Less is more

stuffToday’s Blog Challenge Prompt is ‘your least favourite chore.’

Now I would have said, chain oiling. My excuse for a long time was that my bike had no centre stand so I had to get it done at the workshop. But if I’m going to be honest, and honesty is always this blog’s policy, it’s actually tidying up.

I have lots of excuses for not tidying up. I lived for a couple of years with a man who thought that tidying up was an expression of bourgeoise vanity. If I objected to his leaving wilted allotment crops – or, indeed, a bottle of piss for the compost heap – on the side in the kitchen I wasn’t asking to live in a clean home, I was pointing out that I was better than him and therefore had to be put in my place.

It is easier to leave things in a bit of a state than re-open those scars.

But that was near on ten years ago, and it is time to get over it. I had to tidy up the house after Christmas because it is for sale. It does look lots better without 2CV wings peeking out from behind the sofa and a thin layer of paperwork all over the carpet. It is soothing to live in a tidy environment and it’s much easier to get things done when I can sit at a surface and start a task without having to clear it of nuts, bolts and dog treats first.

The challenge will be to keep this up in my new house! I have read most of Marie Kondo’s really quite stern book on the topic this weekend, as I have no wifi (this is why this post is late). We nearly fell out when she wrote about tearing pages out of books – meaning they can’t be donated but must be thrown away – but thankfully she doesn’t advocate this any more. Some of her ideas are a little extreme, but two of her suggestions are really liberating. One is about considering the true purpose of any item. I used to feel obliged to keep every birthday, get well soon and good luck card I ever received. She says the purpose of the card is to convey the message. Once you have read the message, its purpose is complete and it can be thanked and recycled without guilt.  The other is about keepsakes and mementoes. I have a bad memory and like to keep ticket stubs, theatre programmes, postcards and other physical manifestations of past experience.

She writes: “It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure…The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”

Her main recommendation is to have much, much less stuff. She says that discarding must precede tidying, and that when you have done it properly, you will come to a point where you have the perfect amount of possessions.

This makes me think of my magnificent Great Aunt. As I head into my new life in my new country I have with me her teddy bear, brand new in 1918, and her demonstration of how to live a happy life as a single woman. She moved from a large detached house in a Surrey village into a sheltered flat. Even though she must have had to give most of her things away, she kept enough key pieces that her tiny flat held just as much of her personality as the big house had.  Sherry and slightly soggy crisps were still served out of the corner cabinet, and afternoon tea was still wheeled in on her vintage trolley. She lived with less, but it was still a big, happy life. That is a good way to be.

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