I have been reading a fantastic book this week, it’s called The Happiness Project by an American woman, Gretchen Ruben, and I highly recommend it. One of the important elements of happiness she says is to be in control of your environment, and ‘decluttering’ is one way to achieve that.
In the spirit of Project we have just spent a whole weekend decluttering which manifested itself into an orgy of giving stuff away. We cleared bookshelves and donated the lot to a local charity. Kitchen equipment which we never used has been passed on to people who might actually WANT to make broccoli juice or bake their own bread. These gadgets were things that were supposed to make us feel as if we were taking care of ourselves, but it turns out that getting rid of all of those extraneous possessions has had exactly the same affect. For example we’ve had a freezer sitting in our house for the past three years waiting to be repaired by a bloke who took the broken part away and didn’t return … so, executive decisions have been taken: we don’t use it, we don’t need it, and wouldn’t it be lovely to not have to look at it anymore. Get rid! The immediate effect was one of complete exhilaration, ‘We finally did it! Yes! The big hunk of junk is gone!’ And then there is the creeping niggle of guilt, ‘Have we been wasteful. Should we have tried harder to use it / get it repaired / appreciate it,’ but this doesn’t seem to have lasted very long as our kitchen has doubled in size due to the ruthless clear out. We have taken to dancing in the middle of the room, because we can.
Now, I must resist the urge to fill in the gaps that have been left with new useful rubbish. And so must my parents who helpfully bring things they don’t need anymore ‘I thought you might like this’ translates to ‘I couldn’t bear to keep it any longer, but I also can’t stand to throw it away’. I understand where they are coming from, I am guilty myself of occasionally ‘gifting’ complete tat on my friends. I am just a girl who can’t say no and it’s hard to turn away second hand sofas, especially when you have pet dogs who view furniture as snacks.
I do have a problem with second hand books though, and in a few weeks time I can guarantee that I will try to buy back at least one or two of the books which I gave to the charity shop. But you won’t find my copy of The Happiness Project there, because the dog ate it yesterday morning. Now I have to declutter the backgarden, it’s covered in tiny shreds of paper.
(first published 21.9.10)