Out with the old, memories and all

Marisa Mackle

It's time to declutter. That's not such an easy thing when you have a two-year-old child. Minimalism and chic colour-coordination goes out the window once kids come along with their crayons and Ribena.

Parents must get used to sharing their beds with little metal cars, half-eaten biscuits, soothers and toy giraffes.

The worst toys play music. When somebody gave Gary a singing wheelbarrow for Christmas -- don't ask -- it ended up in my bed and it started playing at 4am. By the time I'd fumbled for the 'off' button, I was wide awake and cursing the gift-giver, who, no doubt, was having a nice, peaceful sleep.

Anyway, as I said, it's time to declutter. I don't particularly like the word. I hate the thought of firing things into skips. In fact, I hate the thought of getting rid of anything, ever. Suppose I need it someday?

I started my decluttering with the tree. Once the tree was off my premises, I decided to do what the bubbly decluttering guru on the telly had advised. She said you had to be strict and throw out anything that you hadn't worn in the past year. She said not to let emotions get in the way. So I got three large plastic sacks. I was to divide my stuff into three categories: 'rubbish', 'charity' and 'maybe later'. The 'maybe later' bag filled up quickly. Alarmingly so.

My friend popped around to give me support. "Learn to let go," she advised sternly. Now, this friend is the type of lady who opens her birthday cards, glances at the signatures and puts them straight in the bin. Being entertained in her house is an interesting experience. As soon as you raise your glass, she's out with a cloth wiping the surface of the table in case you dropped a bit. She is the anti-clutter queen. Childless, naturally. "If in doubt throw it out," she continued, holding up a lovely Moschino shirt. "Now when did you last wear this?"

"It's been a while," I admitted. "But I do like that. I'm not giving it away."

"Be truthful. When did you wear it last?"

I was honest. I said I hadn't worn it for 15 years but that I was reluctant to discard it as it held so many fond memories for me. She threw it in the charity bag, claiming that a shirt should not hold any sentimentality whatsoever. A photo? Maybe. A piece of jewellery? Perhaps. But a shirt? Never.

I was still lamenting the shirt's loss when she picked up a faded hand-written letter. "You don't need this, do you?"

"Well, it means a lot. It was my first-ever love letter. It makes me smile sometimes."

"It shouldn't." My friend ruthlessly scrunched it up and put it in the sack called 'rubbish'. "You don't need to keep letters from somebody who has a wife and five kids. I doubt he ever remembers you. How about these hideous things?"

"You're not getting rid of those," I said snatching back the gold hot pants.

"Nonsense. You'll never wear them again. They're XS."

"Yeah but one day I can show them to Gary and tell him how his mummy was once able to fit into them."

"Right okay," my friend relented. "Just make sure he's not in company when you do that. You don't want to be embarrassing him now, do you?"