Friday, 19 January 2018

Clock... Not Working, Otherwise OK

About 30 years ago, an elderly gentleman in his 90s died. He belonged to my Dad's church in Norfolk, I remember him as a happy, determined chap, bright and alert till the end. He had left instructions for my father to take his funeral, and for my parents to clear his rented home, and distribute his possessions among his friends. His tiny one bedroomed place was very tidy, and spotlessly clean, but there was a lot of stuff in there.

One dear lady used to call each week and collect his pension book. He'd put it in an envelope with his shopping list on the front. J would collect the pension, buy the food, then write the amount spent on the envelope, and put all the remaining money inside. She did this for years. 

He would take the envelope, remove the book, and the banknotes- and place the envelope containing a few coins back in the drawer. There were hundreds of these envelopes, neatly lined up!
In another drawer were lots of little boxes, beautifully labelled - including one full of cogs and screws - "Clock- two parts missing, not working, otherwise OK"
His niece's husband owned a department store in Sussex, and they sent household linen each year for his Christmas gift. There were stacks of sheets and towels, still in their wrappers. Mum gave me a white bath towel ["for Bob to use at Baptismal Services"] I still have it!
The whole process of clearing took quite a while - Mum and Dad took it all home, and then distributed things among his friends, and sent the money to his chosen good causes. "I am not going to get like this" said Mum "Why keep those clock parts- it was never, ever going to work again..." Sadly, Mum herself died within a few years, aged 66 - she never reached her 90s, and Dad and I sorted out what few 'personal' items she had - but of course, Dad continued to live in their home, so much of their possessions were shared. He later downsized, and was pretty ruthless with 'stuff' - but left his tools to my brother and his books to Bob.
This week I listened to a Womans Hour Podcast about 'dostadning' - a Swedish word meaning 'death cleaning'. Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish lady 'somewhere between 80 and 100' has written it to help us declutter now, to save our loved ones the task after we've gone. One of her daughters is a journalist and suggested Mum put her principles into print [the cynic in me says 'jumping on the current Kondo/lagom bandwagon - and ensuring Mum's eventual legacy is more cash than clutter']
"Start the process somewhere between 60 and 65", advises Margareta. I am 62-and-a-bit, so approximately half way through that age bracket. Long time blog followers will know that I have struggled with decluttering for years. I hope that within a few years, we will retire to Norfolk [assuming I don't die first] But Cornerstones already has beds, a cooker, bedlinen and crockery. I cannot fit all the stuff in the Dorset Manse into that bungalow, but will need much of it up right until I move. How do I decide what things should be discarded now
Please don't mention my haberdashery and the Great Stash - whilst I am still fit and able to sew and craft, those items are constantly in use and being turned into other things. 
Any helpful suggestions as to where to start?
[I have already thrown away the broken, cheap watch from my jewelry box, and a faulty alarm clock which wouldn't reliably wake anyone. "Clock... not working, otherwise OK" is a ridiculous label!]


  1. This is exactly what I am doing at the moment so your blog post today strikes a chord with me! Are your photos in order? Do you really need multiple photos of a particular event taken from every conceivable angle? What about books? Unless that specific copy has some huge significance, you could always borrow it from the library in the future (assuming the service still exists then!).
    My mother died last year and left lots of 'stuff' to be dealt with. What do you do with love letters from boyfriends sent during WWII? Although we are trying to respect her memory by keeping or disposing of items in a way she might have approved of, as the months go by and the number of boxes scarcely seems to diminish, we find ourselves becoming more ruthless but hopefully our children will be grateful when it's their turn to do the clearing out!
    Sorry this is so long but also want to reiterate how much I enjoy your blog and appreciate all the time it must take you to compile - thanks! Vicki

  2. Two years ago we downsized from a large 4 bedroomed family home to the two bedroomed bungalow where we now live. We were utterly ruthless in getting rid of items, most to charity (I think we completely restocked a local hospice shop), and some to the dump. Since then we have used the mantra one item in and one item out and we have stuck to it. Anything from books to clothing. We are both determined not to leave an overwhelming amount of stuff for our two sons to sort through once we have popped our clogs. I also don't tend to browse in charity shops like I used to as that is a sure fire way to buy unnecessary "stuff" as by nature I am a bit of a magpie. I only go looking if I really need something and mostly that is for household items like pyrex dishes etc. We can honestly say that we have not missed any item we got rid of when we moved or since. Good luck. Sue H

  3. I'm no help to the same boat as you..what I have I " need" right now....!

  4. I come from a long line of hoarders and truly am not looking forward to the day my mother passes. Recently, while visiting, I picked up the ugliest ceramic hobo that she has had since I was a child and teasingly said, "Couldn't we just start by throwing this thing out?" She had a reason for keeping it. It took her weeks to clean out my grandfather's house because he kept everything.

    I like to think I'm a minimalist and because we've moved so much I don't keep a lot, but just don't look at my craft stash! ;-)

  5. Vicki - I am sorry you've lost your Mum- and understand the difficulty of deciding what to do with letters etc. Reading Terri's comment, it confirms that so often, one generation passes down an "heirloom" leaving the next with responsibility of discarding it. Susan, like you I am trying to cut back on CS visit- and spend less time browsing so I am not tempted to buy things! Lynda- I agree!!
    Thank you all for your honesty - the declutter thing is clearly an issue for many of us!

  6. I'm another one who struggles to declutter as you know. I did actually get rid of a HUGE amount when we moved recently. We donated a lot to charity and recycled paperwork and threw out a lot and I even sold about 15 books and but I'm aware I still have a lot of books, clothes and possessions. Definitely going to try harder not to buy but actually a lot of clutter is also presents! I am also in possession of a large craft stash...

  7. Oh, my goodness, "Clock not working, otherwise OK" is how it is with me, too! In my case, it is the sewing machine - not working, but otherwise just fine! I bought a new one to replace it, but the old one is still there! Why? Just in case it starts to work, by some miracle?


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