Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Great Declutter

I have been talking about decluttering the house for years. Every so often, I've filled bags and boxes to take to the charity shop but you would hardly notice; clutter just seems to multiply overnight. Well, this time I really, really mean it - it all has to go!

The trouble is that I keep on finding really interesting things: boxes of letters from my husband's days in the Merchant Navy, pictures my children painted and their first attempts at storywriting, my wedding dress and veil ..... each discovery takes an age to unpack and ponder over.

This was yesterday's find:
 The recorder case to match my new school uniform as I prepared for the first term at the convent high school in 1957. And inside, still with its original waxed thread in place, my Schott's descant recorder.
It has a beautifully mellow sound, much more pleasant than the plastic recorders that schools use now. Of course I'll never play it again but it has a story of its own and it is so hard to throw out memories and it doesn't take up that much room .........

When I was 11 years old, going into the nearest town was quite an adventure and we never went to the city which seemed very far away. In fact it is less than 20 miles from our childhood home but that was a whole day out by bus or train then.  My father was to take me to Liverpool by bus to buy my recorder from Crane's music store. We took a bus into town and waited in the town hall square for the Liverpool bus to arrive. Dad said we should sit upstairs to get a good view of the places we passed through.

As we entered the city, I was fascinated by the enormous buildings and I can remember turning to my father to ask him about one of them when he suddenly put his arms round me and told me to hold on tight. Then the world seemed to spin out of control as the bus toppled over onto its side. Fortunately, we didn't hit the ground or we might have suffered more than scratches and bruises. The bus had come to rest on top of a car and we were left at a strange angle. The passengers in the offside seats fared worse because they were thrown out of their seats, some of them through the windows.

I remember seeing people running out of their houses with jugs and bowls to collect the petrol that was pouring from the fuel tank of the bus. I was shocked to think they were stealing fuel while people were screaming but Dad said they were actually trying to prevent the tank from catching fire.

Then there was the excitement of fire engines, police cars and ambulances. My father assured everyone that he and I were all right so we were helped down the stairs and, after a quick check by the ambulance crew, we set off to walk to Hanover Street to the magnificent music store.

Crane's was an awesome place to a girl who had only seen a grand piano on the cinema screen. I imagine that I must have walked among the instruments there with my mouth and eyes open wide. I do remember that our request for a descant recorder was handled with as much courtesy and seriousness as if it had been for a baby grand or a double bass. Dad must have told the shop assistant about the accident we had been involved in, probably to explain our bloodied appearance, because we were treated to a tour of the premises, including the beautiful Neptune Theatre above the store. 

I have forgotten what else we did that day, except that my father insisted that we should sit upstairs on the bus on the homeward journey.  I didn't become an inspired recorder player but I have always had a great affection for my Schott's descant recorder, the cause of one of the most exciting days in my childhood.

 Does it deserve a place in my decluttered house or shall I consign it to the dustbin?  And does anyone believe that I really will have a decluttered house?


  1. What an exciting story your recorder brings to mind. Like you, I continually declutter in a modest manner, but somehow more clutter arrives. Help! I will check back to see how you are doing, and hope you inspire me to do more decluttering.

  2. m. if your clutter is made up of your husband's old letters and the recorder your father bought you when you were 11 years old after an accident on the double decker bus, I'd say you've already decluttered and all you have left are incredible treasures.

    Enjoy them and save them. I'm pretty sure your grandchildren will be very glad you did.

  3. Terra
    I will let you know how it goes. However, I don't think ours will ever be a minimalist environment as my husband and I seem to attract clutter!

  4. e

    The idea that two items make up my clutter made me fall off my chair in laughter! No, these are just some of the items that distract me from the task of emptying boxes and cupboards! I should throw things out without looking at them, then I wouldn't take these trips into the past.

    That said, the letters and recorder stay!

  5. m, okay then. Here's something I read a while back: clothing and household items should be discarded if they haven't been used in three years. Use that as a rule of thumb and you'll suddenly find you have lots storage in closets and the garage. The article also suggested getting lots of decorative baskets and bins for stuff you're keeping making sure to label everything with your handy label maker.

    Take before and after pictures and post them, so we'll all know how to do it should the uncluttering bug bite us. :-)

  6. Maureen, I got misty eyed reading this. Keep the Recorder; wrap it up along with the story, and give it to the thoughtful Millie and her adorable brother. It's a keepsake, and a testimony of family love. Godly love, really. I loved your dad's words, "Hold on tight. Tough times, scary times, protection, strong arms and music. Life in all its fullness."

    P.S. I always get the urge to declutter when the weather's hot. But then I like clutter in the winter--it has a cozy feel. :)

  7. From one Squirrel to another.....
    I send you love and will keep my fingers crossed for you

  8. e
    Thanks for the tip. I have emptied 8 large boxes this morning and absolutely everything has gone into charity bags or the dustbin. I feel good!

  9. Jodi

    That is one of my favourite memories of my father. With two sisters and a brother, I rarely had a day on my own with him.

    The sunshine always makes me want to clear the house out and this year we have the added incentive of re-organising after my mother-in-law moved into a nursing home.

  10. Val

    Thank you. I think we have been here before!

  11. What a day!
    I’m slowly learning to accept that I never will be able to declutter the house to the extent I’m dreaming of. Trying to prevent even more clutter to sneak in is about all I manage - and I don’t manage it very well!

  12. Margaretha

    My husband has been amazed at the ruthless approach I have taken to disposing of things. So much so that he took me out for a meal to celebrate! It certainly is a good feeling when I see the sacks of good but never worn clothes, surplus bedlinen and blankets ready to go to charities. I also decided that I have really retired (after 5 years!) and I am now in the process of dismantling my office and restoring it as a guest bedroom.

    I think the books I accumulate will prevent me from having a truly declutterred house, though. I must send some on to you, that always makes me feel better!

  13. That is such a good story! Frightening as well, though.
    I still have all three of my recorders (all different sizes) from school. I was in a group and also taught other students to play. I still get them out occasionally, I love the old-fashioned sound.
    I couldn't part with mine...

  14. I just left a comment, and it whooshed off somewhere. I just said, what a story, and such a good dad to have you ride upstairs on the way home to break the memory. Otherwise you may never have done so again. I wonder if kids have such jaunts now. It seems they are all off to Africa and Thailand. I much prefer your little outing.


I love to read your comments and promise that I will reply as soon as I can leave my garden, sewing room or kitchen!