Sunday 20 October 2019

John Masterson: 'Saturday chore that fills me with self-satisfaction'

Decluttering influencer Marie Kondo
Decluttering influencer Marie Kondo

John Masterson

I have just come back from one of my most enjoyable Saturday morning chores. Though chore is probably the wrong word.

Three or four times a year on a Friday night I back the car up to the shed and fill it with all of the recycling that has been building up. This shed is neat and tidy. Newspapers are stacked. Bulbs and batteries are together. Milk cartons are in another box. Cardboard is flattened ready to go. There will be containers full of plastic. And very few bottles. I drop them off regularly when going to the supermarket rather than let the evidence build up.

I arrive at the Dunmore recycling centre outside Kilkenny early and hand over €5. By the time I park the car there is always one of the guys who works there offering to help and in no time I have a car full of empty boxes and am internally feeling an overdose of virtue.

That place makes me feel good, partly because I believe in recycling, but also because it has a great group of friendly people working there who love to help. Returning home and putting the empty boxes back in the shed ready to be filled again does give a great sense of satisfaction at having been a good citizen of this planet. I would even own up to pride were it not one of the deadly sins.

I am not a neat freak, though I do like to cut the grass in straight lines and my CDs are in alphabetical order. It is apparent to me now that the inside of my house could do with some recycling. My house is not a mess, but it is quite full. I am not a devotee of Marie Kondo, and the poor woman would have a heart attack at my clutter.

I am not a hoarder, but over the years I have surrounded myself with bits and pieces picked up around the world that have memories associated with them. I don't see them as rubbish, but I could easily see how others might. Would that I could have restricted myself to T-shirts. I would be afraid to allow someone in with the permission to take out what they thought would be good for a car boot sale. There might not be a lot of 'me' left.

With books, DVDs and CDs becoming a thing of the past if Ms Kondo gets her way, it will soon be very difficult to tell anything about the personality of the occupant from their house. People are digitising photographs at such a rate that soon walls and fridges will be bare. The shortcuts and clues will be gone. There will be less conversation props. We can no longer fill the gap with common taste in music, film or reading.

Horror of horrors, we may have to have conversations again. We may relearn the dying art of listening. Let us be thankful that the TV is still there in most rooms.

I balk at her nonsense of folding everything and putting it in drawers where no one can see it. It smacks of Sheldon Cooper to me. I like nothing more than a full rail of colour-coded shirts. But I do get the point that surrounding oneself with memories can lead to a very unhealthy living in the past.

I am long overdue a serious cull. Why have I acquired so many Buddhas over the years. They have not helped me gain any insight so clearly they don't work. I may keep the laughing one with the big tummy. It does put me in good humour, if not quite nirvana.

The plan is simple. In my mind I am moving to a bedsit. I will sort things into two piles. Only the essential will survive. First to go will be things that I genuinely cannot remember when or where I got them. The ones on the left go to the dump. The right hand things go to that other great joy in life, the car boot sale.

The only danger with that is that I always find things I absolutely have to buy at the car boot sale. Fortunately the bedsit in my mind comes with a number of excellently equipped sheds. Rapid change could be an awful shock to my delicate system.

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