The ten per cent solution

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I have decided to get rid of 10 per cent of everything I own.

I don’t know what it is about spring, but whenever it comes around and the light begins to stream into the house, I feel the need to declutter. 

I am not one for setting myself goals – I don’t believe in them, as they detract from the immediacy of life – but I am starting by trying to get rid of 10 per cent of everything I own. That’s 10 per cent of everything: kitchen equipment, clothes, books, ornaments, glassware, crockery, paperwork, letters and diaries, photographs, CDs, DVDs, magazines, makeup, jewellery… 

Once I’ve jettisoned 10 per cent, I intend to do another 10 per cent, then another, then another, in the hopes – eventually – of shedding the 80 per cent of stuff I hardly ever use and keeping the 20 per cent that I do.

I don’t expect it’ll get that far, of course. In fact I’ll be lucky to get to 50 per cent. Even 30 per cent would be a surprise. I am a natural hoarder, and I love collecting: vintage clothes, fabric, beads, kimonos. You name it, if I like it, I’ve collected it. But there also comes a point when you have to say enough is enough. In fact, enough is too much – the house is bursting at the seams. 

I loved it here when all we had was two deckchairs and I could ride my bike round the living room. And although that has to change, of course, as one settles into a a place, there is really no need to have all these tables and chairs hanging around. I can’t remember the last time we had a dinner party – drinks are far more likely – and I’d really rather not have to squeeze between furniture.  

Our late, great friend, Guy had an office so crowded there was literally no floor space. You had to squeeze your way between mounds of papers, journals, press releases, review kit and endless bits and bobs. I do not want to end up like this, because the stupid thing about my being a hoarder is that I also value my space.

Every square metre of this house is worth about 1,000 euros – that’s a lot of money tied up in cardboard boxes full of crap that ‘I might use one day’. There needs to be a better balance between my minimalist intellect and my Squirrel Nutkin soul. 

Getting rid of things can be painful, but I do not intend to beat myself up about this. It’s best to start small, so I began last night with the books on our mezzanine. A quick eye-count told me that there were about 1,000 books up there, so divide by two and that gives me 500 books. That’s 50 books to get rid of, and that, dear reader, took me a full 15 minutes.

Rather a shocker, huh? I thought it would take hours as I pondered over every volume. I didn’t realise there were so many books up there that I didn’t value. But realistically, I won’t read all those Ruth Rendells again. Nor do I want to keep the reference books I used when writing about office politics or over-35 pregnancy. Some of the health books were rubbish, and I hardly need the 2006 Rough Guide to Spain. Having a Kindle removes any need to define yourself to others from the books you’re reading, and in any case, our mezzanine is a private area where visitors are rarely invited. 

So, out they go, to Cancer Support France, a charity that supports English speakers in France when they are diagnosed with cancer (not the out-of-date guidebook, obviously – that is being burned as we speak).  And in, in their stead, comes glorious, wonderful space – clear surfaces and long sight lines. 

Clothes will be a more difficult enterprise, as they are my real weakness, but I think I’m going to rather enjoy chucking much of the kitchen equipment (deep fat fryer, anyone?), the garage gear and the paperwork. 

Well, on verra. Watch this space.  

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