Why hello there! Happy New Year! Welcome back! Here's to 2017! Oh who am I kidding? I had such good intentions; really I did, to kick proceedings off with a hiss and a roar. The thing is, though, it all feels a little more like an ending than a beginning right now. Are you, too, returning home from holiday this weekend? Staring down the barrel of work on Monday? Are you in a state of disarray? Yet to find a home for that over-sized, vintage glass drinks dispenser you got for Christmas? An alp of dank and sandy, dirty and sticky laundry rising steeply from your bathroom floor? The contents of the chilly bin spilling across the kitchen bench, gummy with leaked mayonnaise?
You and me both, baby. But, I urge you, let us not despair. Nor, indeed, wallow in the chaos. Rather, let us seize the moment. Don't just shove your clothes back in the wardrobe any old how or stash that jar of port and cranberry jelly somewhere in the wastelands of your pantry. Instead, see this time of flux as opportunity. A turning point in which to take stock. To rid yourself of the extraneous. The groundwork for any temple-like plans you may have for your body and soul this year, lies not in the expunging of carbs or the unclogging of chakras, but, first and foremost, in the sifting through of your physical environment. The shedding of shit, basically.
We acquire stuff in a way that previous generations didn't. Because we are awful consumers. And because there is so much more. More information. More options. As a family of four, the flow of things into our house astounds me. A recipe card from the supermarket. A tennis ball from the park. A water flosser from the dentist. On and on it goes. And every celebration, every vacation, there is a fresh injection. It piles up on benches and desks, in corners and behind doors, slowly but surely smothering.
So what to do? Sadly there are no shortcuts. A massive cull of your earthly possessions is the unavoidable starting point. Start small. Perhaps with that kitchen drawer of shame, brimming with bulldog clips and bank statements. Be methodical, make a list, tackle room by room. Some may express horror when they see the extent of what you are turfing out. Pay no heed. Ruthlessness is required. For every 30 items you rid your home of, I wager at most there'll be one you'll regret at a later date. The sense of relief will far outweigh any piffling pang. Some will tell you it's a waste, but surely it's more wasteful to hold on to what you're not using when someone else could be. Just because you paid through the nose for that shirt or someone gave you that platter isn't a good enough reason to keep it if you have neither love nor use for it. Sentimentality is the enemy of a pared-back home. It's not necessary to hold on to every souvenir spoon Cousin Graeme collected on his travels in order to honour his memory. One will do the job.
Culling can be painful, it is certainly draining, but in a sense this is the fun bit, like with a diet the real work is in the maintenance. And unless we want to find ourselves, this time next year, in the same boat, then we have to stop or at least minimise the flow. Fix maximums. I only have one set of sheets for each bed. I wash, dry and put them back on, and replace them when they are worn. If a new item is inbound, then something else must make way for it. Don't instill a filing system so complicated you can't be bothered using it. Deal to mail straight away. Keep a bag in the boot of your car where you place things you no longer want. When it's full, drop it in a charity bin. Most children bring home enough artwork to stage an annual exhibition at the Guggenheim. Admire it. Put it aside, and every few months choose a couple of keepers. Time affords the clarity to see what is meaningful. Involve your kids; the ability to be objective about their stuff is a worthy skill.
Do not dally. Go. Go forth and reduce.