Wednesday 3 February 2010


There has had to be some serious thought given to the title of this post. Driven by retirement, I have been tidying. I have a small house. At the moment it houses two people and the belongings of three. The third, non-resident, lives in what is virtually a garden shed on an island off an island: not much capacity for storage, then. The only objects over which I have control are my own, so that is where the tidying has been focussed. I hoard. This is not a good basis for a tidy-up. I am sentimental: even less helpful, but, Dear Reader, I am courageous, so I and my rubbish bags set out to do their best...worst?

I started with my desk. Picture it: on the right are papers that need urgent attention. On the left is stuff that needs seeing to one of these days. In the middle is anything which will have to be kept safe and, certainly, dealt with, but not just now. Three days later, I found myself with a black rubbish bag full to the brim and a glimpse of green leather that hadn't seen daylight for a very long time. It has all been burnt in an iron wheelbarrow, my shredder having gone green, too, at the thought it may have had to deal with disposal all by itself. I started with the desk because, with papers, I thought I could be less influenced by sentimentality. This was a mistake. They seemed to have the same charisma as photographs and school reports. When I saw that the 'keep' pile had outgrown the 'throw' pile, I did have to call on all my resources ruthlessly to redress the balance. What did it was thinking that my nearest and dearest would have it to do eventually and would do it, no doubt, without even reading the stuff. ( Some long time ago, I answered the phone to a dear-one as I was in the middle of a similar tidy-up. Referring to one of my young, I said that, after my death, before ringing the Undertaker, she should first order some skips to accommodate all the paper rubbish. He suggested that having ordered two skips, she wouldnt need the Undertaker). At some level there is a fear that I have thrown out documents essential to a smooth-running life. I shan't know until called upon to produce something that is, at this moment, a pile of ashes at the bottom of the garden. My Mother came to mind. Shortly before her death, she had had just such a tidy-up. Sadly, current insurance policies, unpaid bills and other hassle-ridden documents had bitten the dust. With pride, she showed me her impeccable desk, totally unaware that I would be months, years chasing the written evidence that she had existed, never mind insuring herself, her home and its contents. Nor that she would obsessively pay every bill on the day it arrived before she lost touch with the niceties of an orderly life. I ask forgiveness in advance if I have put people in a similar position. It is worth it just to see that streak of green leather.

Clothes drawers and cupboards are different. A kind of ruthlessness I don't possess is required to move clothes along. I have items from a stone ago, (about 7 kilo, if you are in continental Europe, 14 pounds for kind readers in the States). They are part of my life. I am so used to the sight of them that I could no more challenge them than I could challenge the sofa, the carpet or the oven, nor the pictures on the walls. So drawers and cupboards will have to wait for another burst of energetic courage. However, perhaps the first task is to train myself to disimbue objects, whether paper, cloth or whatever material from their emotional element, from my habit of personification, from the profound inner world belief that an old jumper has feelings and wouldn't want to be thrown out. And, yes, the new washing machine is in no way as user friendly as the old I was forced to throw out - see below; its programming is less efficient and so on and so on, but I have been refunded the delivery charge because the deliverers were nasty to me: so there: a happier ending.

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