Our house is full of stuff. Much of it has a place, much of it is important and useful. However, there are certain things that I find accumulate and I simply don’t know where to put them or even how to handle their existence. This is is a picture of my table right now. This is how it usually looks. It annoys me.
I realise this stuff is a small concern in the scheme of things but when you find yourself pointlessly moving things from one unsatisfactory position to another equally annoying place about ten times a day, it can slowly get to you.
These are the things that cluster, stare at you challengingly and dare you to throw them away or properly file them, but you never quite find a suitable solution. They simply confound you and hang about like a bad smell. I usually reach a point when said things drive me so crazy that I have a massive cull. I then feel guilty or find I urgently need one of them, usually the day after the bins have been collected. Once this sinking feeling hits, I know I’m back to square one: back to letting these pests get the better of me.
I sure most houses have annoying gatherings of items. Pre-kids, we had an ever present pile of general admin, bills, etc. But with the arrival of children, the nature of these clusters changes and also moves quickly beyond your control. You are no longer master of the stuff, as tiny hands meddle with it daily. In this house, there are several key categories of this troublesome clutter:
Now, this is a biggie. My kids are prolific artists. Even the little one gets in on the act and loves nothing better than covering himself and the furniture in pen. On a good day, they can produce a handful of drawings each. Some scream “keep me!”, so of course I do, like any doting parent. I store them away in a shoebox to embarrass them with as teenagers. But the ones that are saved are only the best. With a small house, we don’t have room to store four hundred shoeboxes stuffed with memorabilia.
So, what to do with the other multiple masterpieces? Some get stuck to the cupboard door, some are sent to beloved family members (who I like to think appreciate them but, even if they don’t, they should know they are doing me a big favour by taking them). But the rest? I have to admit, some of them go straight into the recycling bin. But most are much more annoying than that. They are cute enough to make you smile, not special enough to keep, and so they hang about in piles on the table or on top of the fridge. They wait there, in case one of the kids asks “Mummy, where is that incredible picture I did last week?”
These pieces of paper seem to breed, they increase so rapidly in number. Eventually, I bung them in the recycling, ensuring that I bury them so that the artists don’t see them and get offended. But I always get a slightly sick feeling as I do it, as if I am being a terrible and unappreciative Mother.
Much like Artwork, only bigger and more annoying. The main difference is that I would happily dump most of these the moment they come home at the end of term but H is, understandably, proud of them and wants to hang on to them. The problem is, they are usually large and made of cardboard or tissue paper so are not remotely robust. So, we keep them until they disintegrate. They are usually balanced precariously on top of a cupboard or on a windowsill until they are knocked off enough times to be beyond repair, when they are dumped.
Some last longer and refuse to disintegrate so I have to wait for a safe amount of time to pass before I can sneak them out and get rid. There is currently a huge octopus made of tights in a bin bag under my bed. This is stage one. If H doesn’t notice it’s absence for a couple of months, I will proceed to stage two and dump without ceremony. And, crucially, without guilt either. I think we can all agree than school projects are supposed to be for a term, not for life. Hopefully H will understand that soon. Preferably before M starts school and I have double the quantity of them being sent home every school holiday.
M is a collector. She picks things up and sees a beauty in them that only a four year old can. Sticks, pine cones, conkers, acorns, feathers. And stones. Lots and lots of stones. Most of them are basically gravel, so pretty pedestrian looking to you or me, but to M they are things of infinite beauty. She will show me a small brown stone and say “Look! This is a really lovely one.” So home it comes.
M’s collection is about 80% small brown stones, with the odd acorn and shell thrown in. All perfectly sized choking hazards for her 19 month old brother. The collection is supposed to live in a basket up in her bedroom but it migrates around the house. These stones get literally everywhere and I gather them up throughout the day, but it is a losing battle with M liberally scattering them at every opportunity.
I have no solution to the stone problem. I often don’t even see M bringing them in as they are snuck in in pockets. I hear them clunk up the vaccume cleaner pipe and I become concerned about it’s innards. The collection worries me.
Party Bag Offerings
To my kids, the best part of any party is getting a flimsy bag full of tat and cake at the end. They love to keep these crappy little plastic toys together, in their original bag, then lovingly take them out and marvel at them from time to time. And they like to leave them around the house in random places. A particular favourite is hanging them on door handles. If I suggest that they get rid of the bag and put the plastic tat in a drawer or box, I get scathing looks, as if the contents and bag are inextricably linked and splitting up the items enclosed would be sacrilegious. At any one time, there are at least four or five party bags dotted around the house. I found one the other day with a small slice of crusty cake still in there, after some weeks of festering. Nice.
One day I hope to find a solution to the clusters of stuff that gather around my house but I think, if I am honest, I know that is a pipe dream. The stuff will change as the years go by – it won’t always be tiny plastic toys and gravel – but it will be other equally annoying things. Who knows what teenagers’ clustering tat will consist of? I dread to think.
I think my best bet is to learn to ignore the stuff, or at least learn to ignore the guilty feeling I get when I eventually bin it. Nine times out of ten, they don’t notice it has gone anyway. But I do. And for approximately ten minutes I can enjoy the luxury of a stuff free table. Heaven.