Travel

Photos of the Childhood Possessions People Can't Throw Away

Everyone's a hoarder, even if the only thing they can't throw out is a manky old deer skull.

by Chris Bethell
Jul 21 2016, 4:45pm

Some people have real problems letting go. A few of those people end up on TV shows where obsessive-compulsive cleaners go around their houses and look physically ill at the sight of all the stuff they've hoarded, because it will "definitely be useful at some point in the future." You know, old ironing boards, massive bits of sharp metal, single windshield wipers—that kind of stuff. Useful stuff.

But they're the extreme. Lots of us hoard in our own ways, whether that's keeping a "memory box" full of old school reports you'll read maybe once every 15 years, or holding onto a childhood item you can't bear to part with. I asked a few people to bring along some of those items to a photo studio, so I could take their picture and ask them why they can't leave those possessions behind.


MIKE AND HIS DRESSING GOWN

VICE: What's your object?
Mike: It's a dressing gown, bought for me by my mom, and I've had it now for at least 22 years, if not 23 or 24.

Why do you still have it?
Basically, when I was young, I couldn't sleep unless it was pitch-black. Even the thought of any light would keep me awake. So to get around this, I would always sleep with something over my face—and that something was always this dressing gown. It feels really nice; it's basically like a towel, and because it was worn so much it's become so soft. If I pulled this dressing gown over my eyes, I'd be out instantly.

That's the reason I've held onto it—I still do it now, but because the gown is in such bad shape, it doesn't feel as good any longer. It doesn't feel right. So now I just take off whatever T-shirt I'm wearing and drape that over my eyes. It's a shame, really. It's a bit sad. People see it as a "blankey," and that's thought to be a bit silly for a grown man. It's not for any emotional comfort, really; it's purely for the fact that I like something over my eyes. But because I've had it for so long, I wouldn't chuck it away now. I'm gonna have it for life.


OOBAH AND HIS SLIPKNOT WALLET

What's the object?
Oobah: A Slipknot wallet on a chain. I bought it as a gift by my auntie when I was 13.

So how long have you had it?
Twelve years. That's like the same amount of time I've not eaten meat. You could see this wallet as my chastity belt of vegetarianism.

Why do you still have it?
I just wouldn't want to throw it away. I think it would feel like I was letting go of that part of me. I was a big Slipknot fan, and I've thrown away all my hoodies, jumpers, and T-shirts, but I could never throw this away.

It's become useful again, though; I'm wearing it again. And there's a few reasons for that. Firstly, I know it's ridiculous. I was in an off-license [liquor store] the other day, and I noticed people laughing at me. I thought, Why me? I was in Brighton, and I don't often go to Brighton, so I began to hate Brighton. Then I realized it's because I was leafing through my Slipknot wallet. They were laughing at me because I was a grown man searching through a Slipknot wallet for change.

The other reason is because it's practical. The chain is attached to me, meaning I can't lose it. I've lost five wallets in the past year, so I've resurrected it in an attempt to reconnect with my non-stupid self. When I was pure.


ELLA AND HER ROSARY BEADS

What's your object?
Ella: The rosary beads I was given for my communion, when I was eight.

How come you still have them?
They were given to me by my grandfather. I have a strange relationship with Catholicism—I was christened, baptized, all of them; brought up on it, even though I immediately didn't believe in it as soon as I could understand it. I still have them as a reminder of my family, who are all still very Catholic, and they've just kind of come along with me almost mistakenly. The beads have always just been in my draw.

The weird thing about being brought up on Catholicism is that even though I am totally a non-believer, every so often when things aren't going so well you think, Hmm, maybe... So having them is also like a comfort thing. My nanny still throws holy water on us every time we leave Ireland.


IAN AND HIS SKULL

What kind of skull is that?
Ian: It's a red deer's skull.

How did it come to be in your possession?
I found it in the woods. I used to pick up skulls and bones and things when I was quite young. I collected them. Most of them got thrown out because my parents weren't too keen on having parts of dead animals in the house, but this stayed.

It was pretty grubby when I first found it; I think there may have been a little bit of something left in the brain cavity, and you can tell something's been chewing on it, as there are little teeth marks in the top. But that's not the kind of thing that worries you when you're a kid.

How long have you had it?
I must have found it when I was about six or seven, so about 17 years.

And why do you still have it?
I think it was basically because I got to keep a couple of things from my collection of bones and skulls. It's a slightly morbid thing for a child to collect, but there's not much to do in the countryside. In a way, it's sentimental to me; it's something from the countryside, and it reminds me of where I grew up. It's followed me wherever I've gone.


MARI AND HER VIOLIN

You've kept a violin?
Mari: Yeah. I used to go to music school, so I took it quite seriously. Piano was my main instrument, but violin was my second study. The piano is still with my family in Japan; my violin is smaller, so it's something I can carry around—something I can keep, even though I don't play on it.

When did you start playing it?
When I was eight, which from Asian parenting is quite late. I started with a quarter size, then to a half size, three quarter size and finally this one, which is full size. The violin is actually German—we went to loads of antique stores to find it. I think it was made in 1847. There's a label inside, but it's kind of rotten.

So at what age did you get this one?
When I was about 11. I played on it until I was about 18, but then started to develop problems with my tendons. It's been untouched for about nine or ten years now.

So how come you still have it?
Even though I can't play it any longer, I still love the instrument. There's loads of music I would love to play now if I could. I think if I was to sell it, it would feel like a big part of me has gone away. You have a physical relationship with an instrument. You grow into your instrument, and it also feeds into your body; it's a two-way relationship. I wouldn't say getting rid of it is like a breakup with a boyfriend, but it does feel like a big part of my body would go away.


MICHAEL AND NIGHT NIGHT

What's this, then?
Michael: It's Night Night, my teddy bear.

When did you get him?
I was given Night Night by my parents' friends when I was less than a year old. I think the first words I learned to utter were "night night," and I just kept saying them while grabbing this guy, so his name stuck.

How long have you had him?
Twenty-two years now, I guess.

And why haven't you thrown him away?
Hmm, for comfort when I'm by myself in my bed and it's cold. Sometimes when people stay over I have to hide him down the side of my bed because I don't want people to see him. Someone found him once, and it was really strange because they started waving him about in bed.

I don't really have any attachment to my childhood—I don't go back to where I grew up as my parents sold the house. Since I left at 18, I've not really been back there, and I don't have any things from that age either. He's like my only physical connection to my entire childhood, and he's really sweet and cuddly.


BEKKY AND HER CHAIN

What's your object?
Bekky: It's a gold chain that was once my mom's.

How did it come to be in your possession?
My mom died when I was a teenager. I found it on her bedside table and have since worn it every day.

How long have you had it?
For about eight years now.

As a reminder of your mom?
For me, it's nice to feel like I'm carrying a little bit of her around with me every day. I think, because I've been wearing it ever since it happened, it makes me feel safe. I always have to know that it's near me. It allows me to still feel connected to her, even though it's only a necklace. It's become a part of me, and I'd be lost without it.


KATE AND HER HORSESHOE

What is the object?
Kate: A rusty old horseshoe worn by "Birdie," a 12 hands gray. She was called Birdie because when she jumped, she flew through the air.

How did you get hold of it?
This may have been one that fell off on a ride or was discarded when the farrier was changing her shoes. Either way, it was an old one, so I decided to keep it.

How long have you had it?
Since I was about nine, so 27 years!

And why do you still have it?
Because she was a major part of my life. I grew up in the country—my grandfather was a farmer who rode over his farm to check on the animals and crops; he had horses, which he loved, and would talk to them. They were characters—his friends.

My mom encouraged us to ride once we were old enough to care for them ourselves and strong enough to carry a bucket of water. This frustrated me when I was really small, but at seven I found I was able to carry one. Birdie became the focus of my life for the next seven years, until unfortunately I outgrew her at about 14.

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