Amy Tries Again

Decluttering – or – Surprisingly Deep Thoughts
September 1, 2010, 5:25 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again

For the last few days, I’ve been attempting to keep my flat relatively tidy.  Naturally, this was extremely boring, so I tried to find a way to jazz things up a bit.  It is not in my nature to do something steady and sensible when I can turn it into a BIG PROJECT, so I have decided to embrace the buzzword that is decluttering.

I have been throwing things out.  I have been throwing LOTS of things out.  Here are some highlights.

1.  An assortment of unfinished craft projects.  Yes, I’m a bit of a Nanna.  I get ideas above my station when it comes to craft, and haunt sites like Craftster, ReadyMade and TShirt Surgery.  I love wacky projects, and sometimes, they even work.  Thing is, I am impatient, and a perfectionist.  If I have dropped a stitch in my knitting, if my DIY stencil has smudged slightly, if my origami paper is slightly creased – AWAY WITH IT!  Away with it, that is, into a drawer.  I couldn’t possibly dispose of these unwanted things.  Ch-ch-ch-changes!

2.  An unofficial Charles and Diana commemorative wedding vase from the op shop (I maintain that this was quite awesome, but it was broken and had been sitting in a drawer for four years in the hope of me painstakingly supergluing them back together.  Much like the relationship of Charles and Diana, it’s broken, and half the pieces are gone forever.  Not going to happen.)

3.  A plastic stencil thing to press into a slice of bread before toasting it to give the finished toast a happy smiley breakfast face.  Very practical.

4.  Microwave egg poacher/microwave rice cooker/microwave steamer thing.  These sound useful, were it not for the fact that I do not own a microwave.

5.  The cardboard boxes for just about every piece of electronic equipment I own.  Why was I keeping them, exactly?

6.  A spare phone charger…with European plugs and voltage.

7.  A stack of old scratched records I had bought because I found the covers amusing.

Okay, I kept one. I stand by my decision. I like pigs.

(Do note that anything halfway useable was given to charity instead of being tossed into the bin.  You may be able to find the toast stencil at your local Vinnies if you really try.)

I am very proud of myself because I am not that great at throwing things away.  Now, brace yourselves, because I’m going to get all heartfelt on the internet.  When I was a wee young thing, I tended to muse very deeply on things.  At about six, the concept of mortality had me FREAKED THE HELL OUT, and this sort of mutated into a fear of loss and change.  I didn’t like the idea of losing anything – my very worst nightmares were that we’d move house (we didn’t).  It was at this time that I started to feel incredibly, painfully sorry for things that were being thrown away.

Yep!  Inanimate objects.  I knew it was weird, and I was embarrassed by it.  I tried to copy the credits of favourite television shows (not an easy task in the slow and deliberate handwriting of a child in Grade 1) just in case I needed to know who had been the Director’s Assistant.  I wept over the cruel fate of the orange juice bottle, used and then coldly discarded.  I really, really didn’t want to get rid of our old green rotary dial telephone for a newer model.  Trees casting off their leaves in autumn (well, okay, winter – this was Brisbane, after all) sent me into paroxysms of guilt and sorrow.

In short, gentle reader, I was an odd child.  When my parents found me ‘rescuing’ junk from the rubbish bin in the kitchen and stashing it in the drawer of my dressing table, that was it.  I was sent to talk to a psychologist called Helen who asked me obvious questions and told me it was okay to have feelings.  It was mortifying.  I hated Helen. I knew there was something wrong with my mind, and now I felt like I was being punished for it.

Oddly enough, it was learning that I was not the first child in the world to develop an obsession that gave me the most relief.  A smarmy little precocious thing, my great delight was reading my parent’s child-rearing manuals (there were many – it was the ’80s, and I was the first-born) so that I could shout HAH! if I recognised a parenting technique they were trying to use on me.  One of them mentioned odd childhood obsessions, and I was very happy to realise that I wasn’t entirely alone in my behaviour, and I would grow out of it.

I did grown out of it – within the year – but I guess the traces have always remained.  Over the last few days I’ve felt brief echoes of that horrible attachment when trying to throw things out, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  That feeling of relief when I shut the lid of the garbage bin and walk back to my flat is wonderful.  It’s worth it.

That’s not all.  I’ve found some treasures that would have stayed hidden amongst the crap.  Terrible short stories written by my 16-year old self, magnets from my late Nanna’s fridge, cringeworthy pictures of the year 11 semi-formal – all things that would have remained buried otherwise.  Definitely worth it.


3 Comments so far
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My nanna moved house a few years ago and we were cleaning out the kitchen drawers when we discovered a large plastic tub filled to capacity with those square plastic bread clips from the top of the loaves of bread. There must have been at least a decade’s worth of them saved, presumably for the occasion where one went missing off the top of the bread and needed a replacement.

Comment by Dan Beeston

This article struck quite a chord in me.

Amy you are not alone. I too have issues with getting rid of junk. I wrote on a postcard to a friend just the other day “the spring clean of my life continues.”

When I went to Sweden last year and saw all the fancy palaces I was assounded by a thought that came to me. I have more in my possession than the royal places of 1800s but they had a ton of servants that kept all their gadgets in order. I am just me and I am really very tired of having to do all that looking after things on my own. So It became apparant to me that I had to cull and cull well.

The real gist of things is though that we are not taught skills of how to manage the amount of things we own. In a world where the mantra of “more more more!” is fed to us from the cradle those of us who don’t by accident learn the hidden arts of stuff management find ourself stuck in clutter.

Would love to have a cup of tea with you and have a natter about your tips for ‘getting organised’

– Zoe

Comment by Zoe

If I found a large plastic tub filled with bread clips, collected over years and years, there is no way I could bring myself to throw it away!

Comment by Kris

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