If someone gave you forty eight hours notice to leave your home with only two large cases of possessions, where would you start?
Would you be filled with panic at the realisation that up in the attic were those boxes of trinkets from your own university days which you’ve simply never had time to go through but which you dare not leave behind because in one of them is a gift from your first love and your heart will break if it doesn’t accompany you to your own grave because that’s what you’d always pictured you’d do with it? (In which case why has it spent the last twenty three years in a dark box? Oh yeah, coz you married someone else and have a life.)
Would you anguish over which set of crockery you might carefully place amongst the jumpers, because it belonged to great Aunt Lucy and you’d hate to think of it falling into just anybody’s hands, such as those of a house-clearer who might, if he was having a bad day, chuck it all higgledy piggledy in a cardboard box, then cart it off in a van like refugees being torn from their family homes?
And what exactly is in that cupboard at the bottom of the stairs, behind the vacuum cleaner, and all the out-of-season coats? That’s a job you’ve been wanting to attack for months, no years, but always found a reason not to start; need to peel those spuds, ought really to wash the windows – do people actually do that – sit amongst the tat and type that novel you’ve been thinking about for fifteen years.
The fact of the matter is this. There will come a time when we need to take a big deep breath, go armed with some bags (one for the charity shop, one for the bin-men or whatever they are called these days) and bite the bullet. The pleasure gained from Aunt Lucy when you took on her 58-piece dining service (which may in turn have been her own grandmother’s) just before she moved out of her bungalow to go into the home was evident on the day. She was delighted and so were you.
Even as you swooned over the rose leaf patterned gold-edged sauces that you knew you’d never use, there was an element of mutual appreciation, respect, love. (Or was it that she was just relieved that you’d relieved her of a mental guilt she’d been burdened with fifty years earlier when her grandmother handed down the family heirloom? No, no, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she genuinely wanted you to have and enjoy it.)
You served Christmas Day tea on it once fourteen years ago, and swore because it couldn’t go in the dishwasher, and cursed your six year old when he flew the supposedly indoor remote-control helicopter around the living room and it landed on a side plate which your father had balanced on the arm of the sofa. When it tinkled to the floor, landing in three pieces because it made contact the £2.99 Asda mug you’d left there, everyone went into over-drive. “Oh, God! So sorry! I’ve got some araldite somewhere, it’ll fix that. Here, let me get it ….” and as you scrabble to find the tiny triangle which competes the jigsaw, you realise Aunt Lucy’s gift no longer brings you pleasure.
For me, this is the key. If something no longer brings me pleasure, it has no place in my home. Or life. Simples. Matsu (I’ve never forgotten him). We don’t need to be surrounded by our past to be happy. In fact, I went one stage further than that. A few years ago I created a guide by which I was going to maintain my home and I named it the WULE RULE, which basically translates into the following:
If you don’t WEAR it, USE it, LIKE it or EAT it, then it goes. Before you panic again, think about that. All the clothes you never wear at the bottom of the drawer? Why keep them under some false sense of ‘I’m sure I’ll fit into that again one day,’ or ‘I might need a red T-shirt for a fancy dress party and I can make it into a Wonder Woman outfit.’ Tip all your drawers on your bed, treat them to new liners and spend an hour (one measly hour) picking up each item and be really ruthless. I bet you only put back 70%. The rest go into the charity bag.
Everything in the home should have a use. The whisk in the utensils pot you use quite regularly yes? Ok, that can stay. How about that bucket behind the vacuum cleaner – why are there two? Because one has a hole so won’t hold water and you keep it for dry matter? BIN IT!
If you don’t actively like Aunt Lucy’s dinner service and she passed away eight years ago, please don’t feel guilty about moving it on to someone else who may actually adore it. Or the antiques shop in that town you drove through last week. This is your life, a time for your stamp on the things around you. Don’t live through the items of people past. The photo above shows one tiny area in my otherwise cluttered home. It is a sideboard I bought about two years ago and I adore the clean wooden top and the soft green painted drawer fronts. Matsu, my Bonsai, sits there proud – and my longterm followers will recall why I bought him. On this sideboard I only allow my two candles, Matsu (who’s name was initially Gail, but quite right when Ortensia – very entertaining blog – suggested it be called the star of the novel), the heart my daughter bought me for Mothers Day and, oh, look there’s space for these flowers she thoughtfully sent us from London this week to mark Man of the Woods and my 24th wedding anniversary!
Oh, this wasn’t us – this was my dream after Daniel Craig swept me off my feet! (You can make jokes like that when you’ve been married as long as I have.)
All the food in the cupboards can stay. Pardon? There’s a tin of what in the back of the cupboard? Refried beans because you thought you were going to do fajitas, but never did? BIN IT!
I took two old heaters to the recycling centre yesterday amongst other things, a carful let’s be honest, and do I feel remorse or guilt? No, I feel lighter. Excited even, about the space it left behind.
So, be my guest and borrow the rule, shall we make a hashtag? You saw it here first, OK?! #wulerule
For some really sensible suggestions about Fengsui and how it can help the flow of energy through our homes, check out an expert, Mabel Kwong, here. I discovered her recently and enjoy reading about her knowledge on the subject.
Have a great Friday folks xx