An Hour a Day Keeps the Junk at Bay.

Oh, boy. The Daily Post has just given me an extra hour in every day. I would have preferred them to use their super powers to repair my toilet flush, or train my dishwasher to fill and empty itself without help, but an extra hour in every day is not to be sniffed at. My part of the deal is to tell WP what I will be doing with my twenty-fifth hour.

Parental duel in the Playmo house bathroom to determine who would clear out the garage.

Parental duel in the Playmo house bathroom to determine who would clear out the garage. Copyright Multifarious Meanderings.

Well, WP, you may be surprised to hear this, but I would use it to clear out the junk from my home. When PF arrives back at the family cave every evening, dragging our daily mammoth behind him, his jaw unhinges at the state of the place. My usual response is that I don’t have enough hours in my day to sift through all our belongings and offer him the zen environment he covets. So my choice has to be an hour sifting through the house. I would even tackle Rugby-boy’s bedroom, where hastily vacated pairs of jeans are stranded helplessly on the floor in the hope that Soldier Ryan will carry them across the minefield of dirty socks to the safe haven of the laundry basket.

I gave it my best shot last week. The wild-haired Febreze Fairy, aka MM, collected a fair amount of junk that was no longer needed for everyday use, and set off to put them in storage. On my arrival in the garage, I contemplated what I have come to see as my personal wailing wall. This teetering tower of repudiated belongings would make Martha Stewart faint in disbelief; it is a real-life Tetris game composed of travel bags, boxes, furniture, books, paperwork, bicycles for garden gnomes, broken tools that will be mended some-day-never, and shoes that were kept for years for a child whose feet only fitted into the awaiting sandals when it was minus ten degrees outside.

I resolved to clear up. The linguist in me argued that it is easy to transform a pile of garbage into a tidy garage – you just remove the letter “b”. But it wasn’t that simple. So I established the following protocol:

1. Open box.

2. Take out object.

3. Put in one of four bags labelled “Keep”, “Throw Away”, “Give” or “Sell”.

4. Deliver offerings to charity shop and dump.

5. Recover sparkling, tidy garage.

6. Congratulate self, go home, pour self large glass of rosé, relax in hot bath.


Asleep in the bath after drinking the rosé.

MM was so tired that she drank the rosé but forgot to fill the bath. Copyright: Multifarious Meanderings.

This appears easy enough on paper. Yet when we are faced with the obligation to cut the cord with an inanimate object, we struggle to do so. Our capacity to hoard amazes me. We’ve all said it as we put the offending item back on the shelf: “It could be useful – I just need to glue this leg back on/sew this back on/ find the right lightbulb, ” or “It would be a shame to throw this away –  it cost….. (insert price).” On the rare occasions you succeed, someone will catch you in the act and scream, “You can’t throw that away! *insert name* gave it to me!” as you launch it into the dustbin bag. If and when you finally get these objects to the tip, or drop them off at the local charity shop, you hear the Gollum in the pit of your stomach quietly crying for its abandoned Precious as you leave the premises.

I had battled to keep it all, come hell or high water, when we moved house. As if throwing it away would be a form of abandoning our family history, denying my roots. As if a piece of our life together would disappear along with that broken night-light. Take the example of the kids’ artistic endeavours from infant school. PF got me as far as the dump with them that fateful day, but cracked when he saw MM’s lower lip quivering defiantly as she clutched armfuls of multicoloured, curling masterpieces. “Look, this is you!” I snivelled, holding out the crusty portrait of a three-fingered, melon-headed individual with a frisby-sized belly button neatly positioned below its chin. The paintings earned their space in the van, and have lived in the garage ever since.

A typical example of an object you keep for sentimental reasons. In this case, a key for a door that no longer exists in a town where we don't live.

A typical example of an object you keep for sentimental reasons. In this case, a key for a door that no longer exists in a town where we don’t live. Copyright: Multifarious Meanderings.

Certain boxes contain things that make memories leap out of the dusty corners of your mind and clamour for attention. I picked up a tiny onesie that Rugby-boy once wore. I swear that it whimpered as it saw the awaiting « charity shop » bag, sparking off memories of a tiny bundle of cuteness.  I put it in the bag. Hysterically singing « Let it gooooo, let it goooooooo! » like a Disney Princess on crack, I dug into the pile for the next memory-laden thing I couldn’t bare to get rid of. After heart-wrenching decisions about which items would go from a life sentence in the garage to death row, I found myself with a car full to the brim with things to throw out, but bizarrely, there was still as much junk piled up there as when I had begun.

A trunk beside the dismantled VW engine contains my wedding dress. I suspect that if Little My ever gets married, she probably won’t want to tie the knot in a dress that has vintage caramel stuck to it because her mother 1) missed her mouth at the wedding meal, and 2) was too disorganised to get it to the dry cleaner’s before she got on the plane. I’m not sure though, so I’ll keep it. Who knows… it might be useful for a grandchild’s playdate one day.

77 thoughts on “An Hour a Day Keeps the Junk at Bay.

  1. I love how you illustrate your posts with Playmobil 😀

    I’m actually quite good at throwing things away. A childhood in the army took care of that. I am sentimental about some things though, like my first ever stuffed toy. And getting rid of books causes physical pain!

    • Three guesses where my Playmobils are? PF put them in the garage. 😦 I’m going to bring them back.
      We moved house many times, but somehow we still manage to accumulate stuff. I have our favourite childhood stuffed toys, too! I donate books, but I never throw them away.

  2. 🙂 🙂 Loved this! This post is sooooo me!! I dread the day we ever have to downsize…..I’m afraid an extra hour a day would make no difference to me – I’d need several just to make a little dent in the huge pile of stuff!! I already have 10 cartons of stuff labelled FOR CAR BOOT SALE SEPT 2012 sigh…nuf said

    • 2012? Oh dear. If you’re anything like me, you piled the 2013 boxes in front of them, then forgot the whole lot. On the positive side of things, at least you are organized enough to label your boxes. Mine are like Kinder eggs – you never know what you’re going to get 😦

  3. Oh MM you messy divil. I suspect we live in similar accomodation! I personally would hope that the daily post only gave the extra hours to bloggers. That would mean that I would have that hour all alone in a quiet world. Imagine the piece, as the rest of the world stopped? Heaven.

  4. You need a Mrs Sensible 😉 I don’t envy you – the amount of stuff I had to throw out when I left Latvia… and I’d only been there four years with several moves in the meantime! Moving country is good motivation for ditching stuff though 😉 Maybe you could try that??
    Love the one of MM in the waterless bath 😉

  5. Oh, I’m so bad at letting things go…..and I so recognized that moment you pointed out when you had a car full of stuff and yet there was still just as much left sitting there!

      • I like your theory! It’s so much better than just being total failures at getting rid of things! Hidden eggs it is!

  6. Oh I know how you feel! I spent one August a few years ago going through the garage so that my DB could store his motorbike in it. It took me the whole month and five car-loads to the dump. When I’d finished it looked fab and the bike fitted in nicely between the new shelves with their new boxes full of sentimental stuff.

    Now… it’s cluttered with 3 bicycles, the recycle bins, an overflow vegetable storage spot on the B&D Workmate, the ironing table which is optimistically up for ease of ironing (which I only do on my white summer trousers), the hoover and the mop. The motorbike is over-autumning at my DB’s place.

    Love the Playmo scenes. 🙂

    • Clearing out the garage for a motorbike? Wow. That’s what you call love. I am reassured that normality has taken over – I’m convinced that tidiness is a sign of an unhealthy mind. Didn’t Einstein say something about that? Hang on…. “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
      There you go, same thing applies for garages.

      • I totally agree. I’ve always said that about empty desks. 🙂 Mine is a mess, as you can imagine.

      • OMG!! I used that very same Einstein quote in my last post which was all about…wait for it… cluttered handbag!!!! Sadly my hanging on to stuff doesn’t just stop at houses & garages and I’ve a funny feeling going by all the great comments on here I may not be alone 😉 !!
        Forgot to say on my last comment – I love that photo you have of that old key …full of history.

      • Einstein.Even inspired women talking about their handbags. Now that’s what you call universal theory. 🙂 My kids refuse to put their hand into my handbag – they’re scared they’ll be bitten by something lurking in its depths. Gnark gnark grark.
        I love that key – it’s lying on the dresser at my mother-in-law’s place. Doesn’t belong anywhere but strangely enough, fascinating to touch as you imagine PF’s great grandparents mislaying it, hanging it on a nail or stuffing it in their pockets as they tended to the garden.

  7. I love all my junk. Himself throws everything away but has learned not to touch my stuff. It was REALLY hard sorting through my precious clobber to come over here. I’m going to invent a magic wand that will determine what you will miss and what you will immediately forget if thrown away. I’ll send you one.

    • It’s because we make space that we fill up faster than we move stuff out. And to make it worse, I bet you know a Wonder Woman who has color coded boxes and is capable of whipping out a pair of size 6 walking boots she has spare if you try to find an excuse for the after-dinner walk, too. 😦

      • No, not a wonder man! I know one of those. We went on holiday with them and other friends last year. When he packed his boot to go home, he did so using a detailed plan and a set of photos he’d taken of the boot on his departure a week earlier. It looked a bit like those walls that people think were bolt by aliens – you couldn’t slide a tenner between the different things he’d piled up.

      • I wonder if it’s the same man! If not, then possible a close relation. 🙂 Sometimes I think it would be good if the Indecisive Family had a few of the Wonder Woman/Man genes, but then how would we spend about one weekend a month, if not gettting cross about the mess and accumulation of stuff. 😉

      • I think we have those genes, they’ve just been crossed with Midget Gems in our childhood. Everyone knows that Midget Gems wipe out the Wonder Woman strand of the gene.

  8. OOOOOhhhhhhh! I think this is my favourite post of yours ever!
    First of all, I was so happy to see the Playmobile people back.
    Second, I think I may have found myself naked in a dry bath sipping on rose on the odd occasion.
    Third, sorting out the ”junk room” is my nemesis, and I’m happy to know I’m not alone when it comes to my exceptional skills of sorting every single item in the ‘junk’ pile over to a much neater ‘keep’ pile.
    Oh, and don’t get me started on your mastery of imagery; Gollum crying for his Precious … how often I’ve heard this very thing in my head as I attempted to throw out the brown kindergarten pottery soap dish that looks like a piece of poo.
    You rock, MM!

    • Hey, Gypsy 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hope we’ll get to drink rosé together one day – maybe we could find ourselves a jacuzzi somewhere and talk about dealing with the Gollum issue. I’ll bring the rosé, you bring the pumpkin pie. I like that idea.
      I am off to get my playmo’s tomorrow – PF “tidied them up”.. in the garage. He even abducted my playmo house. Watch this space, girl: the weird and wacky Playmo family will be back with a vengeance soon…

  9. Good, glad I’m not the only one. I have a lovely self contained studio behind my house. At least it would be lovely if it wasn’t rammed full with boxes of stuff we can’t throw away because we shipped it all the way from England. Even the box of chargers for stuff we no longer can find.

    • 🙂 My in laws have one of those too. It was rudimentary but functional. It slowly started filling up, and is now full of “sometime never” stuff. Funny you should talk about the box of chargers for stuff you can’t find – I went through ours recently and binned most of it in despair.

  10. Ahhhhh, I was just thinking/worrying about you this morning because you hadn’t posted in so long. It was worth the wait! I am such a hoarder. I am sure some American film crew will turn up any day soon to film me for that very programme ‘Hoarders’. I do have the excuse of building a house for having a bedroom full to the gunnels of junk/treasure and a double garage full of the same. In fact this week I have been trying to tidy the garage and found hanging dining room chairs and garden furniture from the rafters a good way of freeing up floor space for more rubbish. Out of eyesight, out of mind!

    Thank goodness you forgot to fill the bath when you enjoyed your glass of rosé. You would have ruined that lovely green ensemble! ): xx

    • Aw, thank you. It’s nice to feel missed. I’ve had a lot of work on recently and my legendary mojo has been an evasive ratbag recently.
      I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I’m not alone, if all these méa culpas are anything to judge by!

  11. Ah, the joy of throwing away! We are very lucky to have charity shops in London. From time to time, I give them stuff (until they have had enough on me, then I change shop…). That said, there are phases. From time to time, I throw away stuff. Then I stop for a few months, and then I start again. Somehow, there is always something to throw away. I don’t get it. It never stops.

    • I blame it on my children. They grow up all the time, so all the toys and the clothes have to go somewhere when they are too small. As for me growing out of my clothes too… hmm. Little My keeps baking cakes and forcing me to eat them. See? *Not Our Faults* 😀

      • Not our fault indeed. I say it is time for s hopping spree, right?

  12. Ha! Too funny. I recently cleaned out my “studio,” AKA the room where I keep art supplies and then pile up random stacks of crap everywhere. I have an entire bathroom full of trash bags of things I’m going to throw away (after the trash people empty my huge curb bin) but I’m confused at how the room is still filled with junk. How does that happen? And why am I so reluctant to part with movie ticket stubs from 1998?

    • You’ve got movie tickets stubs from 1998 oh, wow. Collectors! I’ll swap ’em for a snorkel without a mask, for a four year old. Art supplies? You mean you not only write, you can draw too? You talented thing 😀

  13. Great post, I can identify myself throughout your lines. The truth is, after throwing everything useless, the feeling of relief is awesome. Also it reminded me of when I left Spain to join my husband in Colombia three years ago, I couldn’t take anything in the plane but two suitcases and a backpack. All my life in three items. I had to make a drastic selection of my treasures and throw the rest. But it’s ok, I survived 🙂

  14. Ha, excellent! I can also claim to be a hoarder; it’s not enough that I have cupboards and a garage full of stuff, I’m even paying to store junk in the UK! The worst is the kids stuff, it feels like throwing parts of their childhood away. I was just looking at last year’s birthday card that my youngest made for me which proudly states ‘Happy Birthday: 404 today!’ 🙂

    • We rent a garage for the car, but the car is outside the door and the garage is full of junk. Sigh. I am SO proud to know someone who is 404. I’m 108, nearly 109 on my Facebook page, because I refuse to divulge my personal details to Zuck and his money-spinning chums. Hope you don’t mind hanging around with someone a quarter of your age – a mere babe in comparison.

  15. Husband is an inveterate hoarder,,,so before we left France the tough minded Belgian cousins came down to declutter the place…starting with the coach house. Every so often Jan would emerge saying in incredulous tones ; Whatever did you keep this for? hurling a tin containing a smidgen of dried paint it into the trailer. They did several trips per day and I still see my husband prowling desperately round the trailer saying But that’s my life in there and being told Get another one.

    What we did not take with us eventually made its way to the house in Spain and this year’s trip was spent by my husband lovingly collecting things he wanted to take back to Costa Rica…including two pairs of clodhopping boots…and the collected SF series written by Ron L. Hubbard!

    We are currently building a new house. My aim is to keep the old one as a junk store..his is to move the junk with us…

  16. Oh, this is so me! One never knows when some useless, dilapidated item will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the discard pile and prove its worth again.
    PS I do so enjoy your turn of phrase. I know I’ve said that before but each time I read a post I feel I want to say it again. So now I am.

    • “Rise from the ashes like a Phoenix”… ? You’re going to make me run back to the dump to grab it all back and redeem myself, stop it 🙂
      Thank you for the praise. I’m very proud that you still come here to read my offerings – I think that you were my first follower!

  17. Ah, I’ve been missing your blog! Had me laughing out loud. !
    I had a garage clearout a couple of months ago and managed to be ruthless about it. It had become so bad it looked like an episode of Serial Hoarders – ever seen that on telly? (You can catch a lot of episodes of that on Sky if you suffer from insomnia). As I worked back through the strata of detritus like a geologist, I was constantly worrying if I would find a rats’ nest layer.

    • Glad to see you! I was getting worried that you’d been too honest about the Sicilian Mafia 🙂 I have never seen “Serial Hoarders” – having said that, I don’t need to given the state of my place. It’s true that there is a geological interest in excavating the garage – maybe we’ll find a collector’s item at the bottom. Funny you should mention rat’s nests – PF (the resident biologist) says we have dormice in ours. A cut above rats, but they still chew the clothing to bits.

  18. Having just emerged from the maelstrom of the move, I’m having a blog catch-up and am now mopping the tears of laughter from my eyes and wondering whether you’ve been reading my mind. DH is a hoarder par excellence and the next few months will be marked by my trying to get rid of accumulated stuff we don’t want/have no room for in the new house and him trying to sneak it all back and hide it in the woodshed. I will admit to cherishing certain items of little use but great sentimental value, but not the mountain of “it may come in handy one day” things which filled the barn at the old house. I need a Febreze fairy to help me….

    • Oh, you get that too? I did my garage stint alone, because otherwise all the stuff I pull out goes around behind my back and plunked right back where it came from. Particularly the ‘it may come in handy one day’ category. Febreze Fairy can be rented out – she charges one bottle of Rosé and a bag of peanuts per day, and needs regular playtime (will bring own playmobils).

  19. This rings so true. With daughters now 23 and 21, I need to do a serious sifting, but do I really have the power of attorney to do that for my family? Good luck on what appears to be an impossible task.

    • Hello Betty, and welcome to MM’s pad! Move a box along and grab a glass of rosé.. 🙂
      It’s a very good question – maybe your daughters should come home and sift with you, under strict instructions to take the important nostalgic stuff back home with them?
      I’ve given up on the garage since, although I did bare my teeth yesterday when PF suggested putting more crap in there. Grrr.
      I’m of to have a read of your blog later – you’re not too far from me!

      • No rosé here, but slurping on some white…

        Yes, of course my daughters should sift with me and one does, but the other one lives in Manhattan, so when she comes home (rarely) sifting is not really a big priority for anyone.

        Don’t even get me started on our triple garage, with a triple attic, all full of husband’s stuff, including a red Massey Ferguson…what every French lôtissement needs!

        I started blogging in 2005, but put La France Profonde on hold for 4 years. At one point I was quite a going concern in the French expat blog scene. What has happened with all of those contacts I made will probably be the subject of some future blog post of mine, so I will cut this comment short now! But I would have a lot to say about “the way things used to be…”

      • Yes, we are the proud owners of a tractor in our garage. At least my husband is. But as my grandfather used to say, you’ve gotta have a little fun!

        As for the blogging experience, AU CONTRAIRE, things were very fun! What I meant by “what has happened” is just that most of them quit blogging and now we keep in touch over Facebook.

        A few have made a successful go at monetized blogging, sometimes with businesses connected to their blog — more power to them. But very few of the people I was in close touch with from 2005 to 2010 are still keeping up a regular blog.

        Some did go through negative experiences with commenters, but I think most just tired of it.

        Things were simple then. It was pre-Facebook-in-France, pre-Twitter…you didn’t feel you had to promote your blog on multiple social networks. It was kind of like a little club. Some of us took our first tiny Twitter and Facebook steps together.

        I have noticed that a lot of expat blogs I have been surfing (again or for the first time) lately don’t get that many comments. I think a lot of people have moved on to quicker forms of communication like the above, or Instagram, Pinterest, whatever…as I have to some extent.

        I am really happy to have been a part of that “first wave” but I miss the whole blogging experience, so I want to get back to it. But I am starting all over with new connections, which is a bit strange.

        I hope you will be one of them!

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