in terms of clothing, does not divide into old and new but into 'new' and 'gardening'. Thus a whole section of wardrobe is devoted to 'gardening' clothes.
So how do we celebrate Old Stuff Day? There's a choice, accumulate more, chuck it out or make it someone else's old stuff.
It could be a good day to declutter? Stuff you aren't so into any more could make a great gift for someone else, or you could always pass on old things on to your local charity shop. For some, this is going to hurt.
But why not upcycle old clothes into new outfits? The past few years have witnessed a craft explosion with people turning again to sewing machines, crochet hooks and knitting needles. A bit of creative tinkering could yield fantastic results and, if it doesn't, well, it's not the end of the world.
The old stuff we keep is surely not really old at all because it is relevant. When we have no need of it, we throw it out but, until then, it remains evergreen. I like to think that one day, my grandchildren will read my school reports and either realise where their lack of mathematical ability came from or celebrate the fact they did not inherit their grandmother's lack of talent. The old stuff often has a big investment in new things. My wedding dress, for example, was dyed pink for the Ascot scene in the musical My Fair Lady and later, re-styled for one of the characters in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. It was my wedding dress but now it is a costume. This regeneration of old clothing for the purposes of theatrical performance currently fills about six old suitcases in the attic.
And let's not forget some of it is considerably better than new stuff. The people whose vacuum cleaners are still working perfectly well after half a century. The central heating boilers battling on into their fourth decades, the rust-free 40-year-old car. Today, built-in obsolescence has, by and large, put paid to this sort of longevity.
Another suggestion for Old Stuff celebrations is that it could be 'a good day to visit your older relatives and learn about your family history.' Yes, well, speaking as an older relative, I'm not sure I want to be celebrated on Old Stuff Day as in: 'What was it like in the old days, grandma?'
My considered view is that times are much better now than they were before we had an indoor lav, central heating and ready meals.