For years, The Mother has been telling me the house needs cleaning out. “It’ll be too late when I’m gone,” she has said. “You should get started on it now.” And I should get started on it, of course, because for years she has had the false assumption that all of the mess and clutter in the house is mine, or is my fault somehow. This is patently untrue. Things, for example, in my bedroom right now include:
- a vacuum cleaner
- a steam cleaner
- a late 90s CRT monitor (large)
- a box of parish church paperwork
- a set of suitcases
- a set of cigarette cards (framed)
- several large bags full of used jiffy bags, just in case they came in useful one day
None of these things, you have probably guessed, are actually mine.
Until recently, my bedroom also contained a pull-along shopping trolley, a considerable quantity of winter coats, and a mid-80s portable CD player, the first one my family owned. That, at least, I can claim some responsibility for, as it was my main means of listening to music in my teens. Still, no need for it to be there now. It’s time to bite the bullet, I decided. Time to actually persuade The Mother to get rid of something.
I loaded the coats into a bag, put the CD player in the back of the car, and took the trolley down to the kitchen to start loading it up with unnecessary stuff. Now, the kitchen is full of unnecessary stuff. The Mother has never seen a flat surface without wanting to hoard things on it, so virtually all of the kitchen countertops are covered in piles and piles of things: food that she hasn’t put into the cupboard, crockery that she hasn’t put away, stacks of empty takeaway containers that have been kept just in case they “come in useful”. I start loading the empty plastic into a recycling box.
“You can’t throw those out!” says The Mother, who has crept up behind me. “I’m saving those for your uncle!”
“When is he coming to collect them?” I ask. “They’ve not moved for a few months.”
“Well he comes now and again,” she replies, “and he said he uses plastic tubs to keep them in.”
“He can buy takeaways too, though,” says I, and they go. Behind them I discover gadgetry I’ve never even seen: a slow cooker, and a Nutribullet.
“I didn’t know you had a Nutribullet,” I say.
“What’s a Nutribullet?”
“It’s grey,” I say, because I’m not feeling in a particularly familial, caring mood, “and it says ‘Nutribullet’ on the side. You use it to make smoothies.”
“Oh we tried it,” she replies, “and I used it to make soup. But it was too much of a faff. It’s a right pain to clean.”
“Which is what 99% of people who buy a Nutribullet say,” I told her. “It’s going to the shop too.”
So, out of the house went: the Nutribullet, a coffee machine, the coats, the ancient CD player, a stack of CDs of Dad’s that nobody else in the family wanted, and about a third of The Mother’s excessively large supply of plain, cheap, white coffee mugs. She bought a bulk order, a few years back, so that when my dad’s old colleagues came to see him and have a natter, she could give them some cheap crockery she didn’t care about. I removed a third, on the theory that The Mother doesn’t actually know how many there are and never sees them all in one place; and so far, it seems to be working. The charity shop people were extremely excited about the CD player, it being a vintage piece, but as yet its highest bid is still under a fiver.
Naturally, the house looks barely changed. One car-load, after all, isn’t going to make a dent in many decades worth of hoarding—there is stuff hoarded by my grandparents that has been passed down the line, a line which I am going to be the one to break. Still, psychologically, it’s definitely a start.