There`s a war going on in our house and until recently it’s one I`ve been losing, the enemy has taken hold in every room, lurking behind the sofa, skulking under the bed and colonising the floor and shelves in plain sight. So far, I`ve been holding it off from a total invasion but now the gloves are off (or perhaps I should say on);
I’m determined victory will be mine in this war- against crap.
Now one person’s rubbish is another`s treasure but for me this four-letter Anglo-Saxon word covers a multitude of useless or semi useless objects, mostly of the brightly coloured plastic variety. I’ve not been staying on top of it and in a two bed room new build with next to no storage space that’s not a good thing. I` ll admit a bit of self-delusion has been at play. I told myself the mess was a lifestyle choice, the price to pay for doing things which I considered more fun or important but it got to the point where it was getting me down.
Now you might be wondering if we have had to burrow our way through stacks of pie trays to get to the front door every morning, well no, my hoarding tendencies are only mild. But I was finding Charlie`s mega blocks everywhere from my bed to the bath tub and the coats and old shoes seemed to be breeding and multiplying in the minuscule hall way. On shelves and surfaces books and paperwork lay in disorderly piles and there are boxes and baskets crammed full of miscellaneous “stuff.”
When Ruby asked if her friend could come round for an impromptu play date after school one day I put her off but felt guilty about it. We had been to this little girl’s house once, sat in the gleaming kitchen and been shown her spotless bedroom, toys carefully categorized and shut away in drawers. I would need to spend a couple of days solidly cleaning and tidying before I could imagine letting a child from such a house(or more importantly her Mother) over our own messy threshold.
At the time I started writing this Christmas was still hanging on the horizon like a big glittery cloud. I had nightmarish visions of the front room after Santa’s Christmas eve crap bombing mission;the front room knee deep in shredded wrapping paper and polystyrene chunks covering a base layer of toys which needed to be assigned space in our already overcrowded house.
But then Ruby got norovirus, a nasty bug which kept her off school for 7 days which she spent shivering in bed or on the sofa binging on Christmas films. Our normal life and routine ground to a halt and I found myself confined to the house with the kids for the duration of her illness and with no way of distracting myself I was forced to grab a bin liner and square up to the enemy within.
No de cluttering mission can be carried out successfully unless the whole family is on board. Charlie at 2 was a little young to understand and Ruby was surprisingly easy to convince. I said “we need to choose some toys to give away or Santa won`t have room to leave anymore.”
”OK “came her muffled voice from under the blanket, a surprising answer from a girl who once collected a box full of dead lady birds and refused to get rid of them even when they had turned into a fine ash of legs and wings.
With Ruby s help and blessing we got off to a flying start on the first day filling four bin liners full of old clothes and toys, the My little pony cull was particularly successful and we reduced the collection by half.
A while back I had watched the Japanese organisation expert Marie Kondo on her TV show, tidying up where she helps people who have messy and cluttered homes so I had learned a few tricks from the best. She recommends completely emptying whatever drawer you are working on and then picking up each item in turn and asking yourself if it sparks joy in your life, the answer determining whether it should stay or go.
I can see where she is coming from on that one, you are essentially considering how you feel about the object in question and what function it has in your life. My greatest stumbling block are giving up potentially useful things, I can just imagine how it would be if Marie visited our house. “No Marie my tangled knot of mobile phone charges don`t spark joy in my life but they might just come in useful one day, and as for my Nokia 3110, its virtually a collector’s item!”
I still have a long way to go but I’ve been working my way through the house room by room choosing one cupboard or draw to sort out at a time whenever I get a spare half hour. The process of de cluttering has made me feel both mentally and physically lighter as I pair down our possessions to the things that our useful or enrich our like in some way.
I’ve realised that most of the objects I really value are not things I have chosen but things I have found, or been gifted over the years and have moved with me like old familiar friends. The amethyst tree was a birthday present, the carved Madonna and child the treasured possession of my late Grandma and the pale lump of quartz was found on a windy hillside scramble in Wales.
In my drawers are the old t-shirt and nightie which I wore in when I was first presented the slippery bodies of my newly born children, little more than rags now but woven through with emotion and memories.
My house is never going to look like those slick, shiny minimalist spaces you see on Instagram and neither do I want it to because I am quite comfortable with things being a little messy;In fact the only time I have ever bleached my bathroom floor daily and alphabetized my library was whilst going through a mental break down in my late 20s but I cannot deny that getting shot of all the excess stuff that has been cluttering every room has felt liberating.
I used to think that our house was too small but I realise now that we just had too much stuff, at least 75% of which we never used and de junking is a constant ongoing process. It’s not just about getting rid of crap but policing what is brought into the house and thinking do we really need and use this? To borrow from Marie Kondo, will it spark joy in our life?
No house is an island and ours is just a microcosm of a wider problem of the Western World, we are all drowning in crap, its heaped up in garages and attics up and down the land and bulging from the boots of the Sunday morning queue at your local tip.
We amass so much plastic waste it gets ferried to developing countries to be burnt in huge stinking toxic piles and the oceans are awash with our human detritus, whales dying with their bellies full of plastic nets.
I’m not under any illusion that my resolution alone to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle is going to change the World for the better but the process of de cluttering has made me feel so much lighter already and that is definatley a feeling worth hanging on to.
So, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a crap free new year
Until next time