At last, the brain fog connected to operation house move has lifted. For the last two weeks, I have survived on a combination of caffeine, wine and adrenaline. And of course, the support of friends and family, who all contributed in different ways. By the end, I was so tired, it left me unable to concentrate on anything much apart from crossing things off my list and obsessively ‘getting things done’. I’ve not had the mental capacity to write anything and stringing a sentence together in speech has been tricky enough.
The last time I moved home, eight years ago, I was less than a year back to work from maternity, with an eighteen month old kid and a husband who was mostly out of the home running his own business. We paid a removal company to do the packing as well as the removal, which they did with ridiculous efficiency. However, it meant that much of the clutter accumulated while living there moved with us. With the luxury of a spare room, boxes got shoved in there and ignored for eight years. Anything electrical that got broken was stashed in there to be taken away another time.
On top of that, stuff seemed to multiply in all the inhabited rooms of the flat. Anyone with kids knows that no matter how well intentioned you start out – with fantasies of just a few well loved wooden toys and some teddies – your entire home gets overtaken with plastic shite in every corner. You find party bags with novelty pencils and plastic Slinky’s in long ignored drawers, and catapults from comic giveaways under the sofa. When you add my clothes and books habit to this, it meant that most cupboards or spaces in the flat were crammed full of stuff.
This time, I went through every single nook and cranny in the house; every drawer, every box – sometimes inside another box like Russian dolls – that I found was examined. This was time consuming, filthy, exhausting and downright infuriating work. Every time I got into another corner, I found a mix of things: ancient love letters and funny postcards from friends wedged between books, all my old higher education notes, a twenty five year old bottle of wine that I initially thought was valuable and turned out to be rank. Potentially sellable coffee sets and vinyl. Loads and loads of baby stuff that I hadn’t thrown away, and which made me cry. Things that threw up good and bad memories, so there was emotional pain, as well as stiff muscles from the endless bending and squatting. Decluttering is a full mental and physical workout.
I realise I probably sound like a hoarder but it’s not deliberate. Its an accidental thing, caused by laziness, rather than the urge to store. If something gets broken, or I don’t need it, I don’t actually want to keep it. It’s just that it’s easier to fling stuff that needs sorting in a cupboard, close the door and deal with it later. A metaphor for how I deal with many things in my life.
Most of all what I found was an obscene amount of dust and mountains of papers, bills and old bank statements that I had absolutely no need of, which should have been shredded years ago. Often, I got to the point of being so sick and fed up I couldn’t face looking through another box and was tempted to just shove it in a big box and pack it. But I made myself go through every single, fucking, one. There was at least a dozen trips to the recycling centre, car filled to bursting, and the same to charity shops, with other bags to friends and neighbours who have kids.
In the end, it only took about five days to pack, which was my plan all along. Absolutely nothing got brought in this move that I didn’t need or want. Yes, a few sentimental items like my son’s first pair of shoes and some things from nursery and early primary school. But I’m amazed how ruthless I was, and how much I got rid of; I’m estimating this cull was at least a third of my possessions.
The benefits of this are multiple. Firstly, the unpacking was easy. People keep asking me if I’m surrounded by boxes and are amazed when I say not. Yes, I did go hard at the unpacking (I don’t mind that bit) but I just had so much less to put away. Nothing for the hall cupboard but things that ought to be there e.g. camping stuff, Christmas decorations etc. Nothing hidden away to unpack later on or forget about for a few years. I know everything that I have and where it is. Except for a bag containing my fridge magnet collection that seems to have mysteriously disappeared.
You know that lovely feeling when you stay in a holiday home and everything is tidy and minimal and everything in its place? I have that feeling now. It’s so relaxing, having less things, knowing there isn’t a pile of clutter lurking in every drawer. One less thing to worry about in life. A big weight unloaded. My only concern is whether I can keep it going, but I’m hopeful because the mantra I’m getting out of this is ‘NEVER AGAIN.’ I never want to have this much crap in my life ever again.
The herculean effort in all of this has made me think a lot about things. At the start of the month I read on social media about #NoSpendtember. I’m not sure who thought it up, or why the month of September is always being bastardised for campaign slogans but if you google it, you’ll find various blogs about it. The spend rules don’t include food, rent or the usual utilities, but you’re supposed to get through the month without buying anything extra, which is pretty tough. So far, the only items purchased in this house have been binbags, duct tape and extra cleaning materials. Which sounds a little like I’m clearing up after a murder.
Everything else has been resisted. The post payday browse for a bargain in TK Maxx, or search for ‘emergency’ essentials in Primark or H&M. Even the charity shop rummage has been avoided, and there are many good ones near me. The Cancer Research shop had one of its ‘everything £1’ sales on the other day and I steeled myself to walk on by. In future, there is no doubt that I will be back in a charity shop but I’m aiming for a one in, one out type of policy. That should stop the clutter from building up again.
My other favourite thing at the moment is bartering items through a local Facebook group called Brilliant Bartering. People trade items or even jobs and tasks, the only rules being no cash or vouchers are to be used. It’s a good way to get something back, even though the bulk of my good things went to charity. As I was actively de-cluttering, I only bartered for consumables like food and booze. Turning old unwanted items into store cupboard ingredients or gin is a brilliant thing and ideal when you are feeling the pinch financially. And it proves the maxim that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
Like most things, all of this is a work in progress. Doing this move by myself was overwhelming. It’s taking a bit of time for me to decompress from it all and get back to normal. Not all of the organisational boxes are ticked; I’m still without WiFi and likely to be for a couple of weeks. I’m still tired and I’m completely skint. If I measure myself against the Marie Kondo ideal, I’ve probably failed to meet her strict standards. For example, while I gave away about 200 books, I still have at least that amount left and I still have more clothes than I really need. But for me, it’s been a major challenge achieved.
I like to think that Kondo would be proud of my work. I know I am.
Until next time,