Too Many Boxes

There was a time in my life when I moved house every nine months. Into my first room in halls of residence, back into my parents’ house for the summer, into my second room in halls (across the car park from the first one), back into my parents’ house for the next summer, into my third room in halls (across the car park and a little bit to the left, this time), back into my parents’ house for a gap year, to Glasgow and into a room within a building that was populated mostly by Royal Conservatoire students, and into a shared flat in the West End.

I lived in that last one for five weeks, and then the three of us who lived together discovered that I had unwittingly rented a flat that was, shall we say, less than structurally sound. We began to suspect that things were perhaps not quite right when it began raining inside at 1am. We bought a pile of buckets from the nearby hardware store and sat among the leaks for a few days, thinking that this seemed excessive even for student accommodation. And then some people from the fire brigade and the City Council turned up on the doorstep to ask if we were aware that the building had been deemed unsafe for human habitation. We extricated ourselves from that tenancy agreement and left with the sort of haste that would have made Haile Gebrselassie proud.

(Take note, kids. If, when viewing a rental property, the agent casually announces that this one room is not included in the rental and will be kept locked, you ask if that’s where the bodies are hidden and you leave. If you are moved to wonder what manner of idiot would have signed a rental contract in the face of such a pronouncement… well, yes. No bodies. No roof, either.)

Disclosure Scotland forms require a five year address history. My forms used to come with a novel stapled to the back, for the seven or eight addresses that didn’t fit onto the form.

The natural consequence of so much moving was that I did a proper clear out of all my accumulated crap every time I moved to a new flat and had very little reason to do any sort of clearing out at the in-between times. And then the inevitable happened. I moved again, after the incident of The Flat With No Roof, and stayed put for four years, which is five times longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I was seventeen. Now that the time has come to move out of this flat, I’ve learned that I haven’t thrown anything out since I moved into it, including things that I deliberately kept because I thought they might be useful one day (copies of every assignment I ever did as an undergraduate, why?), things that I may have intended to keep for a little while but then forgot to throw out (the service sheets from two Easter Vigils) and things that I clearly tossed in a drawer because it was closer than the rubbish bin (bus tickets dated June 2009). I’ve also learned that books and crafting stash are capable of autonomous reproduction, that an alarming proportion of my wardrobe is made up of scrubs, and that I have nine cables in my desk cupboard and only know what one of them is for. This, among other reasons, is why I loathe packing.

I am moving to The Other Side Of The River. Lovely Flatmate is moving to The Other Side Of The Scottish Border — it’s impractical, apparently, to keep your bed and your kitchen in one country and your job and your husband in another, so off she goes to England and leaves me to fend for myself. She and I have lived together since second year, been flatmates and friends and study partners and literally dragged each other across that finish line a few weeks ago, and it’ll take a while to adjust to not having her just across the hall. We had always talked about this part, about the part that comes after this enormous thing that we did together, but I don’t think we ever thought of it as something that would ever really happen. It was too far in the future for that. Like finals, really. But you always catch up with the future eventually, and tonight we divided up our spice cupboard and then spent our last night together with pizza and cheesecake amid the boxes that are scattered like archipelagos across our living room floor. So it ends.

But with every ending there is a beginning, and I have new things to come. I’m going to have a new flat that will be all my own, and soon there will be cats in it. (The cats probably won’t make me cups of tea or insist that I take the bigger slice of cheesecake, though.) I’m looking forward to living alone and glad that I decided not to look for a new flatmate, because, after living for so long with a friend, I don’t know that I’d do terribly well with a flatmate who was just a flatmate. I will no longer fall asleep to the sound of the Clydebank Expressway ten feet from my window, which, until I get used to it, might be unnervingly peaceful.

I have to unpack all of the boxes that I just packed.

The end of an era.

The start of a new one.



  1. Since you are just that hair ahead of us in all of this, these posts are unnerving to read. I have contemplated recently how long it takes to make connections, how much longer it takes to make friends. And so the era-ending is hard – we promise to write (or warn that we don’t) when we have to go, and we leave bits of tap-root behind when we uproot.

    And all we can hope for is grace and a soft landing elsewhere.

    I am, this week, taking quotes from shipping companies and eying all of the boxes I didn’t recycle the last time I moved. This weekend the books are being packed up and the bookshelves – Ikea, like everyone else’s – go back into the student morass from which they came. At least you know what is next. I feel like I’m going all on faith still, into the dark. Which should be nothing unusual, I guess.

  2. Funny: the whole idea of “clearing things out” played a significant role in my study of why people keep / don’t keep digital files, and I find interesting parallels here between the analog & the digital worlds.

    Also: your “about me” says you’re a final year medical student. No – you’re DONE! :)

    • I’m holding off on changing it until graduation, as until then I’m in this weird No Man’s Land where I’m a doctor (in the sense of having passed the qualifying exam) but not really a doctor (my GMC registration doesn’t kick in until July, my job doesn’t start until August, i’m on a rotation through the medical school, etc).

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