Sunday 11 March 2012

Let it go!

The Bonkers House is feeling nervous.  It is being decluttered. Drastically.

Editing my book The Detox Plan for Kindle made me feel guilty, damn guilty. I know all this stuff but do I follow my own advice? Hell no. 
Truly, it’s nigh-on impossible to get any clarity in your head, in your life, if you’re surrounded by stuff.  And hell, do I need some clarity.  So the stuff has to go.
My mother was supreme at this.  In fact, when she died, there was barely anything left to clear. She had pared her life down to a suitcase of clothes and one bookcase of beloved books.  A few pictures, a journal, her photo albums.  A dog. 

Anyhow. It’s spring. The time for clearing and cleansing – and decluttering.  So I started blitzing.  Eight bags of books. Five bags of clothes. One box of DVDs/CDs.  Two boxes of assorted detritus.  So far…

If you’re gonna declutter you have to do it fast and furious, I reckon. Sling on some loud music, grab a pile of bin bags and just get ruthless. It’s fatal to pick things up and look at them too long. Don’t even go near the memories of where you bought, who gave, when given.  Nooooo.  Just fling ‘em in the bags and let go. 
Do you use a holding area, asked someone on Twitter. Hell no!  Holding areas are strictly forbidden, the devil’s spawn. They offer the promise of the second chance, of return, of reprieve.  Get the stuff out the house quick, before remorse or doubt sets in.  Well, that’s the theory.  My fly in the ointment is Adrian.

Adrian is a dragon.  No, not just cos of the Welsh bit or the fiery chilli and garlic breath.  He hoards. For pity’s sake he wears socks that are more hole than sock. Pants that are shredded, and no, not in a funky way.  He is a mild man on the whole, but when it comes to books, he turns nasty, positively gladiatorial.

‘What have you been doing while I’ve been away?’ he asked suspiciously on his return from Belgium last week.  I frowned, wondering if he’d picked up on the covert exorcism.  But no.  He peered over my shoulder and pointed accusingly.
‘You’re getting rid of books again, aren’t you?’
‘Only mine,’ I said defensively but he darted past me and pulled them all out, looking pained, making small piles which then turned into larger piles.  Ones he ‘might’ read.  Ones that ‘shouldn’t be got rid of’.  Ones which were, he insisted, his in the first place.
Sigh.  I don’t see the point.  Yes, I keep reference books; I keep books I need for work but novels?  Only those I’ll absolutely read again.  And those with huge sentimental value (and, actually, less of those all the time).  I used to read four or five books a week.  Keep them all?  Impossible. The house is already rammed to the gills with thousands of the beasts. Something has to give. In feng shui they say that you should always leave space on your bookshelves – to allow new knowledge to come in. 

Ditto clothes. What’s the point of hanging onto stuff you never wear? Honestly, even if you do fit back into it at some point, it won’t be in fashion anymore.  They’re sneaky, those fashion people, the styling is always slightly different; the cut tighter or the sleeve wider.  I’ve got a couple of jackets from the 80s which are gorgeous - one is an Elaine Challoner with the funkiest buttons, and the other I had made by Idol and it’s plain fabulous.  But I tried them on the other day and, seriously, they made me look like something from Dallas.  Hell, those shoulder-pads!
Since losing weight, the vast majority of my wardrobe hangs on me and, last time I looked, Irish potato famine chic ain’t coming round again.  I know I should do eBay but really, I haven’t got the nous or the energy.  So off it goes to the charity shop. 

James is like me. He doesn’t hoard.  But he does have a canny eye for making money.
‘You’re missing a trick, Mum,’ he said, eyeing up the ever increasing pile of boxes and bags.
‘I am?’
‘Sure. They’re doing a table-top sale next month. You and I could make us some money.’
Given he regularly manages to sell enough stuff to fund his gaming habit, I listened.
‘Look. Sellotape it up so Dad can’t get to it and put it in the utility room.  We’ll split the proceeds. I can get my video recording stuff and you can get a DVD player.’ 
‘I don’t need a DVD player. If I want to watch something, I can use your Xbox.’
He snarled.  ‘Just do it, Mum.’
‘Okay, boss.’

So, against my better nature, I have a holding area.  Just for now. 
How about you?  Hoard or let go?  


Milla said...

Wise holding area "someone" was me. And I'm anxious, do anxious about those buttons. WANT!! Promise to do some decluttering in return. You've inspired me. So what's new?

Exmoorjane said...

Umm... usually you sigh and go, 'you weirdo, take your chakras elsewhere, madam!'... :)
You want the Elaine Challoner? Have a look when you come to stay. :) x

Nicola Vincent-Abnett said...

The husband hoards, I let go. In the end it was simpler just to buy the house next door. Our reasons were twofold:
1) We didn't have enough walls for the growing art collection... and
2) We decided to bring the library back into the house after a long sojourn in a lock-up. It just go too depressing visiting books that ought to have had their own room at home. We call it 'the archive'.

Exmoorjane said...

Brilliant extreme solution! :D

Rob-bear said...

Strange you should raise this. I've got several book cases full of books. I was looking at them. Am I likely to return to any of them (other than dictionaries and the like, plus Spirit of the Home)? NO. Likewise a spare computer, from the dark ages of computing. And papers littering the floor, because my desk is too small.

Time to clean out the old Bear's den. Must be getting nigh on spring.

Ali said...

I'm about to try and get rid of some books... I have piles from when I worked in a library and we had to de-clutter for new stock, so I 'rescued' a ton of stuff which I have not read over two years later. Feels like it might be time to follow your example and get ruthless!

Ashen said...

I try to make space in my bookshelves. It breaks my heart each time I pack up a box for Oxfam. And in no time new books find their way into the vacant spaces. I saw on pinterest the other day how books make good building blocks for seats, tables, even bookshelves :)

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

I'm pretty sure that your husband is related to mine, must be. Most wives buy new things and hide them from their husbands, bringing them out as 'some old thing they've had for ages'. I have to hide things I am trying to throw away! New things are always permitted, but nothing ever leaves the house. And our house is small. Very small.

When I get rid of clutter it has to be premeditated, and carefully executed. Do the hit and cover the evidence, fast. Then act calm and have an alibi.

No holding area, ever.

Mrs Jones said...

I find it easier to get rid of clothes than books. We have hundreds of the buggers and decided to have a clear out last year. I think we got rid of about 30. Pathetic. If you like the clothes still, why not find a local tailor and get them altered to fit you?

Anonymous said...

I had to do a major declutter when we moved, last summer - I spent weeks car-booting & made enough to pay for the large skip for the rest. About to move again & something about the not one, but two storage containers suggests I'm not quite done yet.
For a 'novel' way to pass on your books check out

Frances said...

Jane, I admire your admitting to not always following your own published advice.

I like the idea of having some goals floating around my being, even if I ultimately find them unattainable.

It might surprise folks who know all that I surround myself with in this apartment, but I long ago stopped taking on much new ballast, and continue to de-clutter in my own way. It was a major decision to use the library as my book source. That library has stacks filled with shelves of books. I don't need to have any more books.

Clothes come in regularly, courtesy of my work, but leave regularly on to another life at a neighborhood thrift shop.

Food and drink I take care of myself.

Bravo to your young entrepreneur son.


Rachel Selby said...

Definitely let things go - more stuff means more things to clean or, at least, more stroage furniture to clean around. Let it go - always.

Sarah said...

I decluttered the garage last August but I have a couple of bags 'holding' in the garage waiting to go to a flea market. Trouble is, I hate doing flea markets so they are still there...

My mother, who has a house packed to the gills with stuff has kindly announced that she will do no decluttering at all, but will leave all the mess for her kids to clear up when she goes. Charming.

Posie said...

Ooh I was going to get really jealous for a mo, thought some angel may have sent you one of those women that come in and de clutter and organise your whole home for you. I did wonder if maybe you had been sent a 'freebie'. Good for you, decluttering, it is always 'theraputic' but I find I do have to be in the right frame of mind, am much better at clearing everyone else's 'gudddle' and not my own, and that leads to very grumpy teenagers! Wise not to have a holding area, I always find that a week or so after having a huge clear out I need something that has gone off to 're-jig'....

Anonymous said...

My natural instinct is to hoard, but I am learning to let go. Life isn't about 'stuff' although I do like to have happy memories around me. So I am trying to be much more judicious about what I keep and what goes. Another reason why, when I was living in the UK, I LOVED the library. Perfect situation - endless books, for free, that you have to give back!

Greg said...

My wife went on a decluttering spree last week. If it wasn't thrown out, it was moved. Can't find a thing!
I must admit to having boxed up two boxes of books last week though. All to be sold (hopefully) with proceeds going to our Meningitis Association. Decluttering for a good cause.

Sessha Batto said...

I can't get rid of books - we have thousands, bookcases in every room ;) and swords ;) other than that I can pitch anything. . . but the hubs cannot!! We have moved a pot without a handle 3 times, each time I suck it into the trash, each time he rescued it. He has every magazine he's gotten in the last 30 years, bags and boxes full of slips of paper with phone numbers and no names (or even area codes in many cases). Eventually I came to accept it as part and parcel of who he is (and I don't look around me very often) At least my OCD ensures that the piles are excruciatingly neat!