I‘ve been reminded viscerally this week of the value of a peaceful home. I remain absolutely convinced that living more simply (however we might define “simply”) is one of the key stepping stones to growing older on our own terms.
Being surrounded by clutter, whether physical or mental, is destructive.
I wrote here last year about my lifelong battle against clutter and untidiness. My battle has continued, with ups and downs.
This week I took some vacation days from work for some quality thinking time and quality decluttering time. The two go together in my experience.
Tonight I’m tired but happy, my hands and arms scratched from days of cutting back the forest of brambles in my garden, and, pretty much the point of this story, clearing out the space under my stairs.
After – so imagine before!
Now at this point, I must ask you to use your imagination, because I didn’t think to take a before picture, only the “after” above. (And even if I had, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to show you!)
The way my house is laid out, the stairs are at the back, and so the first things you see on coming in the front door and into my tiny hallway are the way through to my living room on the right, and to the kitchen/diner on the left.
And right in front of you is the “cupboard” under the stairs. I say cupboard in quote marks because it isn’t really, it has no door, so it is a space.
And so we come to imagining the horror of “before”…
Coats and hats and scarves and shoes in a huddle on the left, decorating supplies somewhere completely hidden at the back and piled on top of everything and spilling out into the hall, a jumble of cardboard, shopping bags, magazines and various broken electrical appliances.
It was dark, spidery and very unpleasant in there.
It was hugely depressing that it should be the first thing I saw when I walked in the front door, and so I subconsciously stopped noticing it. I just tuned it out. But it lurked on the edge of my vision, tapping me on the shoulder from time to time.
The big clear-out
And so the big clear-out began. I found things I’d forgotten I had. I shrieked at spiders, brushed away cobwebs, bashed my head endless times on the angled ceiling. I realised there was absolutely no point keeping the Dustbuster that hasn’t worked for five years but has remained faithfully attached to its equally useless charging unit. I admitted that I was never going to paint any of my walls with the dark purple matt emulsion I’d bought one mad drama-queen moment. I rejoiced that I would be able to keep my toolbox in the space under the stairs rather than in my living room!
I painted the walls a warm apricot, dragged in a shelving unit I wasn’t using, hung a sheer curtain to form a temporary door, and plugged in a spare lamp.
And although, as you can see above, it’s still not exactly Home Beautiful, it’s made a big difference.
Now, when I come into the house, I feel welcomed, not ashamed. The difference to my state of mind is actually quite remarkable.
Why am I telling you this?
It feels a little self-indulgent to me to rattle on about my house-cleaning efforts, but perhaps there might be people reading this who also have squalorholic tendencies. And I want to say first that you’re not the only one, and second that getting the momentum going really will make a big difference to your state of mind.
So that’s it for now. My Sunday Collection will also be on the topic of simplicity, so if that appeals, look out for it.