Now that we’re living in what a friend’s daughter calls a YA dystopian novel, I’ve been looking for ways to dispel the pervasive gloom of bad news and orange tyrant yawpings. I’ve been walking my dog in beautiful snow-covered High Park and actually making an effort not to hate winter this year. It seems to be, so far, working. But the one thing I believe that I can do that will lighten my heart is get rid of all the bloody, unnecessary, mind-cluttering, soul-stealing stuff that is weighing my house and my soul down.
I spent last weekend at the home of my elderly friends who both passed away during the annus horriblilis known as 2016. They weren’t hoarders – not by a long shot – but there was So. Much. Stuff. It was overwhelming. I went there to help their daughters pack up (did nothing to help) and to get one thing – a vintage robins’ egg blue Le Crueset dutch oven. I left with two boxes of various items – linens, kitchen gadgets, bowls. And the dutch oven.
Upon returning to my little teeny house and hauling in the haul, my house gave a little shudder, or at least I felt that my house gave a shudder. There was the definite sense that I had crossed a line – these two boxes of mostly useful, though of course unnecessary, things became the straw to my house’s camel’s back. It became abundantly clear: there’s just too much goddammed stuff and it clutters my psyche, making it impossible to think freely or create.
I’m up north right now, house sitting at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house in Orillia where it’s tidy, clean, uncluttered. I’ve written thousands of words in a day and a half. When I’m home, the linen closet calls to me to clean out the sheets that don’t fit any bed in our house, or throw out pillows that will never be slept on again. The pantry begs me to go through the jars and jars of dried beans, nuts, rice, and flours and throw out the food that would actually kill us if I cooked it, since some of it was purchased when we lived in Kingston. Twelve years ago. The back closet likewise clamours for attention. How many coats and jackets do four people actually need? How did we accumulate eight pairs of crocs? Does anyone even wear crocs anymore?
Years ago I wrote a piece about clutter for the Kingston Whig-Standard. This was in the day before digital so I can’t link to it, but it got some response. I was surrounded in the school yard after the article came out, people sharing their stories with me, revealing their shame because I had revealed mine. Stuff stresses us out. It’s not been that long since we went from procuring the means for survival to procuring bric-a-brac, we’re not genetically equipped to handle it. In my fantasy world I live in a modernist hard loft with floor to ceiling windows where my only possessions are quality tools for living (cook wear, one really good chesterfield, a cozy reading chair, and a great bed with good sheets), a few pieces of beautiful art, and books. And that’s it. It makes me feel better just thinking about it.
Let’s rise up against the crap that infiltrates our lives! There’s enough crap outside of our houses right now. If we start cleaning house on a personal level, maybe it’ll free our minds and our creativity. Maybe then we can find the wherewithal to face the storm that threatens to wreak havoc on our lives right now like no amount of tchotchkes ever could. Let the decluttering revolution begin.