When will it end?

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Sometimes decluttering can feel like scaling a mountain, but I am inching my way to the summit.

I will never be a minimalist. Nor do I want to be. But I would like to be better organised. 

Converting my old sewing room into our new winter bedroom and closing off our top floor for winter, as if it were attic storage space, has thrown up some dilemmas. How to get rid of the crap without getting rid of the good stuff? What about the also-rans. What about stuff that belonged to the family, or to people who are now dead and it’s all that’s left of them?  

I have always tended to be a tad completist in my wardrobe, for instance, keeping outfits or items for a rainy day (which may not come very often, though when it does, it’s great to have JUST the right thing to hand). But it’s also hard to give up, psychologically, aspects of myself that I used to be. I’m not saying it’s psychologically healthy to be this way – it isn’t. I have far too much nostalgia for the past and an unwillingless to jettison it, an inability sometimes to recognise the person I am now and embrace that, rather than the more youthful and dynamic woman of the past. 

Nevertheless, I am making modest progress. Recently I bought a new towel bale (three bath sheets and three hand towels) and a bathrobe in Shadi stripe from Habitat, and out have gone all the other threadbare, unmatched, wrongly-sized towels we had accumulated over the years. The old Habitat towels are now lining the back seat of the car, while the rest are stacked in a cat carrier in the barn for when we wash the dog. The worst have been cut into rags and are doing good duty for floor-washing, after which they’ll go on the compost heap. 

I also bought a stack of storage boxes – plastic with clip-lids – which are all the same size and can therefore be stacked easily. I chose turquoise, as it’s a colour I like, which means I can bear to look at them if they can’t be hidden away, and that has tidied up a lot of my sewing paraphernalia for storage under the beds. 

The major stuff done, I decided to tackle the more difficult tasks and downsize all my ‘personal’ stuff into one storage box from the two it was resting in, and I set to on that yesterday with good results.

Keepers: letters from my sister and from my friends when I was at college, which I bagged up in a thin ‘college’ file; old photographs; my ITEC qualification certificates; old diaries; even my mother’s letters, which I currently feel too guilty to throw away now that she’s dead, but since I have no wish to actually read them again, they are bagged up in an opaque envelope, which I hope will make them easier to discard in the future and at least I won’t come across them accidentally.

Chuckers: letters and cards from my ex-partner. Why the hell did I hang on to these for so many years? He was a nutter and a psycho, and I’ve been with my husband for 23 years anyway, good grief. Letters and cards from people I can’t remember or didn’t like much anyway (ditto). Old school autograph books and exercise books – worth a read for one last laugh at my 11-year-old self, but of absolutely no interest to anyone else, given that I don’t have kids. Into the burning pile they went. 

Coursework from college went out some years ago: I’ve been employed for nearly 30 years and never once used anything I learned at university. But for some reason, I still had the paperwork from my disciplinary procedure from a company I worked for over 20 years ago, where I had to fight tooth and nail to keep my job in the face of anti-union bosses and an alcoholic editor. Again, why keep this? It only holds bad memories for me: aside from the death of my father, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me and permanently damaged my health (hello, colon ulcers). So again, into the burning pile it has gone, and very satisfying that will be when the time comes.

At the end of a couple of hours, my personal effects did indeed fit into one box, which is now sealed and stored under the marble washstand in the bedroom, to hand, but out of sight.

And I then started on my ‘cuttings’ folders. This is another thing I tend to do – cut out from magazines recipes, interiors shots and fashion that I find interesting or inspiring. But honestly, there is only so much you actually look at. In this area at least I am rather more disciplined, as I go through these files every year and chuck anything I no longer find inspiring. But this time, I am being more ruthless in order to get it all into one box, and ALL the recipes have gone out (never used one of them and, besides, I have a kitchen full of cookbooks, most of which will be going out too); fashion I no longer find inspiring; self-help articles I’ll never read again. 

It is a longer task than the personal effects, but I’ll be through it by the end of today, I hope, and that will be two more square feet of the bedroom in good order. Thus, inch by inch, I’m gradually revealing empty space.


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