How not to bake, and the art of letting go

Reader – I baked.

Actually my foray in baking was an almighty cock-up and the cake tasted like a christmas tree.

Anyway. Time for Plan B for this Friday’s blog post.

Our little London flat has no storage, no really. This is something that anyone who has experienced city living the world over will know only too well. Our bijou apartment has minimal kitchen cabinets and some wardrobes – and that’s it. I recently had to view a place with my brother and we were left dumbstruck by the amount of storage it had. The apartment wasn’t perfect, but wow, the storage! Cupboards! More cupboards! A room bigger than my kitchen purely as storage! Putting it politely, the storage was so good I had to go for a post-coital cigarette afterwards.

Before I begin, I just want to say the Lover and I are not hoarders – but we do have a thing for 60s and 70s pottery, and I have a passion for books. We have a dazed and confused retro vibe about us. So, when we moved into our flat two years ago all the things that had no place got dumped in nooks and crannies; below the bed, above the wardrobes and behind chairs… Books were coming out of my ears. Basically I had to become creative. And I mean very creative about storage solutions.

In the time that we’ve lived here many bits and pieces have made their way into the flat. I’m afraid our addiction was getting the better of us. You know that feeling: “but it’s so amazing and would look great; and I don’t want anyone else to have it”. There was only so much we could cram in here without starting to look like the Old Curiosity Shop; the bed was rising up from the floor, chairs were getting closer… and closer… and closer together. There was only so long that we could pull off the junk shop chic to explain that we had nowhere else to put things, or didn’t know what to do with them.

For some time now our bedroom has been a source of anxiety for me. It reached the point where we could barely walk in there without disturbing a precarious pile of stuff, or held our breath before opening a wardrobe (fearing being crushed by clothes/china/sewing machines). Certainly I didn’t dare look under the bed. I had to keep my eyes fixed when I walked into the room as the mere sight of it stressed me out. We both knew we had to deal with it, but had been putting off the inevitable clear out because quite simply, it’s hard. Letting go is hard. But anxiety and claustrophobia had got the better of me and we needed space; we couldn’t put it off any longer. So we began the process of streamlining our possessions.

The first things to go were the books and collections of ‘stuff’. For whatever reason, I seem to have a special attachment books; whether I like them or not. I love books, they’re a staple present for me and I can’t resist picking up a couple of paperbacks when I see them. Until recently, a day-off would involve perusing charity shops or markets and bringing home a haul of treasures. In the last few months however, my attitude towards things have changed. Though I love my collection of books, vintage pottery and other odds and ends – I’d started to feel oppressed by all the stuff and needed a clear out.

It hurt, I knew I had to do it –  but it was starting to feel like a messy divorce.

Going through the books and clutter, I was horrified by the amount of stuff that I had bought over the years: Books I disliked or would never read again; crockery that had been pretty much boxed up and unused ever since we bought it. I couldn’t tell what was more depressing – the fact I had to let things go, or that the amount of dust that had collected was giving Miss Havisham a run for her money.

I’m very sentimental by nature, I keep a lot of things for emotional reasons. I put too much meaning into objects and find it hard to let go of things, which has resulted in us carting around boxes of sentimental stuff for years. I’ve realised now that junk shop chic just isn’t the way to go, this isn’t a bijou museum of junk. I can’t keep every little thing with a memory attached to it. I was learning from this divorce that my memories are separate from my possessions, and that I could only keep the most treasured items. After all, the physical objects aren’t what matter – the memories are.

Whilst I was clearing out, something I saw on Pinterest kept going through my head: “You have to let go of the things that used to be important in order to make space for the things that matter now”. Those words kept me going as I sifted through everything and decided whether to bag it up for charity.

Yes, it felt better knowing that I was giving back to charity. I knew that whoever bought the stuff we were giving away would love it just as much as we did. Knowing this, I discovered that I could actually be incredibly ruthless about our possessions and we’ve donated many, many, many bags of clutter. Don’t get me wrong, there is still more to do. I find myself re-editing everything over and over – this is going to be a long divorce. However, with each bag that leaves our home I feel the weight of anxiety and clutter lift. Life feels much tidier and easier – I can breathe again. For once the flat doesn’t look like the Old Curiosity Shop.

Funnily enough, I’ve also felt less of a desire to acquire anything else. The shock of the amount of stuff bought over the years that had been sitting boxed up or unused has put me off. I’ve reached the point in my life where I want a selection of books and items that I love, rather than a large collection of stuff that I like. We’ve cut back on the charity shop visits, and slowly but surely I’m learning that I don’t have to bring back every item that I fall for.

It’s ok to let things go.

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