I admit it - I'm a hoarder. Even worse - I am an disorganised hoarder. I struggle to throw personal stuff away and keep it in cupboards for years with no knowledge sometimes of what it is or what I will do with it.
I have all my old vinyl records, thousands of DVD's and CD's, comics, books, every laptop I ever owned, computer games - Spectrum and gameboy, mobile phones, computer cables and gadgetry, photos, magazines. On top of that I have filled every bank statement, credit card statement, every receipt, utility bill, mortgage statement, insurance documents, investments portfolios. You name - I keep it just in case one day I might need something.
Of course the problem is that when I do need something then I can't find it - cue every January when I come to do my tax return - the information is there somewhere, just I don't know where.
So - last year I started to do something about it.
In August I employed a company to take over my book keeping and to take away nearly 100 files of the above mentioned paperwork and sort through it and file it properly. It took months. They only just returned it last month in January and I am pleased to announce well over half of the paperwork went away to shredders. And the rest is now organised in archived and correctly filed.
At a similar time last year I also had a massive purge of house hold stuff on Freecycle. I got rid of lots of stuff although the personal stuff and vinyl, books, comics etc I have now stored away permanently. There is also a pile of about 8 laptops that I had no idea what was on them. I was about to dump them in the skip but something stopped me and I held back. This was a year ago.
If you've read my previous blogs recently you may well know I have having the odd problem with some people - basically what I call the FR Conspiracy. It's all so much crap since there is so much proof already - however something has changed in me over the past few months and my hoarding and recent tidying up has helped.
When we sold FriendsReunited in 2005 I was sort of burnt out. It had been a 5 year roller coaster, really hard work, and an incredible journey where our lives had been plastered all over the news for a long period of time. I hated that part of it and wanted to just disappear back into our own little world. Of course I was proud of what we had achieved and the sale price was more that we ever dreamed of and allowed me the time to pursue things I find fun. I suppose I was sort of embarrassed too with what happened.
Therefore for the past 7 years I was happy to disappear and be forgotten about - and to forget about all things FR related. During that time of course other social networks took over and became hugely more popular. We just sort of forgot about our baby that was FR.
So the people who started accusing us from Spring 2012 again have managed to ignite a flame again in me. Every time they question our story, calling us liars - and believe me they do it regularly and still are - then actually it makes me even prouder and more determined. So much so that I have started to look back at those years with renewed satisfaction and pride.
Back to my hoarding. Two things have happened recently.
Firstly - when my files came back last month from my new book keepers, everything was nicely filled for me to quickly scan through and decide what to keep and what to shred. And there amongst it all was a file called FriendsReunited. It contained lots of early documents - including our "mad" 5-year business plan which was achieved and surpassed inside 6 months, lots of legals, and low and behold, all the letters from our conspiracists.
I thought they had all gone to the lawyers at ITV but I must have been sent a copy. Back then they were just another small example of the types of people who hassled us.
These letters are great - I've always wondered and asked for these people to print them so I could see them but for some reason they haven't. Now I can see why - almost each of them had some veiled threat associated and I will print parts of them later.
Secondly - I had already found and booted up one development machine I used back in 2000 and had printed screenshots in a previous blog. Of course these are ignored as I "must have fabricated them" of course. Ho hum. But I knew there was also a lot of data missing from 2000 which must have been on a laptop that Julie used. Don't forget for the first 6 months in the summer of 2000 this was a tiny site that was more of a hobby for Julie whilst she was on maternity leave.
One laptop would not boot - I took it down to my cousin's a couple of weeks ago as he is a hardware genius. After many hours of trial and error we managed to recover the data.
How brilliant has the last couple of weeks been.
There are thousands and thousands of emails from 2000/2001 - brilliant personal ones with loads of pictures of the kids and friends, lots of funny stuff, but the whole documented history of our baby that was FR from its first inception.
I have not yet finished going through them all but its been such fun - shrieks of laughters, emailing friends who were involved, unbelievable emails from people trolling us, abuse from all corners, hundreds of happy stories of people being reunited and much much more. So much stuff I had forgotten about. I didn't realise that we had started to receive so many emails even back in July/August 2000 from users - including a success story within 1 month of launch.
If nothing else I should sort of thank our conspirators because they have made me go back and revisit our time from over a decade ago - and it's been great. I still have another 6 laptops to see what is on there from later on (or even earlier) so watch this space. I will document all these emails into a timeline - for my own personal archive - but as a by product some people are going to be highly embarrassed again (not that it will make a scrap of difference to them)
My favourite iPhone App at the moment is Timehop. It shows you every day what you were doing exactly a year ago in terms of twitter, Facebook, texts and photos. It's great. What I have just done is a 13 year Timehop and I recommend it to anyone.