I have lots of stuff. I would not describe myself as materialistic but more of a hoarder. I never really buy anything for myself and can be found all year round in harem pants and flip-flops. Yet I do keep important artefacts from my history. My first Valentine card from Martin Crankshaw, my Grandpa Bamps wee 50p saving tin, my kids first Babygro’s. I could not be parted from them. The Greek has a much more minimalist approach. We have moved house 3 times in 7 years and the only possession he has insisted goes with him is his hideous oversized Leprechaun coffee mug. When unpacking at our next destination I can be found rolling around the floor searching for my treasures, did they make it, are they here? I scramble through boxes, eventually defeated amidst a sea of bubble wrap and tissue paper. Breathless I start to doubt whether I packed them in the first place. The Greek casts a temporary shadow on my seabed when he steps over me, that mug over his shoulder. La de da, kettle located, “you want tea babes?” I start to reply but realise you cannot speak under bubble wrap sea. “Oh no wait a minute, you don’t have a cup” sails in from our new kitchen.
Becoming a mother has seen this disease deepen. I must keep everything. I must have a catalogue all of my kids achievements. Nursery drawings, nametags from the hospital, original “inventions”. I am a curator of them. Something that the Greek and I share in common is our disorganisation. We do try, but usually get distracted along the way. With two young kids there is a lot of “pre – planning” to be done. Parties, appointments, homework, gifts for parties, school dress up days, and on and on. The ever traditionalist Greek sticks to his simple tools. Note taking and list making. Scraps of paper are all over our house. Not on a pleasant note pad sheet with information on one side and a generic Ghandi quote on the back, but a well-loved edge of something dripping with last week’s dinner and his important information. My reply to this deficit in our organising has been two fold. Number one; Home Bargains. I jauntily arrange my thinking cap on my head and head there sporadically to “get organising”. I never leave empty-handed and sure, I pick up a packet of polly pockets and a reward chart, but I also buy crap. When I come home and show off my new purchase, a stuffed Kangaroo which when turned upside down is ALSO a whisk, the Greek’s reply is always the same. “Great just what we need, more shite”. I feel for the Kangaroo and I always do my best sales pitch, but I know that he is right.
Number two; my sister. If I were to hazard a guess at organisation and its point of origin, I would not hesitate in standing up and pointing across the courtroom at her. Let us call her “The Interpreter”. In common, we have a quick wit, and a huge set of boobs each. Throughout our lives, she has been my interpreter. On my first day of school, it was she who answered the teacher’s questions. Shouting from her pram my vital statistics, whilst I stared down at my Clarks shoes and thanked my father’s DNA for my heavy fringe. Her candour mortifies me and my silence baffles her.
Like most sisters, we would walk over hot coals for one and other. We have that unshakable bond of childhood. Her putting my books constantly in the washing machine to gain a playmate, our stripping the Sindy dolls naked and rubbing them against each other whilst performing erotic voice-overs, we know all of the others secrets. In recent years, she has become my PR team. She promotes me. Insisting that I get time to myself, without being a wife or a mother. She is my biggest supporter. Yet, we are as different as two people could be. She is as focused as I am in a constant daydream. As driven as I park my arse for another “chill”. She is the architect of organisation, and well I am at home bargains. She is younger than I am but if I am truly honest, I look up to her. I listen when she speaks and I really try to make her proud. She was the one who said it was not ok for me to brush my hair in the kitchen using the microwave as my vanity mirror. She went to Home Bargains and bought things we actually use! A jar to store pasta shells! With one swipe, my fusilli graveyard was gone.
Her home is a haven that Monica Gellar would be proud of. Having lived in Japan, she likes words like; Simplicity and minimalism. She encourages us to adopt a new philosophy of living. We must de – clutter, and synchronise our diaries. I nod solemnly whilst imagining two wee diaries at the local swimming baths, turning and twirling in unison. Calculators and staplers applauding in admiration at the poolside. “Are you listening to ME”! The interpreter demands.
In the last decade, there has been a growing popularity in this minimalist approach to life. Surely, it is in reply to the amount of stuff, the amount of choice that we have. Our lives have become cluttered with not only things, but also choices, options, technology.
The Bionic Woman has been reading the Japanese art of tidying up books for a number of years. She is not the least bit materialistic and she seems strong in her conviction about adopting this lifestyle. She quotes directly from Kondo telling us we must only keep the items that truly keep us happy. She is beautiful in her sincerity as she tell us that is is the year she will do this. The trouble is I see the young girl in her. Scouring the streets for pieces of rubbish and pencils that may be cold and keeping them safe in her pocket. Piaget’s dream. She is also a talented antique dealer and the house is a haven to all this knowledge. Her eBay room bustles with her success. Countless dolls look down at her as she types, ever searching for her glasses, and swearing that tomorrow she will de – clutter. To me this is part of who she is. If I visited tomorrow to find her in a clear office space with categorised dolls lined up for dispatch, I would demand the return of my Bionic Woman and the immediate arrest of this body snatching imposter.
I would like to organise my life and space more yes. However, I want my space to say something about my family and me. The idiosyncrasies that make it ours. The mural of stick men drawings hanging together with homemade play doh. The grow lines etched on the walls. As for all those valued trinkets, they must make me happy; they have been with me all my life. I am not religious but my nanas bible with her mother’s writing on the first page means more to me than any filing system I have attempted to implement. I like to stare at my great grandmother’s writing and wonder what she was like. Haphazard as her loopy scrawl would suggest. Or more like the interpreter who is apparently her living image. All those little random pieces of rubbish are a link to my past. Little invisible threads of where I have come from. The minimalists would argue that we do not need these, and maybe I do not. They are it seems like a comfort blanket. Something for me to pull out it times of uncertainty. I would love to be organised and pass down that virtue to my children. However, when my son comes across my Uncle Pats obituary, yellowed and aged since the years he has left us, he is always quick to say “Oh look it’s that man Uncle Pat”. I dismantle my organising cap, and cosy my children amongst a bubble wrap blanket and tell them all about the wonderful man he was, the organised Interpreter by my side.
Messy but happy.
Happy weekend xxxx