The shed was Barry's domain. He was the patient fixer of things, he mowed the lawns, replaced the lightbulbs, made the gates both red and yellow, cut the hedges, climbed the ladders into the loft, dealt with the mice, mended the fence, chopped the wood, and more. He also kept all the leftover bits and pieces from every job he did and hoarded sets of tools for cars and bikes long gone and collected more jars of rusty nails than can be imagined! Just in case.
In a fair world women would not be left to clear out their mens sheds.
But what a support team I have behind me! I loved all your suggestions - I will adopt the explorer/playful/inner child mindset, I will whistle up the courage, I will probably sigh and swear and laugh (my helper has a great sense of fun). Bribery is a great idea, and I am already thinking up ways to celebrate....
I was going to post the song The Last Rose of Summer but it was too too sad!
The invasion of the mice meant I had to get into the cupboard under the eaves, so while I was in there I pulled out the boxes to investigate exactly what was in them. The contents are currently spread all over the guest room - but it was the final cupboard in the house - nearly there!
And I've just had an offer of help with clearing the shed. Yay!
While the chimney was being swept I found myself starting to clear the linen cupboard (thinking of you Mary and being careful of my back!). A day later the job is nearly done. How did I come to have so much surplus linen? Who needs 19 tea towels? I think I find fabric almost as hard to part with as books..
And why do I invest so much emotion in an old faded towel?
Marie kondo says that Japanese people have treated material things with reverence since ancient times and that there are three facets to the spirit that dwells in material things: the spirit of the materials from which it is made, the spirit of the person who made them and the spirit of the person who uses them.
I find this fascinating.
And I'm keeping that one.
But parting with this lot!
Specifically papers. Personal papers you don't want to keep.
It's hard for most of us, and we're all different, but here's what's working for me.
I am easily overwhelmed but I want the job done. They weigh on me these thoughts from my past. They served their purpose, but that was then and this is now and they don't spark joy they just give me an uneasy feeling every time I look at them. I motivate myself by looking at blogs and videos (there are millions of them, including mine!) I remind myself that I have rarely if ever regretted getting rid of stuff. I look around at the areas I have cleared and feel the calm spaciousness. I also remind myself that it is highly unlikely that anyone else would ever want to, or have the time to, wade through them. I won't be leaving them to my old university either :-)
I consider just burning the lot, but I am too curious about what I've written....
Sometimes I start with a quick first pass getting rid of the obvious throw-aways. That reduces the pile. Good. Then I might do one of several things. I tell myself I will stop as soon as I feel overwhelmed (I've just done that with a drawer of cards which have been sent to me - very emotional.) I will go back to it another time.
Or I commit to dealing with the first 2/5/10 sheets, read them, decide keep or shred and put them in the keep folder or shred them straight away. I know I may go through the keep folder again at some point but as the aim is to reduce the pile I try not to put 'maybe' ones in there. I get some momentum going and begin to enjoy it.
Or I set a timer for 15 minutes and tell myself I am allowed to stop when it goes, or keep going if I feel like it. I often do keep going - it's the starting that's the hardest.
I've been 'Kondoing' since I first came across Marie Kondo's book in 2014. i knew that her tender animism towards objects combined with a kind of ruthlessness or clarity of purpose was for me and it's worked well for me. The loft and the basement are clear. Yay! The bags of shredded paper go into the compost bins. A friend who took a welding course when she was seventy and has been making sculptures ever since, took away a box of old tools from the shed yesterday. An art teacher is taking a big bag of surplus paper and materials. The old lanterns have gone to the charity shop since I bought the lovely new ones, and a feeling of lightness is coming over me, and a spark of - is it excitement? - is stirring somewhere deep within...
Find out what works for you and go for it!
I have been shredding more notes.
Tonight I sat at my desk reading Colette's Earthly Paradise in the light of the lamp, drinking coffee from a favourite cup and eating a Tesco's Finest Spicy Dark Chocolate Ginger biscuit, and I chanced upon the wonderfully funny piece where, as an old lady she is being interviewed by a very young journalist who, seeking perhaps the secret of her success asks about her notes...
What notes? When I am gone they won't find a single one. Oh, I tried! But everything I made a note of became as sad as a dead frog's skin, as sad as a plan for a novel. Trusting to the advice of writers who did make notes, I made some notes on a sheet of paper then lost the paper. So i bought a notebook, one of the new spiral ones, and I lost the notebook, after which I felt that I was free, forgetful, and prepared to accept the consequences of that forgetfulness.
This is how the inside of the desk drawer now looks. It makes me so happy!
To quote Colette again (I think she is my all time favourite writer)....
..I am so happy I am almost ready to start feeling guilty about it.
..on a major project.
I can't tell you how many times I have headed purposefully to the studio to declutter and organise it, stood looking at it and turned back and walked out, simply not knowing where to start, overwhelmed by nearly two decades of stuff....
I did the same again this morning.
The weather has changed to cool and rainy so I wasn't going to be gardening, and I have to say I felt somewhat invigorated by the change in temperature and humidity, but still I couldn't start, so I went to Marie Kondo's Spark Joy for some inspiration and found it on page 31 under When You Feel Like Quitting.
That woman is brilliant.
The photographs are taken after I had already removed a large seed propagator, the large glass bowl of a broken lamp, a bag of recycling, an old fire extinguisher, a pair of leaky wellies and a large tin of paint!
A chance lighting effect. Flowers under a lamp are always lovely. These little roses remind me of summer. Yes, as is my habit, I am still resisting autumn!
What I thought was going to be a 'tweaking' of my wardrobe has turned into something more.
It seemed a good idea to put all the things I rarely or never wear - you know the ones you put on but always put back on the hanger - into one pile -it's huge!
Now how ruthless do I want to be? I suppose the answer will be in looking at the pile and asking myself of each thing 'How does it make me feel?' and 'Would I buy it today?'
Reminding myself of how I want my clothes to make me feel....
I think my favourite charity shop is about to get a big donation.
Thank you for sharing your good ideas!
..I was a minimalist at heart, I now know I am. I had the two bedrooms which had been damaged by a leak in the roof decorated this week (didn't do it myself this time - bliss!).
I just loved them bare and almost empty.
I am thinking very carefully about what goes back in..
Tables (I may paint them), lamps and plain white bedlinen - definitely.
White cotton curtains? I swithered for a bit as there is a blind, but I like the softness. I don't even mind that they are so old they have a few little holes - call it wabi sabi..
Rug, mirror and clock.
Birds and writing lamp too.
Beautiful raku pot by Peter Sparrey
flowers by the bedside. Always.
Barry's side too.
There must be an end to this Kondoing lark, surely! After all the amount of stuff I have is finite, and I am being very careful about not accumulating more.
Has anyone out there actually got to the end of it?
This wet day it is some old files of garden designs. Yesterday it was hundreds of slides. The miscellaneous and sentimental categories seem to have combined....
I watched a very moving programme about grief on iPlayer. Rio Ferdinand is a brave man.
Someone described grief as 'love with nowhere to go'.
Later - I sought more wisdom from Marie Kondo's Spark Joy. She asks Are you enjoying your tidying festival? And yes, I am really. I'd just forgotten to notice I was actually enjoying it! She also adds Even if you fail, don't worry. Your house won't blow up.
Three days of cloudless blue sky and warmth! Bliss!
My favourite job was cutting back the dead stems on the golden marjoram (origanum vulgare aureum). The smell so summery. I also cut some grass, raked gravel, cleared moss, cleaned out the greenhouse, sowed some seeds, potted on giant sunflowers, planted out nemophila Baby Blue Eyes, and found someone who actually wants all the spare bits of wood, bricks, tarpaulins, rusty workbench, old barbecue, bundles of canes and other assorted clutter from the back of the shed.
Yay! A good day's work.
Time for another hot soak..
I was very taken with Cath's metaphor - her house as a vessel (which could be a jar or urn but which I envisaged as a sailing ship).
It made me think of all the 'stuff' in the house as ballast - too much and you sink, just enough and it provides stability in stormy weather. Then there's the journey, and safe havens and harbours and anchors, and of course everything 'ship-shape' inside....ie in it's right place and working!
This is the kind of thing that Lucille puts under the heading of 'how to derive entertainment from mundane chores' See her Hokusai in the Car Wash - love it!
I would have put the music 'Sailing By' on this post if I had time to figure out how to do it without you having to look at ads first....but sorry, I'm going Christmas shopping and to party at Glasgow School of Art. (New dress!)
Sifting and sorting boxes and bags of ornaments, letters, notebooks, garden designs, dissertations, newspaper cuttings, and I don't seem to know what season it is either! Tomatoes in the greenhouse, daffodills, summer flowers painting and an advent calendar!
I hardly know whether I'm coming or going...
If you fancy some spring blossom early and in the wrong season, now is the time to pick some branches of flowering currant (as in the vase). They will open in a few weeks and the flowers will be white or pale pink, not the usual bright pink....
Hop over to Cornflower to see something utterly charming and definitely in season!
..what could be seen as the negative sides to all this clutter clearing.
When the clutter is gone the need for some redecorating shows up more. On the other hand it will be easier to do without the clutter....
For people who really love shopping it must be tempting to start all over again.
So called 'clutter' could be a welcome distraction from some serious problems.
Kondo puts it thus -
When your room is clean and uncluttered you have no choice but to examine your inner state. You can see any issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them.
When we honestly confront the things we own, they evoke many emotions within us.
For me this inner work, this 'dialogue with myself' is part of the reason for doing it, but I can see that might not be the case for everyone.
Is it right for you do you think?
Then, as some of you have hinted, there is the BIG scary question -
Who am I without my stuff?
Well I'm not getting rid of it all, so Scarlett like, I'll think about that tomorrow!
What are you loving?
I'm loving the thoughtful comments on this blog which make it a conversation.
Cath thinking about a phrase/image/feeling about decluttering prompted me to think about why I want to do it and the phrase Low Maintenence Life came into my head. I simply no longer want to look after, move. clean and dust, insure and think about quite so much stuff any more!
I've loved it, but I have moved on from the beautiful collecting phase..
Cathy's putting things away for a period then looking again is such a useful idea, and I too have come round to seeing that one answer, the answer perhaps, is not to bring so much stuff in! And Elaine seems to be on a very similar journey towards a gentle minimalism.
We are all at different places of course and some books 'speak to your condition' in the lovely Quaker phrase, at some times and not at others. Marie Kondo's book speaks to me just now....
..what it would be like if I really finished the job of decluttering as Marie Kondo says you should.
6 months she says you could take over it.
It's beginning to feel do-able.
It might feel like yesterday's photo?
I came across the phrase 'lightness and ease' in a novel many years ago (at a time when nothing in my life seemed either light or easy!) and I remember thinking Yes, that's what I'd like - some of that please!
I've just remembered the novel was The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and here is a review of Marie Kondo's book. She says you should get rid of the book when you are finished with it too!
What have you been wondering about lately?
Neither did I!
But it shifted my thinking.
I want to buy less, accumulate less.
Check out the (longish) article - www.slate.com/articles/life/fashion/2012/06/the_salvation_army_and_goodwill
Giving away things that once meant a lot to me, and no longer do, was making me feel a bit sad. I even thought momentarily 'what a waste of time' collecting (candlesticks and quilts) only to be considering giving them away now....
But surely not!
I learned so much, from books and museums and auction houses, I enjoyed the search in beautiful parts of the country, I met some wonderful people who are still friends. And earned a modest living.
They were about who I was then. I've outgrown them. I'm selecting just a few to keep - the ones with the strongest, happiest memories - the ones which still thrill me.
We change, we grow, and it makes sense that we want to change our environment and the things and memories that we surround ourselves with. Our tastes change. I find it useful to ask myself Would I buy it now? No need for guilt, or sadness. That was then and this is now I tell myself as I pass forward the things which I no longer want to keep. (I do keep photographs of them though).
Now, I want to be as involved, as enthusiastic, as excited and have as much fun.... just not by collecting things!
A few more wise words from Marie Kondo -
Really important things are not that great in number.
It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure.
Do you agree?
Organising my old photographs (prints that is..digital is a whole other task) is something I have been putting off for a long, long time.
It's such an emotional thing looking through old photgraphs, isn't it.
And there are so many of them!
They record the passing of time and change over time. Photos of how we used to look (younger!), of people who died too young, of events which will never happen again, of places I loved which no longer exist....it would be easy to be overwhelmed by this job. But I've decided that a collection of beautiful and happy memories of loving times, friends and family, laughter and achievements will be a joy to have. Most of the photographs are happy. We casual, non professional photographers tend only to take photographs on happy occasions thankfully! They record the people, places and moments in time that mean most to us.
That thought gave me a starting point - if a photograph doesn't evoke any feeling, I can let it go.
If I don't recognise who is in it, or where it is, I can let it go.
If it makes me feel unhappy to look at it, I can let it go.
Any suggestions as to other criteria for keeping or letting go?
Throw ten things.
This is a great way to simplify!
I'm doing it in the garden every day this month.
(Including the shed dear husband if you are reading this!)
We are opening the garden for charity in 25 days time.
That's 250 things! Can I find that many to throw? You bet. Have you seen our shed?
I thought of putting up a photograph of the shed but then I thought you'd much rather look at this.
For more see Simply Bin It, and Simply Get Rid where if you scroll down you may like my Five Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things With Stuff ....
Reviewing my word lighter for 2012 I didn't mention the amount of decluttering I have done which has certainly left me lighter!
Things which have been sitting around unused for years have gone, multiples of things have gone, broken things have gone, and clothes which don't fit. Things forgotten in the loft have gone, lots of paper information (which I would now look up on the internet) has gone. Things unloved, un-needed, unwanted. So much of it when I really looked at it made me wonder why I had kept it for so long! So here's to more decluttering in 2013! Life is short. I really don't have time and energy for stuff. Life is simpler for me without it. I could call it unburdening, of crystallizing, or distilling - as in Keep The Best And Throw The Rest....The more I do the easier it gets.
All this work has made me feel lighter. I know it's not for everyone, but it works for me (and running the house is a breeze). More time for other things - to be that free spirit I've always fancied being (now that would be a good word!)
Lightly has been a very good word, and 2012 has been a very good year.
I'd love to know if Feel, Awareness, Experiences, Endeavour, Not-Struggling and Real were helpful to you in 2012.
I'm all excited now about Free-spirit as my word for 2013. Will decide tomorrow.
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)