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.
"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.
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