Brian and I live very happily. But there’s a lot of clutter. My best friend swears by Marie Kondo, who wrote a faddy book that essentially says “throw literally everything away unless you can’t bear to”. Minnie’s never tried to evangelise me even if she’s made me aware of the good side of it. When you go to visit her it’s a lovely clear home, though you can’t have tea if there’s more than three people. She only has three mugs that “spark joy”. As her friend I need to find her a mug that “sparks joy” so she’ll have some more bloody joyful bloody mugs. I’m terrified to break anything at hers too – I know it passed a hard test to still be there. All her remaining possessions have great notional weight. At mine you can throw stuff around a bit. Break something round mine and I’ll likely not care. “Oh, my grannies egg slicer… meh”. “Wear your shoes if you like and not if you don’t. I don’t give a fuck about the carpet. You spilt wine? Don’t waste salt.”
We live in this flat and we’re happy here. I have my own possessions that spark joy. I also have the stuff of multiple deceased people who I’ve loved. I have my uncle Peter’s childhood “things” pot full of kitchen utensils. I have Dad’s kilt for special occasions. I have my mother’s wooden salad bowl. My grandmother’s big pot. Grandpa’s razor. I use this stuff. It sparks something akin to joy. Should I burn the past entirely? None of it is perfect. All of it still works.
The only rules I have are don’t put eggs in the fridge, don’t be a twat and think actively about waterflow upwards when you’re loading the dishwasher.
But today I started a tidy that is long overdue. Yeah I’ve got a lot of stuff that has meaning and joy for me. But I also have a lot of junk I don’t need. I’m not hoarding but I need a trim. And I needed a catalyst too.
An old friend, who was comfortable last time she stayed but who has been through a lot since then – she came back and couldn’t handle it here. I’d left her catsitting while I was in Liverpool and the flat was at its absolute worst at the time she arrived and we left. I dropped her in at the deep end. Both Brian and myself had been peaking to that wedding and had been worse than ever for tidying. I told her as much but it didn’t land
I got back to find no change – clearly she’d been sitting there like she was in a warzone, panicking, and assuming this worst case was the new normal – while doing nothing to help herself. Literally nothing. I got started on a big tidy while she got finished on finding somewhere else.
She’s found a friend with a regular job, a cleaner and a spare room. In Vauxhall. She told me as I was rubbing stuff off the kitchen floor at the end of the day. It’s probably for the best. She needs to heal. I’m sad she had already given up by the time I got back because this is a healing place. It’s what my home is for. But this guy has a gym. And my place was not clean.
Still, I’ve needed a tidy up irrespective. Although I was trying to tidy according to what was important for her. I ended up asking her for her list of priorities.
She thinks the radiator guards disrupt air convection so she removes them and then sees the ancient dust behind them. Following that line of thinking she determines that the radiators blow the dust into the room as if they were fan heaters. It’s always useful to get another perspective on the world. But ffs.
After she told me she was leaving I immediately and unconsciously moved my attention to cleaning around my Gohonzon. Then I noticed and said to her: “I’ve learnt something about myself. This cluttered Gohonzon has been troubling me for weeks, but I didn’t touch it until you said you were leaving. And then when I knew this tidy was for me and not for you I went to it immediately.” It was an epiphany about how I still keep putting other people’s needs before my own. It was a big realisation. She listened and responded: “So you would be happy with a horrible toilet, all that dust and mess so long as only that gohonzon was done. I see.” !!!!! My brother is married. I don’t know how he does it.
Artists are rarely scientists and my beloved mother was amazingly neurotic. Maybe dust does convect. Maybe selfish epiphanies should always be countered offhand with contempt.
I’m happy to tidy my flat because it needs tidying. There’s days more work before it’s done. It’ll never be done to Minnie’s Kondo standard. But if I can get it to a reasonable nick before Chelsea Flower Show then maybe I can rent it to some VIP and go on holiday far far from the magical dust dragons behind the radiator covers.
Meanwhile the fact I’m upset that my friend moved in with mister gym also demonstrates my self sabotage. If she was still here I’d be on the sofa again. As it is I get a sleep in my bed, just inches from the radiator of death. But I’m sad that she felt uncomfortable here and wouldn’t trust that I was improving things. I can’t let that ever happen again. It defeats the object of the way I live. I don’t have a gym. But I have a home.