Decluttering with Astrid (29)

Other people’s stuff

In my (completely unbiased, of course) opinion, I’m the perfect person to look after your home while you’re away on holiday, because I’m always very careful with other people’s stuff. If I stay in a hotel, I always straighten out the beds before we leave, I wipe down the sink in the bathroom, I tidy the soaps away in their rightful place, and I push the chairs back to where they belong.

If you let me stay in your Airbnb, I’ll be careful with the beautiful teapot and, if the handover instructions say “Please use coasters under your glasses,” I will. I make sure that everything in your cutlery drawer is neatly positioned where it should, I make sure the fridge is empty and clean, and I am always willing to write a nice thank-you note if we don’t get to see the owner. I replace the tea, strip the beds and neatly fold the sheets. And because of that, I always get rave reviews from Airbnb owners.

A few months ago, Irene, our publisher Joyce and I were in New York for a Flow work trip, and we stayed in an Airbnb. Before we left, I quickly snuck into their rooms to straighten up their beds—the Airbnb reservation was in my name, after all. When Irene went back into her room to collect her suitcase and prepare some crackers and cheese for the journey, I nagged her to tidy up any mess she might make, “Think of my Airbnb review!” I cried. I love Irene, but she lives a somewhat more carefree life as a hotel guest than I do…

What’s more, if you ask me to take care of your cat while you are away for a few days, I’ll collect your post off the mat and place it neatly on the table, putting the private post and junk mail into separate piles. I’ll pick the dead leaves off your plants. I’ll even make you a “Welcome home” note. And I’ll also write an analysis on the psychological condition of your cat. Or as much of an analysis as I can make during your absence. Oh, and sometimes I even cycle back to double check that I have locked the door properly.

Funny, how careful I am with other people’s stuff, and yet how sloppy I am with my own. Because at home, I don’t mind if a plate falls. Or if a new stain appears on the floor. And we won’t even talk about the state of my refrigerator… It’s only with beds that I have the same quirky attitude at home as I do when I travel. I have to make the bed every morning, bedspread and all. In every bedroom in the house. And that’s something I have to do, not any of the three men I live with (one grown, and two slightly less mature), because I’ve yet to meet a man who can lay a bedspread out straight, with each side evenly draped over the edges and without a wrinkle in sight. You see, I love a bed with a bedspread over it; it’s so lovely and hotel-like. But if the bed isn’t made, I can’t leave the house and go to work. Isn’t that weird? Especially when I always go on about how your possessions shouldn’t own you, but you them. But there you go. Maybe I’ll have a long hard think about that this week…

Astrid, together with Irene, is the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives with her partner and two children. Each Tuesday, she writes about the senses – and nonsense – behind decluttering.


“Week 29 – Other people’s stuff”