Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Throwing out the past

Good to be home after so much travelling
I should have been working today - indeed I did all morning (and yesterday) but after arriving home from Ireland to discover the hall ceiling all over the floor, inside Raymond's beloved Bechstein grand piano, and spattering some of my books, I made the decision that I need to be more of a wife and less of a go-getter. That there is more to life than work and that it was time I at least tried to be more domesticated. (I may be starting 54 years to late!)

This was such a shock
The problem with this vast old house that once held us and three children, often their friends as well, parties, gatherings and celebrations, is that now being empty of people, there are just too many places where you can stash possessions, which accumulate without really noticing. My trouble is, I am reluctant to ever throw anything away, in case it comes in handy; surely I can recycle all those old shirts into journal pages ??? Old books and papers, music, cardboard, string, catalogues, magazines, children's toys, jam jars, etc etc etc. Cleaning the house invariably starts with tidying up, and moving 'stuff' from place to place, into another cupboard, the spare room/s, the roof, behind the sofa, under the dressing table. (Those of you who visit will know that we may live in disorganised chaos, but we do have a self-contained en-suite guest room that is (theoretically) kept ready for guests, who are always welcome.)

Raymond's beloved piano
So, after blogging yesterday and this morning on Irish Garden Inspiration, answering business emails, and invoicing - else we won't eat, and thinking where best to start this overhaul: I start along the corridor from the office (once the bedrooms of two of our children) and into the bathroom - originally a room of indeterminate use, but gorgeous in its size and converted in the early 70s, I am able to bathe whilst looking out of the low window to the hills beyond. Somewhere I have a sketch drawn whilst soaking in the bath. Why are the linen shelves so overflowing yet I can never actually find clean sheets for our bed, or matching pillow cases? My colour-co-ordinated towels are all of a jumble and there seem to be bags of mending that surely date back two or more years. 

These are disgusting!
Yet the climactic moment comes when I pull down endless pillows from the top shelf (needing a step ladder to reach them); they are old and lumpy, some inherited from my parents house when R. and I married 54 years ago! How can I have accumulated such horrid stuff; worn out eiderdowns and subsequent duvets from when we first bought this place in 1969. Plaster has fallen on them from cracks in the walls that have appeared over the last few years when traffic shakes the walls; this 16th century house was not built to withstand the hourly village bus (empty) waiting with its engine running. Note to self to buy translucent laundry bags in which to pack what I decide to keep so that a) they do not need re-washing even though they are stored clean, and b) so I can see what I have; labels are insufficient. That's but a tiny task but discarding ten grotty pillows has been a start; threadbare sheets from the 80s become rags or dust sheets. I feel guilty that I have so neglected all this - and there are still ten more rooms to tackle, plus the roof-space, and a very large shed. I am not proud of my inability to be a proper housewife, and honestly would rather be writing, or creating something; hence this blog post. Maybe a word whisper will emerge from within the ticking-covered pillows from which prickly feathers emerge. We shall see. 


  1. Phew! Sounds like a big task, Ann but worth doing once!

  2. We have moved often enough to make an overhaul of possessions imperative, but when we lived in the same house [a small one] for 18 years the accumulation was rather dis-heartening.
    I agree that those of us who 'create' on any scale [a] would prefer to create rather than clean cupboards; [b] as you mentioned, those bits and pieces might surely turn into something beautiful [?] and [c] if we throw out some tidbit it will be a mere week before we have an urgent use for it.
    You have my heart felt sympathy for the dilemma of the plaster in the piano. Not a good home-coming!

  3. I enjoyed reading of your late start of becoming a housewife-let us know how it goes. Art always calls strongly.

  4. Well I have always BEEN a housewife since 1958 when we married, just not a very good or efficient one. Sadly, it's just never been top priority in my mind.

  5. And quite right! I should shed your 'not feeling proud about being a proper housewife' - not actually in the shed of course, as you'll find it later - but well away. What is one anyway? Sorry about the disaster with plaster though. I would be gathering up the jaggy shapes, some will be useful!

  6. Are you QUITE sure we are not related Ann ?!!! Oh, and I can vouch for MM's c) comment. That is SO TRUE.

  7. I find myself thinking ' why on earth would she be ashamed of not being enough of a housewife??'. I spend too much time tidying and cleaning and not enough time working, and I am not happy with that! Nor does my partner particularly appreciate it.
    Tidying and cleaning will always need doing - and doing again and again. But the the words and work that you create will live on beyond you Ann.

  8. Why would anyone want to be a 'proper housewife', and what constitutes one anyway? Don't feel guilty! Mind, a thorough clean out does leave you feel a hundred times better!

  9. I'm glad I'm not the only one who hoards and hates housework. Sadly I don't have your creative output to compensate. I do hope you manage to clean that beautiful piano though. Good luck with your decluttering!


  10. I too am a horder Ann and I HATE housework, really only gets done when we have visitors :) You are always working so hard! xx

  11. The very word "Housewife" has always raised my hackles. A woman does not marry a house!
    So much better to have a rich, interesting and creative life as you do Ann.

    Some of your older linen would probably be a treasure for vintage hunters in your local charity shop, especially the eiderdowns.

    Good luck with sorting everything out and getting the roof mended, but don`t ever feel guilty about housework. It is NOT the purpose of life!

  12. Oh, the poor piano! Fascinating post, though, Ann.
    I think we hoard things because subconsciously we think they somehow make us what we are. Throwing stuff away can often feel like throwing a bit of your life away.
    Once I've done the deed, however, I very rarely give the stuff a second thought - and after a mega clearout I can almost feel the house heaving a sigh of relief.
    I make a conscious effort to focus on the negative side of hoarding - having to move stuff around all the time; never having anywhere to put anything because all the cupboards are full of things I never use; the way things like linen and paper and pillows go yellow with age. It's easier to be ruthless that way.
    And I have three bags/boxes - chuck, keep and can't decide. If a "can't decide" bag is still untouched a year later, it goes out too.

  13. I don't think keeping stuff makes you a bad housewife. But I do think if you throw away stuff you will feel better about yourself and your house. Easy for me to say becaue I am a thrower not a keeper. I don't like clutter. I don't like mess. I don't mind a little dirt -I live on a dirt road, have a black shedding dog, two cats, and a barn - but I don't like or have clutter. I have heard it said that if you get rid of things from the past you will feel lighter in the present and more positive, cheerful about the future. Stuff wears us down. I've even read to get rid of photos of people you didn't like so much -like a family member. :<) Good luck. It isn't easy changing one's nature or habit, but I do expect you will feel quite wonderful when you've thrown out the things you don't love or need. Again, good luck to you in your endeavor.

  14. It seems to me that each woman has her own individual threshold of tolerance for mess and clutter, that point at which one can't ignore it any longer and has to tidy up at least a bit before she can be creative again. Mine is not static, either -- it depends on fatigue level, how personal relationships are going, etc.
    I enjoy reading your musings on this homemaking/housework/work sorting-out process. Godspeed!