COULD I live in a caravan?

I have a romantic notion of the simple life - “I could easily live in one of these” is what I always say on our annual family caravan break. My nephew reckons he can set his watch to the precise time I will trot this line out. It’s generally 20 minutes after arrival, when we’ve cracked opened the beers and I’m marvelling at the cosy interiors, making a note to check out ground rent fees.

I recently interviewed an inspiring woman who lost her house and now lives in a campervan. Having shaken off a crippling mortgage, Charlotte Bradman found freedom and happiness in life’s simple pleasures. “We don’t need as much as we think we do,” she told me.

It got me wondering whether I could downsize my own life. Could I get rid of my house and possessions, as Charlotte did? I mean, it sounds quite appealing - being a free spirit, life on the road and all that. Fine for a mini break. But actual van life? I don’t have the stamina to be a nomad. A caravan offers more home comforts but, much as I love a long weekend in a static, I’m not sure I could live in one. I just have too much stuff.

And there’s the rub. I’m into my fifth decade on this planet and I have accumulated many things over the years. I have the occasional clear-out; I love a satisfying de-clutter and regularly drop off bags of clothes, books, crockery etc at charity shops. But some things I can’t part with, and the older I get the more I wonder what will become of it all.

When my parents died and we cleared out the house, it was I who kept most of their bits and pieces. My siblings aren’t so sentimental and didn’t feel the need to hang on to things like Dad’s tweed cap and Mum’s holiday journals. But they’re important to me so they had to stay.

Sorting through a box of old stuff recently, I found lots of drawings and paintings we’d done as children. I was touched that my mum had kept it all (there was, to my sister’s annoyance, far more of my artwork - as the oldest child, I was clearly still a novelty) and I’d like to think this bundle will stay in the family, along with the photo albums I’ve kept and all the other flotsam and jetsam passed down over the years.

But there’s all my stuff too. It’s neatly stored, but still. One day someone will have to clear it out - and will they really want my exam certificates, Guide uniform, press card from the Nineties, concert tickets, 21st birthday cards, postcards and letters going back 30-plus years? Not to mention my ‘dolls from around the world’. And my fridge magnet collection that got out of hand when I found myself spending endless euros on tacky souvenir magnets I didn’t even like... I could go on.

“You do know this will all end up in a skip don’t you?” a friend once told me. He was referring to the files of cuttings I’ve kept throughout my career (I used to keep everything I wrote, even a downpage chip pan fire, but eventually I panicked about all the files mounting up so I had a cull and am more selective now). “I could give it to a museum,” I said, meekly, to which he laughed, for quite a long time. He was right - my life’s work probably will end up in a skip. I don’t have any children to go through my things when I’m gone and even if I did, I wouldn’t expect them to keep a load of old newspaper cuttings. I don’t even know why I keep them. Is it hoarding?

I don’t see myself as a hoarder. Aren’t they tragic souls whose homes are crammed floor to ceiling with massive piles of unopened microwave boxes, cat litter trays and multi-packs of toilet roll for the Armageddon? I have very little compared to some folk; whenever I watch Sort Your Life Out, the BBC1 show that helps families de-clutter their homes, and they lay out all their possessions in an aircraft hanger and discover they have 800 umbrellas and 93 remote controls, I feel quite smug in my neat little house, everything in its place.

That’s the thing about caravans - there isn’t a place for everything. My simple pleasures are my things; they each have a story, and a past, and I’m not ready to give them up yet. This free spirit still needs storage.