Monday, July 27, 2009

Stuff. Who Needs It?

Decluttering continues apace. Every Wednesday morning I pass a Salvation Army bin in my wanderings, and each week for months now I have had at least one, sometimes two shopping bags to donate. Sometimes garbage bags full. And there are bags behind my bedroom door ready for unsuspecting friends who drop by - children's clothes and piles of books. I was very excited when a friend revealed she was pregnant - more opportunity for sharing the joy! It amazes me that I still have stuff at all, but I do. Extraordinary. It all requires close inspection bearing that maxim of William Morris in mind - 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'

Coasters? Several sets for wedding presents. I have carted them around for far too many years. And here's the thing. I have never, ever owned a piece of furniture that requires a coaster. Out they go. Beautiful baby albums that I have never filled in, and honestly, never will. Out they go to somebody who is far more devoted to chronicling their child's first year than I ever was! I own seven frying pans, and only ever use three. They will be the next to go. And book lovers! It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bibliophile needs to own every single book she has ever read. Whisper! While it is heart wrenching to see books carried out the door by the carton load, it is sublime to consider a newly organised book shelf, with books only one deep, instead of piled precariously in front of each other, to the constant danger of passing small children. And I think I will probably be able to get through most days without consulting biographies of eighteenth century dramatists, or the entire works of several really dreadful Romantic poets, or The Man's collection of appalling crime thrillers that he reads on planes (and then never reads again). There is always the public library if such an emergency occurs.

And in other news - several months ago I had an ironing basket that contained the ironing, last season's ironing, several homeless cushions, most of the mending, plus a bag of candy canes (I could have sworn, when I made that Christmas Eve mercy dash on Santa's behalf, that I had bought candy canes. Now it turns out I was right). Now I don't even have an ironing basket! I threw out most of the clothes, which were only there because we didn't really want them, staged a marathon ironing effort over three nights with movies, and ever since have just piled up the ironing on the laundry bench, and ironed whenever the pile reaches the bottom of the window sill, which sadly, is about three times a week. Still, no pile, which is a joy. And a very small mending pile, which I am steadily attacking in the evening whenever I am awake enough after dinner.

While I am completely enjoying throwing things away, I'm still not finding any part of me that finds cleaning entertaining. Not even deep down. I am loving the whole clean thing when it happens, but then I also get more correspondingly grumpy when the five people I live with inevitably mess it up again. I am still searching for that Zen-like state where 'doing the dishes while doing the dishes' meets a 'noble acceptance of frightening results of combined creative forces of four year old and nine year old plus three of their friends.'

My challenge for myself this week is to clean up after every meal 'like I was never there'. This is the standard I set for the children when they ask if they can be more than usually 'creative'. They rarely quite get there, but they are getting minimally better as they get older. So this is the plan. After every meal, no one escapes until the dishes are done, table wiped down, food is away, and there is only a feeling of pleasant fullness to indicate that the meal ever happened. The family have been under martial law for several days now, except when I forgot several times, and they escaped. I have found two things so far. One is that the children are more likely to keep the kitchen clean if it is already clean. Two - the joy of walking in to a perfectly clean kitchen in the morning makes getting up seem almost worth it...

3 comments:

Child of the New Forest said...

I have been having a little decluttering frenzy myself lately (must be spring in the air), it is the BEST feeling, a newly decluttered room.

Jitterbug said...

Jo, you are such a talented writer! I love your idea about keeping the family in the kitchen until everyone's helped to put the kitchen back the way it looked before the meal. Osh, it's hard enough for me to look after myself. Can't even imagine constantly cleaning up after other people's messes...

Jo said...

Oh, I am loving decluttering - isn't it a wonderfully cathartic activity!, and Jitterbug, thankyou for your kind words, and yes, other peoples' messes - that is a full time job around here. It is lucky they are all cute!

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