Anne here, departing from the wenchly historical focus for a little. And having just completed a blog tour to launch The Winter Bride, I'm not going to say another word about it. Not a word!
Today I want to talk about clutter. I have a long-running relationship with clutter — I come from a family of pack-rats and hoarders and I can tell you, a background in history only makes the problem worse.
When I first studied history one of the things I loved, apart from all the stories, was poring over primary sources, and making inferences and judgements and guesses from them. primary sources being letters and diaries and all kinds of things that today we call . . . clutter. I remember one example was a large collection of household account books, discovered in a trunk on an attic somewhere. They kept historians busy for years and they found all kinds of fascinating information.
So now, when I think of whether to toss something out, I think of those old account books, and the diaries and letters that various pack-rats of the past kept. How much poorer would this world have been, for instance, had some well-meaning neat-nik tossed out the diaries of Anne Frank? Or the letters of Jane Austen — some of which were destroyed anyway, for reasons of family privacy.
“What happened to all the historical detritus in the world? Some of it made it into drawers of museums, okay, but what about all those old postcards, the photoplates, the maps on napkins, the private journals with little latches on them? Did they burn in house fires? Were they sold at yard sales for 75¢? Or did they all just crumble into themselves like everything else in this world, the secret little stories contained within their pages disappearing, disappearing, and now gone forever.” ― Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
The trouble is, not all letters and diaries and account books are worth preserving. I remember as a teenager, finding a tiny diary of my father's — he was nineteen and at war. The whole year contained perhaps a hundred words altogether. He said it was for reasons of security, but I'm more inclined to think he just wasn't in a mood to keep a diary. We have a few pages from his many letters home to my mother. They're family treasures, but probably not worth donating to the war memorial collection.
I have attempted many times to have a really big clear-out —I want (need) to renovate my house, and with very little storage space, I really needed to bite the bullet. But I keep putting it off, and getting side-tracked, and the packrat/historian in me really wanted to keep so much stuff.
But after Christmas I decided it was time to Get Serious about clearing clutter from my house and life. So I decided to start by getting rid of —shock horror— books!
We moved all the time when I was a kid and the books that survived I have hung onto — plus replaced the favorites that went missing. When I was an adolescent, I spent most of my pocket money on books. It goes on…. Until recently, my attitude was that you can't have too many books. But I have large bookcases in every room and still there is no space for all my books.
Surprisingly (or maybe not) it was a book that helped me, one I'd had for a few years and almost put into the unwanted pile, except that being easily sidetracked, I started to read it. And this time it really spoke to me. CLEAR YOUR CLUTTER with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston.
Now, quite a few of the wenches are fans of and very knowledgeable about Feng Shui, but for me, it wasn't the feng shui part that clicked so much (though I do find it interesting) as the way she went through all the various reasons people hang onto things they don't need, giving examples. At the same time as you see the crazy 'logic' of their justifications, you recognize that you've been operating on that same crazy 'logic'. Twenty different versions of it. I read it, going "OMG that's me," and "that's me, too," and "I do that!" LOL
I found it so inspiring, and it fired me up to get started — and keep going. (Actually even reading the amazon reviews of the book is inspiring.) Her examples really helped me to toss stuff I never could before, like my good camera with all its expensive lenses. But I just use a little point and click one, or my phone these days. So off it went to the charity shop and someone who will love it. I tossed so much — loads and loads and loads —most of it going to the charity shop. And the more I tossed, the easier it became.
I won't say that my house is clutter free yet, but it's a LOT emptier and I feel so much freer. And the whole prospect of renovating is actually starting to feel exciting, instead of daunting.
What about you? Do you have trouble keeping clutter at bay? Tell me about the things you tend to hoard. Or something precious —or bizarre— that someone in your family kept. I'll send a copy of Karen Kingston's book to someone (a packrat) who leaves a comment.