Sunday, 23 September 2012

Clutter Nutter

Recently I starting flat hunting. I'd decided I'd outgrown my little one bedroom East London abode and it was time to relocate somewhere more refined, maybe with a garden. Well, I say that but largely, my decision was motivated by my inevitable decent into real single ladydom, yes, I wanted a cat. I suppose I could have kept the flat and settled for a house cat but did I really want a moggy who'd given up on life and a tray full of cat shit in the corner of my kitchen? After all, their food smells bad enough. There's no worse thing for cat owners than having some dozing feline yawn their disgusting chicken-in-gravy breath in your face. All that rank meat, I should imagine that's what Lady Gaga's wardrobe smells like.

I need to spread out into a two bedroom flat. God knows I love to buy shoes but I was running out of space to put them. My boudoir was fast becoming a shoe room that happened to have a bed in it.

Anyway, I searched for about three months and didn't really find anything that suited. Everything was a bit shit basically. Two bedroom dungeons or flats that were a few police lines short of looking like a murder scene, it was all a bit disheartening.

I started to wonder if I could learn to love the place I currently had, maybe give it a bit of a make over and in a radical change in my thinking, instead of buying a new property so I could store more gubbins, why not get rid of some of this accumulated claptrap.

In that moment I decided to beginning the biggest home decluttering since Robert Pattinson threw out the trampire.

I live in a one bedroom flat but even then the thought of going through all the boxes and cupboards and wardrobes was an intimidating prospect. Sorry did I say intimidating, I meant boring. So, I decided to make a list. Oh I love a good list. Craig's, Schindler's whoever's. I like having a sense of achievement as I tick tasks off. Sometimes I'll create pathetically achievable to-do lists so I can do just that. You know like 1. Wake up, 2. Have breakfast 3. Don't die. Then I high five my replete, awoken, undead self at the end of the day yaying, 'nailed it'.

Anyway, I listed all the places that needed to be decluttered. The chest of drawers and wardrobes obviously, shoes boxes, under the bed where all kinds of hording crimes had been committed, unused yoga mats, old trainers, bags for life that had long since perished.  The places we find to store our crap seemed endless.

I remember berating my mum for hording all kinds of nonsense. In fact she was so bad she also had other people's crap, my brother's extensive hip hop import vinyl collection for a start. I insisted she tell him to 'come and get your records or they go on eBay, listed as gangsta place mats'

I calculated that, given all the various cupboards and loft space she'd given over to storage, about 35% of her mortgage was going on paying to store her junk. She was the opposite of the big yellow storage company, paying Santander huge premiums just to keep garbage in her own home but its not just Ma Osho who's guilty of this. We all have, sometimes, vast amounts of space taken up by stuff we never use, massage chairs, gym gear, kitchen utensils (Oh, how that naughty juicer enticed you, so).

I realised I had to be ruthless. As someone who isn't particularly sentimental, a lot of the under the bed stuff was easy to resolve. Yoga mat out, old reviews and newspaper clippings stay. When I'm an old lady who smells of cats and piss I'd rather show the great nieces and nephews a feathery Time Out review rather than Yoga Matters finest wares.

Things started to get a bit tricky when it came to dresses and shoes. Even if I'd never worn something I was still torn as to whether to send it to the great charity shop in the sky, a place which may sound fictitious but no more fictitious than 'a Stratford charity shop'. There are some shops which claim to be charity outlets in Stratford but judging by the drunk toothless ne'erdowells that 'work' there, I sincerely doubt any starving kids, neglected dogs or abused donkeys will be the direct beneficiaries of these places.

I elected to take on a tough policy. If I couldn't visualise myself wearing the item again, it was history. This was either going to be incredibly effective or an exercise in extreme fantasising.

But, luckily, it worked. After a few short hours there were three full bags brimming with dresses, coats, shoes and accessories. For the first time in years I could see the back of the wardrobe. The disappointment of not finding a portal to another dimension was temporary.

Once you get the ball rolling with a declutter it can be difficult to stop. You can end up ditching items you really shouldn't. Fridge? Pah.  First world extravagance. Cooker? I shall simply set fire to my vegetable rack and pick over the charred remains.

All in all the whole process, working my way through each room, took a few sessions but after a couple of months I was done. I completed the process by buying some nice storage furniture and a shoe store that hangs on the back of the door. (This is literally the best thing ever).  

And finally my bedroom looked less like Primark during the summer sales and more like a bedroom becoming of a sophisticated lady, like what I am.

But what to do with all these unwanted garments? To simply throw them away would be recycling treason. Instead, I did what is commonly known as Stratford recycling. That is, I simply left the bags outside my house with a helpful note stating what each bag contained. The following morning the bags were gone.

It was over. I had loads of new wardrobe space, room under the bed and some lovely new furniture to boot. Doing this can really invigorate the space you live in. Every now and then, it's good to shake things up. Done skillfully, this can be an economical way of giving you a renewed love of the place you live in. It let's your property know you still love it (yes, in a very Prince Charlesy way, I think you should thank your property for protecting you, being a safe place and for generally being awesome).

Inevitably the cutter will start to accumulate once more but if you undertake a declutter ever year or so, or do something that reminds your house you think it's pretty cool with the four Rs (refurbing, redecorating, rearranging or recycling) you'll have a home that wants to look after you.

Living in clutter is bad for the soul. A home with gubbins everwhere is chaotic and causes stress, something you may, over time, become immune to seeing. Losing these unwanted items will bring clarity to your living space and inevitably, your thinking. It shows you have a respect for yourself and those you live with and indicates to the universe that your deserve to live a harmonious, peaceful life. Try it, you'll see.

Also, the best thing about Stratford recycling is bumping into a neighboour who you know is wearing your clobber, and they know they're wearing your clobber and they know you know they're wearing your clobber and you both say nothing and just smile. 

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