Our son recently moved out, which created an empty space at the back of the house. As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum and so, it appears do teenage daughters. Ours decided that she would like to acquire this newly available piece of real estate, along with the small office space next door to it. So, long story short, we began a tediously disagreeable game of musical rooms. This undertaking included uprooting two home offices and obviously, the room of said daughter and carting all of the guff held within, up and down the hallway; whilst all the time tripping over 2 large German Shepherds who openly lied about how helpful they were in such circumstances.
All of the displacement quickly became fairly confronting for me when I realised just how many plastic containers full of debris I actually had stored up in various parts of the house. For the most part, my miscellany was cunningly disguised as Christmas decorations, but upon closer inspection of the plastic Pandora’s boxes, it became evident that they actually contained a hoard that could ostensibly be divided into the following categories:
- Board games and jigsaw puzzles with at least 20% of the pieces missing.
- Huge stockpiles of white board markers that had not written on any board, irrespective of colour since 2001.
- Other, smaller, plastic containers, lovingly nestled into each other like environmentally irresponsible Matryoshka Dolls.
Reams of loose bits of paper from 2012-2015, reminding me to do things (I did smile at the irony of the “sort boxes” memo – oh 2013 Kellie, you hopeful little sun child).
It wasn’t really a surprise to me that I had obtained that strata of tat ownership, I have a certain level of self-knowledge that even the wine can’t dull. Rather I think its more that I’d gone with the, “if a box full of crap is in a forest (or secreted away at the back of an office, is context really that important here?) and no-one ever opens it, is it really there?”paradigm. I find, if I make things I wish to avoid more existentialist in nature, it allows for slightly less anxiety, at least in the short term.
However, reality (and my daughter) is a cruel mistress, the cavernous lidded containers needed to be dealt with, and my shame revealed. I have said it before and I will say it again; I am a few dead cats and some piles of newspapers from the early 90s away from hoarding. In the absence of flattened felines and plastic bags full of my own human waste, I can still in good conscience call myself a “collector,” however, I am aware of the slippery slope that I tread. So, haunted by falsely labeled containers and encouraged by watching the ads for an episode of Maria Kondo (I couldn’t watch an actual show, baby steps people), I decided to try my hand at #decluttering.
Apparently, Maria says, step one is committing to tidying up – now that hound ain’t gonna hunt, so I just moved on to step 2. This step is imagining my ideal lifestyle, much more palatable. After about four and a half hours Googling how to house train miniature donkeys, thoroughly researching what my face shape says about me (I have a gung-ho attitude and a lot of stamina. To be frank, I’m not sure that test went through rigorous peer review) and buying a retro “Bedazzler” on eBay, my vision board was complete. It unfortunately had absolutely no relevance to sorting a bunch of containers. Nevermind, on to step 3, discard but thank each item for serving its purpose. That started out alright, I carefully considered what absolutely could go to the big plastic bin in the sky, and made a mound. To save time, I wrote a thank-you speech that I thought I could deliver to the whole pile of crud, rather than showing my appreciation to each individual broken Yahtzee piece and lidless Tupperware. But then I remembered how much I hate goodbyes and my inherent fear of change and all I know is that when my husband found me, I was huddled in the corner of the room with a vodka in my hands, tears running down my face singing, Mad World. Not to be deterred, it was on to step 4 – organise by category, not by room. Hmmmmm, I’m not sure I’m hitting what you’re pitching there step 4, I think I still have some P.T.S.D from step 3; lets move on to step 5. Follow the right order, I can do that. Actually, perhaps due to all the vodka and the missing steps, the order thing is more tricky than it first appeared. I decided to use a progression that I am familiar with, and I put my right hand in, my right hand out, put my right hand in and shook it all about. I then did the hokey-tokey and turned myself about. At this point I actually felt substantially better, although, not much movement on the tidying front. It was time to tackle the 6th and last step, asking myself if the item sparked joy. Well, it turned out that although 800/1000 pieces of a jigsaw depicting a kitten and a puppy sleeping in a fruit-bowl may not exactly spark joy, the things that I could do with my time, that are not sorting out the boxes the pieces have been dumped into, do. I had been delivered the key to the mind palace at last; what does NOT spark joy for me is tidying and sorting plastic boxes or watching Maria Kondo episodes (even just the ads).
I must admit, I did manage to get rid of some extraneous junk and some genuinely labeled, old Christmas decorations (mainly tinsel, I just can’t like tinsel. It’s like glitter, string and Liberace had a baby). But, within days, I had become the proud possessor of a giant bag of souvenir spoons, and a cake mixer,circa 1968, that may or may not work but I can not bear to part with. Maria my friend, you win some, you lose some!