Spring cleaning

Saturday 10th March 2012

“WANT a golden rule?” posed William Morris during a lecture in Birmingham in 1880, suggesting this was it: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

My plastic cereal bowl (blue, Tupperware, circa 1963) would not, I suspect, meet with the illustrious designer’s approval, but what the heck – we’ve come a long way together; as have two favourite spoons, several mugs, that blackened frying-pan, the Yorkshire Cricket beer-mat, and the ash-tray with ‘tipped Nelson cigarettes’ in silvery letters on its rim.

But no, there is no raggedy-eared, fifty-nine-year-old teddy bear under my pillow.

A job I offered this week was filled within hours. As with a previous cleaner – who quit under the most unlikely of circumstances – the first person to answer the advertisement proved ideal. She’s terrific. The place is now spotless.

You can tell how good she is by the realignments: jars shuffled on their shelf; a stack of plates put back on the left instead of right; the positioning of potion and lotion in the bathroom: a palace uprising with no throne left unturned.

Next time she comes I’ll go out, allowing her new broom to sweep the dust-to-dust, ashes-to-ash-tray grime from the desk, from this corner of forgotten feel that is forever ingrained.

Slowly, I’m starting to unpick; to recycle what can’t be pedalled; to donate to rather than purchase from charity shops; to dispense with medicines way beyond use-by dates; to discard all but the most significant greetings cards; to dismiss those things I will not miss; to dispose, disrobe and distil; to heed Morris’s wisdom.

Having said that, of course, I will still have more stuff than I need: useless utensils; trivial trinkets; a filing cabinet filled with pieces of writing best left unread – not to mention the abandoned sportswear and clothing with waist-bands too narrow now to be wasting so much space.

But do I really need to keep those old buttons? Time to hit the one called delete.





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