The New House

We are now in the New House, receptacle of all the hopes and dreams of recent times. In the New House, we would turn into better versions of ourselves. The hallway would always be tidy and we spend our evenings playing musical instruments with the children rather than giving them TV dinners. (I am not sure the children were dreaming about this. I think they thought there might be satellite tv and an x-box; neither of which we had in the Old House).  After 10 days of unpacking boxes, the dream of a tidy hallway has still not come true. TV-free evenings are a reality though, as we can’t get freeview to work. We have all learnt to play chess. It’s nice to spend quality time with our children, I for one am experiencing  a virtuous glow. But, I now realise that the telly was the equivalent of an ‘off’ switch for the children. Now there is no such switch, they follow us around the house, catching us every time we try to sneak a private moment.
‘What can we do next?’ they say.
‘Ah, so nice to spend time with the kids’ we sigh, as we begin to dream of satellite TV and an x-box…and internet. Despite the fact that we have known we were moving for weeks, neither of us thought to set up internet for the New House. The result of this is that the unpacking got done much quicker, and I am typing out this post on a phone which thinks that every time I write ‘will’ I actually want to write ‘Wilkinson’, and when I type ‘the equivalent’ I mean ‘rhetoric equivalent’.
Predictive spelling is not my friend. It is in fact my worst enema…

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The Tao of Tidying Up

I have always found it difficult to put things into categories. People, things – they all have so many different characteristics; choosing just one to label them by is problematic for me. This makes tidying up impossible. For example, this green felt tip pen – where should it go? The most obvious thing to do would be to put it with the other felt tips, but I don’t know where they are, so I have to think of another way to classify it. My brain struggles to do this. I don’t like to stereotype the felt tip. It’s good as a writing implement, but it is a lovely shade of green, too, so maybe I could put it with some other green things? In the plant pot? Or, do I arrange it by shape and put it with other long, thin things, like candles? Or celery, which is long, thin and green?

I look at the green felt tip for a while, considering where it should go. In the end, I just put it in my bag, where it magically becomes invisible and stops bothering me. Then I have to move on to the next object – an unpaired sock, which almost causes my brain to crash.

‘Don’t worry’ I told my Intended ‘I will do all the packing while you are at work.’

Packing is the torment of tidying magnified a hundred times. Every single item in the house must be categorised and put into a box. I must be decisive, impose order upon them.

After a week, I have made an impressive tower of boxes, packing the books by size as if doing a jigsaw. This was strangely satisfying. Books that have never been together on the shelf now nestle cozily together in boxes. Books are cooperative things to pack; they know that none of them will be left behind.

Up in the bedrooms, it’s another matter. Anarchy reigns. Clothes are everywhere, along with lost belts and socks, baby clothes, make-up and sparkly things stored magpie-like under the bed; teddies and games and shells collected from long-ago beaches. They defy me, these items, confusing me with their claims to usefulness. The baby clothes, for example – I’ve kept them for 10 years, and that very fact makes them impossible to throw away. They have made themselves part of the furniture of my life, even if the memories attached to them have faded. The socks – am I not supposed to make them into dishcloths or something? Am I allowed to throw them away or will they have to go into my handbag, too? The teddies stare reproachfully as I put them in a bag for the charity shop, and the belts clamor to be tried on with different items of clothing.

‘What have you been doing all day?’ asks my Intended when he gets home.

‘Oh, clearing out,’ I say ‘you wouldn’t believe how tidy the house is now.’

My phone rings from the bottom of my bag, and I throw a mountain of assorted objects onto the floor in my race to answer it.

The Filing Cabinet of Memories

We are moving house. We collect the keys for our new house, and are finally galvanised into action. It is time to clear out the filing cabinet. When we moved in together two years ago, we had to buy it to store the reams and reams of paper that we had brought with us – paper which tracked the courses of our lives. As we sort and shred receipts, letters and bills, we are looking at forgotten history; some of it shared, some of it from a separate past that we still carry with us. Like the kids’ old school reports, they show us how we got to where we are now.

My old bank statements tell a story. I am amazed to see a bank statement from 2008 showing that I was in credit with the bank, and that I spent £75 on my hair. Back in those halcyon days, when I had a proper job…

‘Wow, look, I paid for a meal at Picciolinos in 2010!’ I say, waving the evidence in the air.

‘I think we should keep that and frame it,’ says my Intended.

I remember every single outfit I bought, and why – from the baby clothes years ago, to the smart office wear for a new job, or the warm clothes for winter walks with my Intended – each one said something about my hopes, dreams and fears at the time. This is what advertisers sell us when they sell clothes: the chance to be someone new, to grow into another role or persona. Looking at my bank statements, I see that every purchase represented the start of something new.

We shred the old documents and tell each other stories from our past, deciding what to keep and what to leave behind as we prepare to move on, into the future.