The person who designed the house we live in in the country decided to make the most of the space available to maximise storage. We have a basement, a double garage with a mezzanine, a room we call a cloakroom even though the family could not rustle up a single cloak between us, and an attic.
So, spoiled for space. In fact, it's part of family legend now that the attic was only discovered after we had been living here for several weeks. Partly because who on Earth has an attic?
And in case you're wondering, yes, it is handy and yes, there is something a little bit creepy about it.
You would think all that space means items disappear into it. But no — this is one case where more is less. Just as work expands to fill the time available in which to do it, so crap accrues to fill the space available in which to store it.
With all that space at your disposal the tendency is to throw anything at it, never to throw anything away and to adopt as an efficient storage strategy the practice of standing in the doorway and biffing stuff into a corner — corners that, in many cases are getting nearer and nearer the door as the stuff mounts up.
I pride myself on keeping a tidy basement, garage, cloakroom and attic.
Nothing quite as satisfying as seeing columns of cartons arrayed neatly against walls. There's a special pleasure in contemplating all that camping equipment — out of which two complete tents might be assembled from the depleted components of four — stacked in the special camping section; baby equipment for age ranges birth to 3 years is ready for action when the time comes.
Such is the ideal. But you know it's time to sort things out when you can't get to the kayak in the basement because the dismantled bunks are in the way.
So I took advantage of the limbo between Christmas and New Year to reorganise the basement. And the garage. I was going to do the attic as well but I think I heard a noise up there.
It's my symbolic gesture to the New Year notion of a new start and so much easier than changing my habits when it comes to diet/alcohol/exercise/gardening or reading improving books, activities that if they're worth doing can and should be done at any time.
All went well for a while. The secret of tidying is really a matter of putting spread-out things in piles.
Yesterday when I'd got as far as I could with my piles, I consulted my wife about the next stage, disposing of things we hadn't used that other people might.
"I thought maybe that solar-powered camp oven we bought six years ago that's still in the box could go?" I suggested.
She paled. "I was keeping that for the apocalypse," she said.
"Then those old deck chairs we haven't used for ages?" Turns out they're necessary for when our youngest daughter's friends come to stay. Good to know all her friends can come at once and have somewhere to recline.
When it comes to getting rid of stuff you don't need, the only foolproof strategy is not to acquire it in the first place.
Perhaps the point of storage is to provide a home for things we don't need, don't use and should probably never have let into our lives. It seems that storage is an authentic case where more is less.