Monday, 22 August 2016

#Life, the #Universe and my Attic.

                               Beware of decluttering: sometimes it's just about moving the mess.

QUESTION: How much can you cram into your attic before your upstairs ceiling falls down?
ANSWER:    I hope I never find out the answer to this question.

It's that time again. Summer is almost over. The new academic year looms. In my house, September is a new beginning.

Which means Autumn cleaning. More to the point, August decluttering.
I stand in the playroom and look around, feeling helpless.

It's a feeling I get every time I enter. Because it's the one room in the house that's impossible to tidy. Impossible to declutter.

Toys can be passed on...ever try to declutter books?

The fact that the offspring put away their toys a long time ago - the room houses hundreds and hundreds of books, a computer, a piano and some chairs - makes no difference.

If anything, it makes things more difficult. Toys can be passed on to younger cousins, friends' children.

Ever try to declutter books?

So, I do what I always do in this situation. I issue a general warning about throwing out anything I find on the floor. My children cheerfully ignore it. And I make a silent promise to myself to try not to go in there for another few weeks.

But there is a certain satisfaction that comes only from getting rid of stuff. Like an itch that needs to be scratched.

Grimly, I head upstairs, pull the ladder down from the attic and climb into the rafters.

How on earth do I still have baby clothes?

Not for the first time, I curse our decision to partially floor this space when we first moved in. The roof's eaves are high enough that a person can stand in the middle of the room.

All around me are dusty shelves and cupboards, bags and boxes, filled with Christmas decorations and baby clothes. How on earth do I still have baby clothes? I passed everything on to friends.

I delve into the nearest bag and unearth a tiny, hand-knit sweater. The stuff I could never bear to give away. In a box, I find old records: Duran Duran, Elvis, The Clash. A mad mix of a couple's past. 

There are more suitcases than one family could ever possibly need. At least one has a broken handle. Why didn't I throw it out?

From the landing below, there's noise and chatter. Then: "Are you okay up there?"

I reach down and grab the new memories.

I feel like answering no. I'm definitely not okay. I want to transport everything to the nearest charity depot. I want to throw all the rubbish into a massive skip.

"Yeah, fine."
     "You don't sound fine."
"No, just having a look, you know."
     "So, I've been clearing out my room and I've got a couple of bags here."
"Great! I'll be down now."
     "It's okay, I'll pass them up to you."
"You're not getting rid of them?"
     "I can't. I have to hold on to this stuff. I just don't have room here. Sure there's tons of space in the attic, isn't there?"

I look around.
"Yeah, pass it up."

I reach down and grab the new memories. School diaries and yearbooks spill from the top of the bag. I put them back and close it as best I can. There doesn't seem to be any more room on the floor. So I put them on top of the growing pile.

Disheartened, I climb back down the ladder. Before anything else can find its way to a new home right above our heads, I push it back into the attic and close the door.

The middle child beams at me.
     "Look at my room! I've cleared two shelves!"
"The two bags?"

She nods. I smile and go downstairs. There's half a lifetime of stuff in that attic.

But today is not the day to throw it out.


A lovely big hello from Dublin,

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Monday, 8 August 2016


           Advertising: The product matters less than the idea that happiness can be bought. 

THERE'S an ad on Irish radio at the moment, which annoys me so much when I hear it, I have to turn off the radio immediately. 

The ad isn't the most obviously annoying one doing the rounds. It's not loud, or garish, it's not delivered in a fake foreign accent (aargh!) and it doesn't demand that you get to a particular shop RIGHT NOW or EVERYTHING WILL BE GONE.

Instead, it's pitched at a particular niche. A modulated, middle-class female voice kicks off mid-sentence, as if you've just stumbled upon her rather annoying conversation with herself.

The ad, like all ads, tries to sell happiness.

She lists some of the wonderful (expensive) items that you can buy in this store, and intersperses with mad little things about the season and the weather and all the delightful things you can be doing when you've re-mortgaged your house to buy out half the shop.

In other words, the ad, like all ads, admittedly, tries to sell a lifestyle, an idea. It tries to sell happiness!

What makes it more annoying than other ads, though, is how coy it is about it all. There's a certain part of me that can almost handle loud, pushy product advertising. "Buy this now, or be a complete loser for life."

This one however, is all about subtlety and seduction and soothing tones.

It has, unfortunately, the opposite effect on me. I hear it and think, God, we've really lost the run of ourselves. Or words to that effect. This is a family-friendly site!

There's another ad a bit like it. This time, delivered in a chocolate-smooth-with-just-a-hint-of-roughness-around-the-edges male voice. It goes a bit like this: "You've always dreamt of owning this car. Now is the time."

If they were really big, then they were massive.
Hello? The time for what? To borrow to the hilt in order to buy something, that's going to instantly depreciate by thousands, the second you drive out of the forecourt? Trust me when I tell you this is an ad for a luxury marque. I mean, why else would you dream of it?

And am I the only one who's never, ever dreamt about a car?

But back to shops. It isn't that long ago, that shops in this country were just that: shops. They were not stores. Even the big ones weren't stores. They were just, well, big shops. If they were really big, then they were massive.

The word massive, of course, has a couple of meanings in Dublin.
        "Ah missus, your skirt is only massive," actually means "your skirt is quite lovely." But I digress.

In big shops (the sort where Santa Claus would establish his grotto every December, long before malls, and Santa popping up just about everywhere) there were departments. Women's clothes would be one department, children's toys would be get the idea.

Now there are department stores with franchises. Loads more choice. And you can find nothing.

But it hardly matters. Because shopping - like the ads that entice us in to these stores - has nothing to do with buying what you actually need or even want.

It's about creating an experience, a feel-good factor, a smile on your face when your wallet is empty and your arms are heavy with stuff you'll never use.

I've fallen into the trap often enough myself. I have a white Summer dress hanging in my wardrobe. The sort of dress you buy when you are twenty and tanned. And wonderfully thin. It even has bikini straps.

I bought it in a rush of happiness and complete and utter self-delusion.

I've never worn it. Mainly because it is the same colour as my skin. Not a good look.

But I can't bring myself to throw it out, because I only bought it a few years ago, in Spain. It was hanging outside a cute shop, full of artfully-arranged, eclectic, beautiful things. I bought it in a rush of happiness and complete and utter self-delusion.

The practical side of me has decided I might dye it. Although then, it'll probably just be a blue dress with bikini straps hanging in my wardrobe. Mocking me.

Meanwhile, the best stuff is never advertised. I don't mean walks on the beach or hanging out with friends.

When was the last time you heard an ad for a playground? Or an art gallery? Or a library?

Do retailers only advertise things we don't need?

But surely that's a cynical step too far. I mean, who doesn't want happiness?

Or picnic blankets? Or storm lanterns? Or silk flowers? Or scented candles? Or a new sofa? Or throw cushions?

Actually, I quite like throw cushions....and storm lanterns.

That's it. I'm just never turning on the damned radio again.

Hi there,
Many thanks for dropping by today. Please feel free to leave a comment - I look forward to chatting.

If you enjoyed my column, I'd love if you shared it (check those cute buttons below).

Why not follow THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE via Email? (See the Follow by Email box to the right of this post).
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1. You'll NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
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Have a wonderful week,
Thanks for reading,
Hugs & xx,