Last weekend I decluttered my house. It was not a pleasant experience and I have to say I’m somewhat ashamed of the amount of utter crap I seem to have accumulated over seven years in our current home.
I remember so vividly when we first moved in and how we had barely a stick of furniture to fill it. Two of the bedrooms stayed empty. Our back room (a place I sometimes refer to as the family room in a poncy voice) had just a book case in it and the rest was filled mostly with second hand bits and pieces.
I remember back then that even though our house was largely empty, I still felt we had a little bit too much in the way of worldly belongings and I vowed that our home would remain a minimalist mecca with a strick “one in, one out” policy on any new purchases.
That didn’t last.
The rooms (not so quickly) filled - first with some actual new furniture and then with children and all that they entail. The family room, once bereft of everything bar a few Marian Keyes books, became the holding ground for 101 pieces of brightly coloured plastic in the shape of the boy’s toys.
And then it became an office - with shelves and a desk and a notice board and everything else relating to a work space.
When we added the baby who never sleeps into the equation - with her own collection of brightly coloured (mostly pink) toys it no longer resembled a calm oasis in a busy world, more an explosion in Toys R Us combined with a tornado in a branch of Eason.
I also had my secret shame. Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where it is finally revealed what Monica - the neat freak - keeps in her storage cupboard? Let me assure you her collection of clutter and rubbish was nothing - nothing at all - in comparison to what lurked beneath my stairs.
Cushions, paint tins, baby clothes, books, DVDs, approximately 27 handbags, tools, paint brushes, a rug, a couple of blankets, the boy’s long lost armbands, an old potty (cleaned, thank you very much), yet more brightly coloured plastic tat and the maternity clothes I wore when I was pregnant with the boy and couldn’t find last year when I needed them.
Lloyd Grossman would have had a fecking field day sorting through my self titled cupboard of doom.
But, after much hoking and poking and the occasional expletive and four runs to the dump/ recycling centre/ charity shop it was clean and organised and I wore the smug face of a woman who has spent the day up to her elbows in rubbish and bleach.
I never thought I was a hoarder before. Unlike my sister I don’t neatly pack away all birthday cards to keep as mementoes. I think somewhere I have our wedding cards, and the cards sent when we had our children but I haven’t consciously held on to things. Yet somehow I have still managed accumulated a lot of tat and put a lot of stuff away “just in case”.
I even had a small moment when I was bundling up the baby’s clothes when I wondered if I should keep them “just in case” - even though there is a greater chance of hell freezing over than me ever deciding to procreate again.
I wonder what it is in us that prompts to behave in such a way. Surely everyone has a cupboard of doom, a drawer of despair or a hidey-hole of horrors? Is it some latent throwback to the days when nobody had anything? Are we just all hoarders at heart? Is it a case that without persuasion we’d all happily fester in a mess of our own making?
Now I don’t want to overplay this. My house was bad - but it wasn’t Kim and Aggie bad. The visible areas were generally quite tidy (apart from the toy shop/ book shop explosion of the back room). but I can’t deny that instead of taking the bull by the horns and clearing out regularly I had definitely adopted the “what the eyes don’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over” method of house keeping.
Nonetheless I do feel suitably ashamed at how much we have added to landfill in the course of the last week and at my general slatternly ways. I’ll certainly not be giving Kirstie Allsop a run for her money in the home-making stakes.
Then again, I do feel cleansed by the whole process. I no longer fear the cupboard under the stairs. It is no longer my guilty secret. I don’t have to fear an avalanche of broken toys and handbags every time I try and retrieve the hoover. (In fact for the first time in about two years, the hoover can actually fit in it).
I may have been physically exhausted and mentally somewhat shamed by the experience but it has been a wee joy to fall in love with my house again - let’s just hope I’ve learned my lesson and in another seven years time I won’t be pulling this column out of the archives.
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