The problem with all this decluttering (I'm still on the buzz, doing it in fits and starts and letting go of both childhood memorabilia and household clutter), is that I realised one important thing:
I really identify with the objects that surround me.
If I were to embrace minimalism, say, move into an empty house tomorrow with only the objects I need to get by day to day, who would I be?
I wouldn't be the Disney lover, with the Cinderella mirror and other assorted crap I have collected over the past 20 years.
I wouldn't be the shoe lover with more pairs than I know what to do with, all bagged up in the attic probably never to be worn again.
I wouldn't be the sentimentalist, hanging on to teenage journals with too many personal details in them.
Who would I be then?
It's kind of like the rug is slowly being pulled out from under me, my preconceived ideas about myself, my habits, my likes and dislikes are all under question.
And if I had nothing to hand on to the next generation, no rhinestone brooches, would they remember me, would they know about the previous generations? Would they even value those things that mean so much to me? Or would they get bagged up and given to charity, holding no purpose for the future O'Connells?
What are we, if not defined by the objects that we surround ourselves with?
I am fully aware that my attic and garage look like a scene from "Extreme Hoarders" and up to recently so did my bedroom and our understairs closet. I tackled the bedroom last week (full moon) got it clear and clean for the first time in a long time. Resisted the urge to just move the clutter to the attic, I gave most of it away. Threw the rest of it out. Gone. Objects I had been walking around for years, not even using, wasting my space, mental energy, collecting dust, gone.
So what meaning is there in life for this atheist? If I am just me. Not "me of the 1001 things" - is that ok? Will my kids just pass on my recipes and a few good habits they learned from me, rather than my personal possessions? And is that enough? And my grandkids, will they wish they had something tangible to remember me by?
I want to get a skip and just sweep off the top of the kitchen cupboards and wardrobes into it, lose the kitchen dresser completely. There are so many things collecting dust that we never look at or use, just there in my eyeline when I walk around the house. Reminding me that I keep my own rubbish for way too long, I take in other people's rubbish, I can't say no to well-meant donations, though they weigh me down and take up my time and energy. Time I could be spending doing the day-to-day living things that I already feel overwhelmed by, cooking, cleaning, endless dishes...
And those journals, now that my son can read I'm putting them out of reach, the new ones and the old ones. I don't want to share that level of detail with him or the future generations. So do they go on the bonfire at Halloween? Because I'm not that girl anymore, and I don't feel the need to revisit my teenage angst, it was hard enough the first time around.
It's just onwards and upwards, isn't it? Is there a point of looking back? Is there any point to it all if we just live and die?
This decluttering has been an emotional journey, tied up with the birth of my daughter, the rebirth of myself as a mother of 3, a mother of a daughter, an older woman with an older body, new wrinkles, less energy, more hang-ups. It's a shedding of the old skin and an emergence into a new world, and it's less familiar without those childhood mementoes surrounding me, but it's a good challenge all the same. I'm having to look at myself directly, reinvent myself a bit, and decide what stays and what goes of the old me.
I haven't even got to the end of the official process. Konmarie suggests doing photos and memorabilia after all the other categories (clothes, books, papers, toys and household, then photos and mementoes) but I've jumped ahead as I've found things and just dumped them. Maybe I did it too quickly, should have eased myself into it.
I cleared out a bedside locker which had some positive pregnancy tests in it, possibly dating back to nearly 5 years ago, or maybe 18 months ago, broken biscuits, hair clips, old batteries, notebooks and coins, all jumbled up together, a chaotic mess which was beside me every single night as I slept. The drawers so full they were unusable, that was just normal to me. So now it's empty, everything has been stored or dumped, and in its place is a simple stool with my bedside lamp on it, a small stack of books underneath. Much better feng shui. (The pregnancy tests are gone... old pee... just no.)
A vintage suitcase which housed my extensive nail polish collection is gone, the nail polishes in the bin, except for 5 wearable colours. Grass green was never my shade anyway. A favourite pleather jacket which I saw had a big damaged patch on the back is gone, even though I had great memories of it. Like Konmarie suggested, I thanked it for the good times and let it go.
The boots I have been wearing all winter, which felt so much like the "old me" and screamed "I'm desperately hanging onto my youth" are gone. In their place are the perfect pair of new boots, found online after weeks of searching, which fit into my new wardrobe perfectly. They are quite boring, but after a lifetime of novelty footwear I'm ok with that.
I have put ads up online for some of the items I am finished with, and am hoping to make a few quid from the sale of them. We've also had under stairs storage installed (the push-to-open drawers) and a new sofa on the way, so it feels like the house is getting a mini-makeover.
It's exciting and scary at the same time. It feels grown-up. Next on the list is tackling the 4 chandeliers, they seemed like a good idea 10 years ago, but have collected a fair amount of dust and I am dreading the cleaning process. It'll call for some industrial detergent I think.
And to top it all off, the remaining walk-in understairs closet is going to be mama's mini-office. No kids allowed. 3 foot by 4 foot of space all for me. I'm having fun planning it and hope to have it done in a couple of weeks. The official term is "cloffice" as in "closet-office". Just big enough to swing a kitten, if one gets in my way.
Enough late-night ramblings.
This blog is severely neglected thanks to my college and other work I'm doing, so apologies, but thank you for your continued readership, and the personal emails, I love hearing from you all :)