I just remembered this and thought for anyone wanting a fresh start, it might help. It certainly helps with depression and anxiety! That’s for sure … just one drawer at a time …
Part 1 – Recognising The Problem
Very early on in my relationship I remember cooking lunch for The Colonel (my then boyfriend, now husband) and it was, as per usual, chaos ….
I recall him quietly observing the scene in front of him, looking at the wonky, dusty pictures with those little black thunder bugs that somehow find their way behind the glass, the piles of ironing that I had tried to hide behind the sofa, the pretty, distressed cream and rusty paperwork tray spilling its guts onto the work surfaces, the sink overflowing with every pot and pan and then, at me. What I had thought of as scatty and endearing was in fact to him, frighteningly chaotic.
“I think we have a problem” he said quietly …. Not exactly “I think we have a problem Houston” in a Tom Hanks sort of way, but in my little world, it was quite frankly as momentous as that. This could be ‘the deal-breaker’.
Now, some may say that he should have accepted me for who (or is it whom?) I was – The problem was, that I didn’t really like the person that I had become. I in fact wanted to change, but I simply didn’t know how or indeed where to start.
“Oh!” I said.
“Wait!” I said.
“I have a plan!” I said, by now rather excitedly. He was looking a little nervous, and annoyingly, somewhat unconvinced.
“You, my darling, gorgeous man are at one end of the organised spectrum, not saying that you’re, you know, anal or anything, God forbid! No, just seriously beyond tidy! And truth be told, that’s where I would like to be ….. not anal, obviously, and let’s face it that’s never going to happen in a month of Sunday’s.” I snorted with laughter at this and then remembered that this was no laughing matter, this was a serious, grown-up conversation, so carried in a more restrained fashion, perhaps even verging on an ‘eating humble pie’ sort of way “And I appear to be at the other end of that, um, particular spectrum.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Ok. Fair enough, I’ve completely fallen off the end of the scale into the big, black pit at the bottom,” I grudgingly admitted but then continued on with renewed gusto, “however, if you could shift just a teensy half a fraction up the spectrum towards me, would you help me get this all in order and start again? I NEED to do it. I WANT to do it. By the way however, nothing, I repeat nothing is to be colour-coded or chronologically ordered.”
I think I could see his lips twitch, but could have imagined it. “Where shall we start?” he asks.
Part 2 – The Process
We started with books. I had literally hundreds of wonderfully trashy romantic paperbacks, some fabulous history books, gardening books galore and the occasional self-help book (which I tried, and failed to hide). Most I’d read and some I hadn’t. They were all fairly battered, the majority being secondhand and of course covered in the habitual layer of dust. A bookshelf, emptied onto the floor, cleaned within an inch of its life and whilst it was empty, hoovered behind and underneath – that hadn’t happened since I’d moved in. Clearly the spiders had been very happy. Then, one at a time a good book would be dusted and put back on the shelf. A rubbish book, a book I’d never read and frankly never would, would go into a cardboard box and finally a pile of ‘I’m not sure books’ would sit beside me for a final decision at the end.
The start was difficult. The colonel was fantastically understanding and patient although from time to time had to pull out the odd Jackie Collins from under my jumper where I’d attempted to hide them. The first box was filled and then more and more as we worked through the house, through all the bookcases that I had inherited in the last forty-odd years. That’s a lot of books. That’s a lot of boxes.
The car was full and a trip to the charity shop ensued, double parked as we carried them in to the wide-eyed surprise of the volunteers there; perhaps they thought we’d robbed a library. Driving away, exhausted, very teary – an end of an era. A change. Scary. Getting back home ….. Dear God – freedom. Total freedom. Half empty shelves. Space. This is bliss. Exhilaration. I want more – I want more of this feeling. Laughter and pure joy. And so it began.
Some things were more difficult than others. It meant making decisions which was not my forte. But I can, in all honesty, say that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that I’m pining for or that I miss and wish I didn’t got rid of. Also, it’s incredible how quickly you forget what was actually there in the first place.
Slowly but surely I cleared up my little cottage. Some days it was just a case of clearing out one drawer. A kitchen drawer or cupboard. Just emptying it, cleaning and chucking out the tin opener that my mother gave me when I was a student but had gone a bit rusty, or the three chipped wine glasses that had gone cloudy, never matched and frankly I could buy a new set of four from Ikea for the cost of a cheap bottle of plonk if I really needed more. It was cathartic. It was therapy on a major scale. It felt so darn good.
I found my wedding list from my previous marriage, all the letters from the guests, everything to do with a marriage that was no more. Why was I hanging onto the past? I didn’t want my house any longer to be a shrine to the past. I wanted to move forward. Those were the more difficult days and once the colonel had seen I was on a roll, he left me to it, so I could spend as long as I wanted dealing with the past, putting it behind me, moving forward.
It was liberating. As the cupboards emptied, the nic-nacs on the tables and every visible surface became clearer too as I realised that it actually wasn’t necessary to cover every windowsill and table with ‘stuff’. More space and less stuff meant easier cleaning. Easier cleaning meant less time doing it, so more free time. More free time meant more time to organise and sort and clean … and, live. The more I did, the easier it became and the more I enjoyed it. It was like the endorphins that one gets from exercise. I was happy, very happy, very organised and had started afresh. I had finally moved away from the past and it was good, seriously good.
I’ll still use every pan in the kitchen when I’m cooking and sometimes the Colonel will ask why I have to have three lipsalves, a handful of hair bands and a tube of Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream in every room in yet another pretty little pot, and I’ll call him anal and he’ll call me an untidy, scruffy bugger and we move on, giggling and chatting as together we cook, and clean up ….