These fool­ish things

De­clut­ter­ing a house filled with in­her­ited trea­sures can be a mon­u­men­tal chal­lenge. Deb­ora Robert­son ex­plains how to sort out your stuff with­out los­ing your mind and alien­at­ing your en­tire fam­ily

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Deb­ora Robert­son ex­plains how to get rid of stuff with­out alien­at­ing the fam­ily or los­ing your mind

We’re all fa­mil­iar with the mantra ‘a place for ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­thing in its place’, even if that place is con­cealed be­neath a mil­lion other ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial ob­jects. In re­cent years, a whole in­dus­try has built up to en­cour­age us to rid our­selves of pos­ses­sions that clog up our lives or, at least, our hall­ways. even The Archers’ Kate Aldridge has been di­vest­ing her­self of any ob­jects that don’t ‘spark joy’.

‘Spark joy’ is the phrase that launched 1,000 skips. It comes from The Life-chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up, writ­ten by Ja­panese de­clut­ter­ing guru Marie Kondo, which has sold more than five mil­lion copies. I as­sume, de­spite its suc­cess, that it hasn’t sparked joy in all of its read­ers, if the num­ber of copies avail­able in my lo­cal char­ity shop is any­thing to go by.

One of the rea­sons that at­tempts to de­clut­ter stut­ter, stall and then fail is that books and web­sites as­sume we can breezily ditch a life­time of mem­o­ries and pos­ses­sions be­tween walk­ing the dog and break­fast. They don’t ad­e­quately ac­knowl­edge that, if you live in a house filled with cher­ished in­her­ited and ac­quired ob­jects, it’s in­cred­i­bly daunt­ing. It’s easy to ditch an Ikea chest of draw­ers, yet not so easy to get rid of the or­molu cab­i­net you in­her­ited but hate.

‘I love de­clut­ter­ing. Peo­ple get paral­ysed by the thought of it and don’t know where to start,’ ac­knowl­edges do­mes­tic ex­pert

Ag­gie Macken­zie. ‘There are three ques­tions you need to ask your­self: Do I need it? Will I use it? Do I love it?’

Si­mon Tem­ple-ben­nett, owner of Augill Cas­tle in Cum­bria, says: ‘I think your brain is hard­wired to be a col­lec­tor or a dis­carder. This Septem­ber, our daugh­ter went to col­lege. I kept pick­ing up things and say­ing “Shall we take this?”. She’d look at me as if I were mad. I said “But it’s granny’s bowl” or “grand­dad’s chest”. They all get given names.’

Here lies the first stum­bling block. Grandpa’s desk is much harder to send off to the auc­tion house than any old desk. Just as you should never name a pig you in­tend to eat, if we are to sur­round our­selves only with the things we love, we need to stop giv­ing our pos­ses­sions names. Try to think of it as the desk or, bet­ter yet, sim­ply a desk.

‘It’s not re­ally about the thing, is it?’ con­tin­ues Mr Tem­ple-ben­nett. ‘We’ve got this hideous cut-glass bowl. It be­longed to my grand­mother and it’s the shape of a grape, quite the most un­pleas­ant thing, but I’ll never get rid of it. To throw it away would be like throw­ing away the mem­ory of her. That doesn’t seem right, does it?’

Ac­cord­ing to Miss Macken­zie, that’s ab­so­lutely fine. ‘I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to own your own space and not have other peo­ple’s stuff in­vad­ing it,’ she coun­sels. ‘My mother gave me a beau­ti­ful chest of draw­ers, but I just knew that I had to get rid of it. I wanted the space more. I told my­self it’s just a thing, not a per­son and it’s not hurt that I’m chuck­ing it away. Things have mem­o­ries vested in them, but if they’re not ac­tu­ally giv­ing you plea­sure, then let them go.’

Her ad­vice for tack­ling those im­por­tant fam­ily pieces that in­spire more guilt than love? ‘I think your first step should be to of­fer it to other mem­bers of the fam­ily. You look gen­er­ous and it mit­i­gates guilt. And it’s telling if no­body else wants it, isn’t it?’

There is an ar­gu­ment that, with ‘proper’ fur­ni­ture, we should be even stricter with our­selves, as it usu­ally re­quires cos­set­ing— the oc­ca­sional run over with a damp cloth

won’t do. ‘I mar­ried into a fam­ily of gen­er­a­tions of an­tiques deal­ers. It’s a lit­tle like mar­ry­ing into a fam­ily of very fussy hoard­ers, with the at­ten­dant com­pli­ca­tions of care, restora­tion and gen­eral over­see­ing of ob­jects, fur­ni­ture and art,’ ad­mits au­thor Lucy Inglis. How­ever, she’s cre­ated a method that works for her, ditch­ing what she can in or­der bet­ter to en­joy what re­mains. ‘De­clut­ter­ing and at­tempt­ing to run a pa­per­less house have helped hugely with free­ing up liv­ing space and also cre­at­ing a peace­ful place to be, for ev­ery­one,’ the his­to­rian says. ‘On get­ting up in the morn­ing, the knowl­edge that ev­ery­thing is in its place is im­mensely sooth­ing.’

And, ul­ti­mately, a sooth­ing, peace­ful, happy-to-get-up-in house is what it’s all about. Keep your eye on that prize and get crack­ing. You have noth­ing to lose but (some­one else’s) junk.

‘Ask your­self three ques­tions: Do I need it? Will I use it? Do I love it?

Il­lus­tra­tions by John Holder

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.