A couple of weekends ago, prompted by the bright spring sunshine illuminating cobwebbed corners and dusty surfaces, I embarked on some seasonal cleaning, and spent a productive hour tidying and pruning this bookshelf, one of the many bookshelves in the house.
Two carrier bags full of books plus assorted odds and ends took a trip to the charity shop, several stray volumes found new homes on a half-emptied shelf, and my sense of 'stuffocation' diminished ever so slightly. Encouraged by this minor success I've been extending the decluttering process to other areas of the house. This is not an easy task for me.
Like King Canute, when confronted by the inexorable advance of a self-made tide of stuff (stuff for future projects, work-in-progress stuff, stuff that's just been left lying around), I know deep-down that resistance is futile and I will never be entirely clutter-free. I'm not even sure I would want to live in a minimalist home. I like the sense of light and space, and the feeling of calm they engender, yet I'm still irresistibly compelled, like a greedy magpie, to feather my own nest with objects I find interesting/pleasing to look at. Once something has been 'chosen' I find it almost impossible to later cast it aside.
My husband has fewer 'hobbies', and thus a smaller amount of stuff, but he hates getting rid of anything even more than I do. "Where will you put it?" has become the go-to question whenever either of us is contemplating an addition to our collective belongings. It is the fear that we are teetering hand-in-hand on the brink of an entry-level hoarding disorder that really drives my urge to purge.
William Morris advised, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Ironically this is sometimes used as a mantra to aid decluttering, but it doesn't really work for me, because I do know that all those art/craft materials are useful and I do believe that the other things I collect and keep are beautiful!
A random corner of just one shelf holds a glowing
butterfly-wing-blue chunk of Labradorite, a couple of lapis lazuli
pebbles, an art-glass perfume bottle, a paperweight, two artist-made
brooches (one enamel, one ceramic), a wooden jigsaw I cut and painted
years ago, a crazy hand-built bird-lady sculpture from eBay, and
a tiny ceramic frog. The only one of these items I could even
begin to consider discarding would be the frog - but he's too tiny
to make a difference...plus he and the bird-lady share the same
affable grin, so they kind of belong together...
I try to find places for the beautiful things where they can be seen and enjoyed, and to systematically sort useful things into assorted boxes, files and containers - thank heavens for Ikea - and every so often I will tackle a defined area and force myself to find a few items I can discard or re-home, or more often than not
keep re-organise into a tidier configuration. I even enjoy the regular occasional dusting and polishing this entails. So maybe - in order to stay on the right side of the fine line between collecting and hoarding - I just need to acknowledge the positive feeling that a little lightening of the load can bring, and make sure I cherish and enjoy the stuff I choose to keep.
After all, I'm nowhere near as out of control as this chap.
Or am I?