I spent two hours this morning tidying my room. This really isn’t as unusual as it should be. I prefer not to think of all the hours, weeks, months of my life that I have spent tidying my room. In fact F, who has now moved to New York, says that she remembers on more than one occasion suggesting coffee or brunch to me and being told that I was too busy tidying my room. The problem is that I like having a tidy room, but I am not naturally tidy; I fail to do the day-to-day maintenance that is needed to achieve tidiness. It gets even worse when I have been away a lot or out a lot and just dashing in and out to change and sleep and dumping everything on floor and chair.
This morning’s tasks included unpacking the last bag from Wales (hiking boots, empty water bottles, jar of peanut butter), New York (menus from restaurants, clothes, sun tan lotion) and Margate and Dover (sandy bikini, leaflet about Shell Grotto). I was going to write about my trip to Margate and Dover but was too busy unpacking and sorting – bags full of sports gear, clean laundry to be put away/ironed (maybe), holiday clothes to be washed, books and magazines etc; even, I’m afraid, coffee cups and a breakfast plate.
As I sorted, folded, binned and recycled, I mused about the tyranny of stuff. It seems like each new item you let into your life is like a tiny dependant, to be stored, displayed, cared for, cleaned, dusted, rearranged, used, fixed, transported in house moves, and finally disposed of. Disposing is the hardest part. I’m not a big hoarder, but I have many things in my room that I no longer use. In fact, probably 30% of the stuff in my room I no longer use – but I haven’t got rid of it, either because I might want it again, or because it would be wrong to bin it. The items that weigh on me most are the ones that can only be disposed of in very specific, separate and time-consuming ways involving much research and many different trips to many different locations; a process far harder than shopping, in other words. These items include:
a leather Brooks saddle (valuable – could sell on ebay though probably only for £10)
a Sam Brown cycling belt (no longer need it as have larger cyling vest, but keep thinking some friend my size will take up cycling and need it)
about 4o assorted pens and pencils accumulated over the years (keep meaning to send to impoverished school somewhere)
clothes that have been stained/are the wrong colour, that I’m meaning to dye (but probably won’t)
fairy lanterns that would work if I bought the right set of fairy lights to put inside them – these have been on my conscience since 2005
posters that I need to bring to an Oxfam that sells posters – not sure where
endless cables, leads, plugs etc that came with various appliances and I feel could surely be recycled by someone, perhaps in India?
and so on. I remember when I lived with T, being very impressed at how ruthlessly she could purge things from her life that she no longer needed – things like old ornaments or even unwanted presents. She just put them in the rubbish, which made my jaw drop. I am my mother’s daughter and cannot throw something out if there is the possibility that it could be re-used. Nonetheless, if all of this stuff were to disappear to loving homes tomorrow I would be ecstatic. I love the idea of living in a big bare room with just one beautifully displayed scarf or pen or maybe a single big gilt mirror. I could probably achieve this, with a few days of dedicated sorting and throwing. And think of all the time I would save on tidying.
Since writing this, I have realised that I need to get my act together. I am too old to spend so long tidying my room. So, I resolve to be consistent and put in the 5 or 10 minutes a day needed to keep the room in order. I am also fully aware that if ever I embark on parenthood I will forego the luxury of having two hours a day to tidy my room. Mind you, I remember my sister-in-law saying, ‘I am going to have a rest and do the laundry now’ so perhaps menial tasks are a useful escape hatch from little live dependents.