Lynda Hallinan: A clutter queen with a burning desire to enjoy her habit

When the clutter really gets to much this solution  truly sparks joy.
Lynda Hallinan

When the clutter really gets to much this solution truly sparks joy.

OPINION: Ever get the feeling the universe – or Facebook's algorithm – is trying to tell you something? In the space of 24 hours this week, three friends shared spotless parables that struck a nerve with my inner slattern.

The first to light up my newsfeed was Making a Marriage Magically Tidy in which novelist, housewife and "recovering slob" Helen Ellis confessed to The New York Times that she once went on a date with a used panty liner stuck to her coat. "It is my nature to leave every cabinet and drawer open like a burglar," she says of the slovenly habits that drove her husband to despair.


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A confession: I, too, have husband-despair-driving habits. Among them, my tolerance for geriatric cats with temperamental bowels; my obsession with op-shopping; folding up washing but never putting it away; and how, whenever I travel, my suitcase sits open on our bedroom floor for weeks afterwards, as if I'm magically expecting my belongings to levitate out of it while all four cats take turns sleeping in it.

The second headline, in The Boston Globe, worried that Today's families are prisoners of their own clutter. Sample finding: three out of four garages are so full of cheap crap in storage that they can't actually fit the car in.

Another confession: We don't have a garage – phew! – but sometimes there's so much secondhand tat in my car that I can't fit the kids in it.

The third story, from Ideal Home, was headlined A day in the life of Marie Kondo; the tidiest person on Earth. Kondo's famously Zen approach to decluttering is to hold each item and ask yourself, "Does it spark joy?" If not, get shot of it.

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Lately, I've been wondering if perhaps I'm just a particularly sparky, joyous person. After all, decluttering, and cleaning in general, isn't a question of skill (I can brandish a bottle of Handy Andy with the best of them) but ambition.

I feel no life-changing magic in tidying up, but I do get quite a kick out of going to Briscoes to buy storage baskets. Helen Ellis says: "You're an addict trying to organise your crack, and they're selling you pretty boxes to put your crack in. Pretty boxes are crack, so now you have more crack."

In 2009, on the very day I moved from city to country, I lost almost all my possessions in a house fire. Don't feel sad for me. No one died, and everything was insured. Also, what fun I had with the insurance payout for, by then, my tastes had changed from high-end urban designer homewares to cut-price retro collectibles.

Last year, the founder of London Minimalists, Michelle McGagh, decided to buy nothing new for a whole year, and nothing old either. When interviewed by Kim Hill, her words resonated with me: "I had it in my head that I wasn't a consumer because I was an absolute sucker for charity shops. But your money goes much further in charity shops so you can buy more stuff because it's cheaper. I convinced myself I was collecting... rather than consuming."

My husband blames my mates for acting as interiors enablers. Alyson, who imports antique furniture and sells it from a big barn 1230 steps up the road (I have a Fitbit as well as a homewares habit), is top of his hit-list. Julie, who owns a vintage shop in nearby Papakura, comes a close second, while Fiona, who can sniff out a floral plate at 50 paces, is his third least-favourite of my friends.

But I know the truth. I got myself into this mess. On my home office desk alone I have two computers, eight magazines, six white marker pens, three half-drunk cups of coffee (no mould, yet), a bottle of children's antihistamine, seven cookbooks, two pairs of sewing scissors, three portable hard drives, a stack of 22 antique plates, a pink pom-pom tea cosy, a retro clock, four plastic water bottles, a toilet roll, a stack of invoices, a calendar, a packet of Dinosaur Snap cards and two Crown Lynn jugs with pheasants on them.

Here's what else I can see from my desk: rising flames from a funeral pyre. This morning I turned our brazier into a backyard incinerator and liberated my home of all its tatterdemalion detritus, from moth-eaten jerseys and McDonald's Happy Meal toys to jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and books with missing pages (including the falling-apart dictionary in which I found the word tatterdemalion).

I hate decluttering but oh how I love to set fire to stuff! That literally sparks joy.

 - Stuff


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