Through the past four months, learning my new job, packing up my belongings, settling into my new home, making a million adjustments, I have had two firm pictures in my mind.
The first, courtesy of my lovely sister, was the picture of the changes accomplished and me putting up my Christmas tree. I did this over the weekend and I am so happy to see the baubles and the lights shining as bright as ever in their new setting.
The second image was the one in my own mind of me, sitting in my new home, logging onto my computer, opening Scrivener, and finally resuming my writing. That is what I have done tonight.
I am slowly regaining my balance after a hectic autumn into which I have crammed enough life experiences to see me through at least a couple of years. I am enjoying my new job, settling into my new home, and just beginning to feel myself unfurling from the inevitable tension all these changes incur.
Since I moved flat, I have been able to walk to and from work (a journey of 2.1 miles each way) which is proving good for my fitness. Whilst I am still technically living within the city, I am in a rather more open area than I was previously, and the photo above is a taste of part of my route. It is good for my soul to have views such as this to enjoy, whilst still having the security of walking by a well-lit and well-used main road; indeed I feel I am enjoying the best of both worlds.
Part of the romance of the flat I am now renting is that it is close enough to the railway tracks to hear the hoot of the trains. I had a pleasant surprise the morning after I moved in when I realised I could see the trains from my kitchen window. When we stayed with my maternal grandparents in York, we loved being able to hear the trains in the distance as we sat in my grandpa’s music room, and I am sure that is why we retain an affection for the railway.
My new home is just slightly larger than my old one, although it is still a one-bedroom flat. The extra space has allowed me to reinstate some items of furniture from my family home that had been stored in my garage for the past fourteen years. These came out in amazing condition, needing just a good clean to be as good as they were the day they left my parents’ house. These include the dining table from my grandparents’ home in York, and the wardrobe that my parents owned and used for many, many years and which I always coveted. It is good to see such old friends again and to know they are back in use.
As part of my re-entry to normal life, I have booked my place at the next meeting of the writers’ group that I was attending before circumstances rudely interrupted my routines. I am starting, too, to think of my next knitting project, although I really must put some effort into finding homes for things around the flat before I go too far down that road.
It is good to reconnect with my blog and to write a bit about my new home. I’m looking forward to slowly picking up where I left off, and to having some new projects to share with you in the coming weeks.
I hope the last few months have been kind to you and that you are approaching the last few weeks of the year with a happy glow. Whilst this season can be chilly, dark and tiring, it is also full of shining lights and happy faces if you look in the right places.
Take care, and I look forward to being back again very soon.
Continuing with the theme of moving home, I find myself evaluating many of the things I use, deciding if they are things that I want to pay to move across the town I live in. Some things are so ingrained in my life that there is no need to query at all, which is the case with most of my furniture, although there are a couple of pieces I don’t love and I may use the move as an excuse to unburden myself of them.
It is the little pieces that I think about, the books and magazines and, most keenly, bits and pieces in my kitchen. I have more tea caddies than I need, for example, and once I’ve made this year’s chutney I will be able to thin out the empty jam jars.
I can tell you one thing I shall be glad to leave behind when I move out of this flat and that is the bath. I have disliked the bath here since the first time I got in it. I haven’t disliked it enough to take up showering instead, but it is a terrifically uncomfortable bath to lie in. I have started viewing possible flats to move to and I am eyeing up the baths and dreaming of lying there in comfort.
I also catch myself thinking along the lines of “the last time” I will do something in this home. Whilst I am a fair way off actually doing things for the last time, I am aware that time is approaching and thinking how strange it will be. Of course, when the time comes to, for example, make the last cup of tea in this home I will be so busy that I won’t really mark it until later.
Speaking of the last cup of tea, am I the only one who occasionally broods on the fact that one day I will drink my last cup of tea? I probably won’t know it is my last one, but it is sitting there, at some point in my future, like the bullet with my name engraved upon it. It’s a concept that fascinates me.
I don’t think the buns in my photo will be the last buns I bake in this home, but those are definitely the last sprinkles I will apply here. That’s hundreds, or even thousands, of things I will not have to take with me when I move!
If you watch the modern iteration of Dr Who you may be familiar with the departure of David Tennant’s Doctor and his final, despairing phrase: “I don’t want to go.” Knowing that in the next two months I have to leave the flat I’ve been lucky enough to live in for the past fourteen years, that same feeling is constantly with me.
I have been looking back at the photos I took before and just after I moved into the flat, and so much has changed, although core elements have stayed the same. There was always a bag of knitting beside my favourite seat, and books, and cups of tea. Even in the very first photos I took, there is a teacup on the window-sill.
Looking at the photos, though, has led me to ask one vital question – what did I do with that green needlework cushion? It’s there, sitting on the green chair in this photo in February 2005, but by the time I took my Christmas photos it had disappeared from view. I simply don’t remember what I did with it. I remember making it and I really liked it, so I’m surprised that all memory of it has been so successfully erased.
The green chair is one of my favourite possessions, and still has a proud place in my living room. I inherited it from my parents who inherited it from my grandparents. I would dearly love to have it re-covered in a Laura Ashley fabric, but that plan is definitely on my “if I won the Lottery” list.
When I moved into this flat, I was downsizing from the house I had lived in with my parents, and I had no idea what furniture I would use in my new, solo, flat-dwelling life. I have to keep reminding myself as I think of the new move to take place, that I am in a much better position now. I know that the items I have are, on the whole, the items I will be moving with. This time I have no illusions of shaping myself to suit the space, I know that whatever I move into will in time become my home, filled with my things, and reflecting my personality. That is my definition of a home.
Whenever I am inclined to express feelings of superiority over my lack of long-term works in progress, I need to be reminded of this item. This is the project that I have been actively failing to work on for the longest time. If I may borrow a term from the disc jockeys of my youth, this is a rave from grave.
For much of its life, this project has resided on the top shelf of my wardrobe. It has come out into the daylight every so often, and a few rows have been added before it has returned to its roost.More frequently, it has been pushed aside to allow access to equally disregarded things below it.
The thing is, I really want to make this and to enjoy using the resulting cushion; it also has sentimental value for me which increases my desire to see it complete. Every other time I have worked on it I have set it aside in favour of some knitting project, but perhaps now I am in a knitting lull it is finally time to give this some love. I am always disappointed when I look at it to see how little I have achieved in all the years I’ve had it, but I can make visible progress if I just do a little bit each day.
I can but try.
(If I put in some significant work on this, maybe I will also finish that Christmas bauble from 2008. Just a thought.)
Are there guilty secrets lurking in your wip stash, or on the top shelf of your wardrobe?
Oh, lawks – I have too much stuff, I need to de-clutter!
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
The Lady of Shallot
Those of us who are not minimalists face a big hurdle in life and that is to determine where to draw the line between “lots of lovely stuff” and “clutter”. On the face of it and particularly, I am sure, to genuine minimalists, lots of lovely stuff looks pretty much the same as clutter. However, there is a tipping point, and I reached that last week. It took a comment by my grandson (the reluctant owner of a minimalist mother) to make me take stock and determine that there is a whole category of things which I regularly move about from place to place and which I neither want nor enjoy.
My favourite temporary storage space for such things is in my wardrobe, but when that wardrobe is required for the purposes of hide-and-seek, the things have to go elsewhere. The only problem with that is that elsewhere is aready full of things. Action is required.
The first step in any action plan is to think. In this instance, the thinking led me to an understanding of the nature of my clutter. For me, clutter is stuff that I have already let go of emotionally and cerebrally, but somehow haven’t physically removed and it falls into a few categories:-
Items that might be worth selling – these need to be priced and listed for sale.
Items might be waiting to be taken in to a charity shop – hardly difficult to accomplish.
Items that I have categorised in my head as difficult to dispose of and therefore have not even tried to think of ways to remove them – these need rather more work, but it can be done.
One example of the latter was my old printer which I could happily have just put it in my garage and forgotten about. One of my first actions after my grandson’s visit was to list this on a sale site free to anyone who was prepared to come and collect it. I had an offer pretty instantly. Not everything that I want to sell garners any interest, but it’s always a good starting point and if no-one wants it, donating to charity remains an option.
One idea for tackling stagnant clutter is to make a decision to remove a certain number of items each day. This week I am setting aside just 15 minutes after I wash up the breakfast things each morning to go through one tiny area and see if I can remove three items. It might be a kitchen drawer, or a storage box. Today it was the box I use to store my spare make-up and skincare; I easily found more than three things in that which I wouldn’t ever use. One bonus in setting a number is that it’s human nature to try and beat it.
I am writing this on the penultimate day of International Correspondence Writing Month and after I write my final letter tomorrow I am looking forward to going through my letter-writing box and weeding out some things that I no longer want to keep. Then I can recycle the box and that will be a grand achievement for the day.
I’m not a profligate purchaser and there are plenty of things in my life which I am happy to just keep using until they conk out without feeling any need to keep updating. I expect my CD player and television to last me years; I don’t see any need to buy newer, bigger, splashier models. One thing my grandson commented about last week was a couple of framed photographs that I had just bunged under my chest of drawers pending some action. I told him I intended to put up new photos and he asked what I would do with these. I was happy to be able to point out that the existing photos would be replaced, but the frames re-used with new photos in them. That raises a question in my mind, too – in these days where we are all trying to reduce our impact on the planet’s resources, why don’t shops sell cushion covers separately? The vast majority still come with a foam or feather pad inside them, but it would make much more sense to sell the covers and pads separately. I mean, you don’t have to buy a new pillow every time you buy a pillow-case.
These are just some thoughts I am having as I try to create a bit more breathing-room in my flat. I am certain that this doesn’t mean I am going to become any sort of minimalist. I will still end up with more stuff than I need, and I don’t doubt that I will be decluttering in some form until I become too old to get to the charity shop and even the bin.
Do you have any favourite decluttering tips? Are you a minimalist, a maximalist, or something entirely healthy in between the two?