Operation Declutter


In the further adventures of Shelley is Moving House, there was a sudden realisation that, man alive, I have so much stuff. Not even useful, life-simplifying stuff, just large, cumbersome, space filling stuff.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh, maybe there is a hierarchy of stuff. At the rock bottom and useless start of the system I have a spare double bed in the loft even though I don’t have a spare double room to put it in, broken toys which are still mildly entertaining, damaged books, outgrown children’s clothes, back-up buggy in case of freak current buggy accident, out of date foods in cupboards in case of avalanche disabling me from making it to the supermarket less than half a mile away, home nick-nacks of themes gone by, photographs of people I really do not recall, archive boxes of paperwork I could never be bothered to sort, an unhealthy amount of spare uplighter lamps, original boxes for toys that have been long gone, and many other ‘just in case’ paraphernalia.

On the next level of stuff we have marginally helpful stuff, such as sibling hand-me-down clothes yet to be grown into, carpet sweeper in case of RIP vacuum or power cut lasting days leaving floor exposed to curious eat-anything-within-reach baby, excess of clothes in case unable to keep up with washing due to show home level of tidying where no wet washing met ever be sighted,

At last, at the top of the stuff system, we have stuff with a purpose – clothes for warmth, food for maintaining life and a house with furniture for comfort and shelter.

I was starting to feel that the more things I owned, the more the things owned me. So, the declutter commenced and saw nine black bin bags of old toys being dispatched to our children’s school to raise money for the PTA, two baby bouncer chairs and three black bin bags of books went to two local Sure Start Children’s Centres and one travel system and bags of mother and baby toiletries went to the women’s refuge, whilst bulky toys and outgrown, immaculate children’s clothes were sold on to others.

You would think this would make a huge difference to space. I can’t see it. Around thirty black bin bags have left the building, and aside from the bookcases, there is no noticeable difference. This consolidated just how much stuff we have, if when thirty black bin bags are removed, you can barely succeed at a in-house game of spot the difference.

The adventures of Shelley is Moving House, with a pending car boot of another thirty black bin bags to shift, has started looking into every little thing that can be sold, donated, recycled, or flung.

I recently met a beautiful soul called Debbie at an impromptu meditation night, who was also just starting to embark on a journey of decluttering. Debbie spoke of all the sentimental things she had held on to, such as love notes and cards. Regardless of whether or not she kept the notes and cards, the occasion or the moment that they symbolised, had occurred and nothing could change that, so did we nearly need to hold onto every card or item we ever receive? Probably not.

I have been with my husband for nine years. Nine years and four children creates a lot of paper and cardboard sentiment and subsequent stuff in storage. Totally agreeing with Debbie’s take that things do not dilute or change the experience, I told my husband that I proposed to start disposing of old school workbooks, birthday cards for a family of six spanning nine years, photographs and many other fire hazard forms of sentiment.

No. Apparently I’m not! My husband believes that ten years from now, when we may be having a bad day, we become complacent of how much we have achieved, or Firstborn has left home, that it will be the discovery of these little letters, paint splattered pictures, hilarious teachers comments in workbooks, or a love note, that will bless and lift us when we need it most.

Humph. Husband 1 : Shelley 0

Anyone fancy coming to a car boot this Sunday? I’ve got thirty black bin bags to clear, to make way for fifty years of sentimental paperwork to come.

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