Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Administrative detritus - the insidious creep of the clutterbeast
It’s time for a different kind of pruning.
I’ve been through cupboards and drawers and shelves again, sorting and chucking; and wondered why I’m still left feeling encumbered and snagged on the brambles.
More and more lately I get this feeling, which is becoming irresistible.
Imagine if you were holding onto something, maybe heavy or awkward or slippery, and you knew you couldn’t hold it much longer. Imagine if you called out to the people for whom you were holding it: ‘Look, I can’t hang onto this, I’m going to drop it! I’m going to let it fall!’ But they were on the phone or in the toilet or on their hands and knees looking for a spanner in the cupboard under the stairs and all you got back was a muffled: ‘Just a minute…’
Or imagine if your boat was drifting away from the mooring place, and the people on the quay wanted to tell you something before you went, but they were finishing off the washing up, or just putting the last touches to their email before shutting their computer down, or hadn’t quite ended the interesting story they were telling their friend: and you sympathise, you really do. Their washing up, their email their story – these are important and worthwhile and should have every moment they deserve: but your boat is drifting and soon it will be gone.
And that’s how I feel.
I have been a mother for thirty years now. My children have grown into responsible, intelligent, creative, talented people. They are wise and good and I admire them immensely. By a curious sequence of blessed events that still slightly takes my breath away I have come to be in this marriage that is the right person at the right time so that we groove along together in the most satisfying contented happiness: lovers, partners, friends. I love these relationships. I love these people. I love sharing my thoughts and their thoughts. I love their company. I love their undeniable dottiness.
But. This is it: the lurking but.
There is in my hands, and slipping out of them fast, an accompanying bundle of administrative detritus. My boat is drifting away from that shore however ready or not.
What I am here to do is primarily to write. Secondarily is to listen and heal and pray. Thirdarily (good word, eh?) is to provide an hospitable space.
I believe that living humbly and simply means things like doing your own chores and growing your own food where you have the chance to - but I feel able to support only the most minimalist and low-tech approach to that. All I have to do in the garden is water it in the evenings, but I can't keep my mind to it. Tonight I didn't do it :0( I felt all used up by the time the evening came. And I haven't done any weeding here at all.
I think it might have been a mistake to lay fitted carpets. They are comfy and look peaceful, but you have to persevere at vacuum cleaning and I can't keep my mind to it. I stick it on but it falls off. Any other bits of floor that need carpet replacement ministry should have wood floor boards laid (1970s chipboard at present I’m sorry to report) so they can be swept: because I don’t mind sweeping. Sweeping is natural and its fur lies the same way as my soul. Vacuum cleaners are inherently demonic: you can tell by the sound, and that’s just the start of it. I am happy to pass through the house tidying once each morning or evening – whichever – so it is calmed: but that has to be easy. No gradual bristling of ornaments growing through. No scattering of magazines and documents and music and half-finished nameless where-the-hell-am-I-meant-to-put-that junk on the kitchen counters – er.. babywipes ladles phonedirectory useful boxes reuseable plastic icelollymiddles rubber bands trays biscuits-we-all-hate pointless baskets and all that crap. My vocation is not always clear to me but it is clear to me I didn’t come here to be a minder for the flotsam and jetsam of 21st century over-production.
I have spent a lot of time on the builders and stove-installers and piano-movers and hearth-layers and wall-menders and electricians and TV aerial engineers this last winter: and that’s it now. They can stay at home. It has slipped out of my hands. My boat has drifted right out of the harbor. Bye-bye.
Here is what I have in mind.
A house with almost no possessions and no ornaments. Kitchen gadgetry to be pruned savagely. Food little and simple, enough for today or so, with space around it on the shelves. Enough plates/cups/bowls/glasses/cutlery for the people who live here and, say, four guests. Floors you can sweep. A garden with grass and fruit-trees and hedges. A hedge man to trim the hedges once a year and the trees once every two years.
Meanwhile, for the plastic flowerpots, atrophied rubber hose, mouldering shed junk, mounds of dead shrubbage, hacked up crazy paving, abandoned sacks of builder plaster, carpet remnants, never-used-in-fifteen-years cunning vacuum-cleaner fittings, the small vacuum cleaner that’s fine unless you have bits on the floor, the split bucket, the old fire surround leaning on the fence – A SKIP!!!
Four saucepans are enough. One set of glasses is enough. Two large glass jugs is two too many. And why have we got an entire drawer of kitchen foil and compost bags and whatever else is in there?
I have to, with profuse apologies, reclaim my days now. I have to write. It’s what I came here to do. Tonight we had a vegan take-away meal from the indian restaurant. I did cook last night but it was awful. I made myself do it but my attention wasn't in it, and I burnt the rice and the curry was seriously rubbish. And if the chores aren't always done; if friends who love me haven't had the attention they deserve; if the fireplace in the back room doesn’t get altered and the French windows aren’t built because no-one was here to see to the builders or make it happen: if the phone rings and nobody answers it, then I am very, very sorry (really) and I will feel very very guilty.
But I have stories going over-ripe inside me. I have to do what I came here to do: and the rest is slipping through my fingers. The season is here for a cull of the time-bandits. The discipline of simplicity needs to ratchet up another notch. Otherwise I shall join the ranks of the people who like to tell me: ‘Oh yes, I’ve always thought I should write a book. Everyone says I should. They say everyone’s got a book inside them don’t they? It’s only a matter of sitting down and writing it… when there always seems to be so much to do… it always gets pushed to one side… I’m just a bit busy right now… but one day I’m sure I’ll write that book…’
(Subtext. Nah. You won’t. Not unless, at some point, you put it first).