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One of the legacies of the Second World War and rationing was the hoarding mentality.

I can well remember an elderly relative who used to collect plastic and paper bags, as well as string. She would use the latter to tie up neat piles of the former and stack them – never to be used again – in the hall cupboard.

For today’s de-clutterer, this approach to life is as alien as it gets, but it was an understandable mental state for those faced with long-term uncertainty, and a hard habit to kick once the threat of war receded.

Really, we should be thankful for the hoarders, for without them numerous attic finds would never have emerged into the light. Some of the best stories we read in the news these days about auctions are those that involve the discovery of some extraordinary item that has been hidden away in a barn, old chest or mouldy cupboard.

It’s not just the windfall these can bring to their unsuspecting owners; it’s also about rekindling our burning curiosity for hidden secrets that have the power to transform lives. Perhaps that’s why tales of buried treasure feature so often in our literary canon.

My favourite story is about a man who bought a painting in a Philadelphia flea market for $4 in 1989. It was the frame he wanted and when he removed the picture to re-use it, he discovered an original copy of the Declaration of Independence hidden behind. Its estimate value? Around $2.5 million.