I’m absolutely certain that the word “life-changing’ gets hugely overused, but I’m equally sure that our adventures in Europe last summer genuinely were life changing. Not just because it showed us exactly what we want to be doing with our long summer holiday for as long as we’re still allowed into Europe, but for what it showed us about when we really need to be happy. When you strip your life down to what fits in the back of your car, even if it’s a nice family friendly generous sized sort of car, you begin to see how little it is. When we travel the happiness essentials, the things that we pack in around the edges of all the camping kit, are books (of both the reading and writing variety), a bag of art supplies, a bag of yarn and needles, the children’s favourite snuggle toys and a quilt or two, a bottle opener and occasional access to a wifi connection. That’s it.
When we came home last summer, even though we’d tidied and cleaned it to within an inch of its life before we went, the house felt over stuffed; having been used to so little, it felt oddly uncomfortable to have so much. And so gradually, over the last year and a bit, we’ve been reducing what we own. We’re not exactly Konmari-ing the house, at least in part because I could never quite get behind her theory on books, particularly the unread ones (which she says to get rid of and buy again if you ever truly feel like reading them), but she doesn’t have small children, and I doubt can truly appreciate that you can buy a book, read the first chapter, put it down, and not pick it up again for a month despite having every intention to do so, unless you’re still deep in the baby days. I do think she has some great points, and a genius method of folding and storing clothes which we’ve used across all five of us; and sent several bags to the charity shops along the way.
It’s been getting there, but slowly, and as I had a couple of days holiday spare as we come to the end of the year, this week I took two days holiday, and didn’t spend either of them with the children.
It’s completely counter to my gut instinct, which is to spend as much time with them as possible, but with the grandparents drafted in to babysit it means we can get a lot more done, and so we have spent the latter half of this week blitzing the house in a decluttering whirlwind. We’ve tidied the girls’ bedroom, and reorganised it a bit, and excavated so much stuff from underneath their beds it’s unbelievable (but does explain why we could never find any socks or hair bobbles), and we’ve hung pictures and put new batteries in their fairy lights, and it feels restful and soothing, and everything I want it to be for them.
We repainted an old coffee table of ours in Annie Sloan’s Antoinette and it’s been sat in the studio for ages waiting for John to put the new handle on (still waiting!), and for us to have time to sort out the space and move one of the bookcases out to Pip’s room. It means that they’ve both got space to build lego or do jigsaws or colouring side by side with only a minimal amount of nudging, and I hope it will be the perfect place for one or both of them to retreat to when they want a little quiet.
Almost all of Thursday’s effort was devoted to clearing out a little study/room we keep the cross trainer in, that the previous owners built into the roof of our garage. Because we don’t want the children to mess about with the cross trainer it’s also become the place we put all the things to get them out of the way; to the point that actually getting to any of the shelves would have been a bit of a challenge. There are things that we put in that room when we first moved in 10 years ago, that may never have been out in the interim, but now we’ve sorted DVDs and CDs and finally got rid of John’s university textbooks (and he claims I’m the hoarder – we’re 36!). Our shredder went so far into overdrive getting rid of 15 year old bank statements that it collapsed, and it was a lesson in how much we now keep track of electronically (thank goodness for paperless billing!). Our entire family’s filing is now half of one filing cabinet drawer; it’s amazing.
I’m writing this on Saturday while John’s been playing hockey (they won – yay!) and I can see the difference that two days has made. The garden has been emptied of it’s pile of “things we must take to the tip”, mostly broken fence panels thanks to last year’s storms. Technically, as I’m in the lounge, it seems to have made this bit of the house a bit messier, because we’ve got a few piles of things that need to get put back where they belong and a huge box to send off to Music Magpie, but the whole house feels like it has a little bit more room to breathe. We can get to the things in our study, and while the studio still needs quite a lot of work, I also emptied two rubbish bags and a bag of recycling out of there on Friday and it means I’ve got the space to cut and sew that fires up my love of making things (and as soon as I’ve finished writing this I’m off to make another pair of leggings!)
In two and a bit days it was never going to be finished top to toe, and we’ll still have work to do (and we still have the skip for another week and a half), but it already feels a big step back towards how home should be.
Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments