Decluttering with Astrid (32)


A friend of mine is selling her house, and she sms’d me saying I have to take a look at it online and that I would be really proud of her. I have to say, she was right. When I looked at the pictures of her house, I was really impressed. The rooms that previously had that lovely French cozy feel, that were cluttered, that exuded that life-is-lived-and-laughter-is-heard-here ambiance, but were indeed a bit, ummm, overcrowded, were now constructively empty. Everything had disappeared: the fruit bowls, the toy boxes on the shelves, the throws on the sofas, all the newspapers and magazines, knickknacks on the fireplace, and the stacks of letters…

I asked her where everything had gone, and she told me that one room had not been included in the photos, and that’s where she had crammed everything in. I know their home well, and I know how small that room is and what was missing from those online pictures, so I was even more impressed. Producing photos like that was a real Tour de Force.

Real estate brokers know better than anyone that the houses depicted in the pictures should be a bit empty, otherwise potential buyers do not get a good feeling when they look around. These brokers would make great feng-shui experts too, as they understand that things are like sneaky energy guzzlers. I remember when we were selling our place, we spent weeks driving around in a car that contained half our furniture plus a garbage bag full of rubbish we had quickly thrown away just before potential buyers came by. During that time, whenever I came home to my decluttered house, I thought (rather weepily): “Why are we leaving here? It’s actually perfect like this.”

It’s the same before I go on vacation; I’m always cleaning up. I’ll throw away old newspapers, I check the fruit bowl and I muck out the bathroom so that, just as we leave, everything is empty and orderly and exactly as I want it. And that includes a clean refrigerator and a tidy hall without 20 pairs of shoes and three soccer balls lying around. Very often, the whole family is sitting in the car, ready to go, and I’m checking (for the eight time) that the iron is off and the windows are closed (are you managing to picture my uber-relaxed holiday demeanor yet?) And then I think what a shame it is that we are leaving at that moment in time. Now that the house is tidy and perfect. A wonderfully ideal state for a couple of weeks of vacation in fact.

Your-house-as-it-should-be: it’s hardly ever that way. For me, it only occurs when there’s a birthday party or a dinner-with-girlfriends coming up. (My partner always mumbles: Wouldn’t it make more sense to tidy up AFTERWARDS, instead of before?) Or just before we go on a trip. Or, very occasionally, there are times—like when I’m on the couch reading my book and everyone else in the house is out for a few hours—when everything is in it’s rightful place.

Oh yes, and that room in which everything is crammed. We have one of those too, and it’s called the barn. A hopeless dumping ground that I never dare to enter. Which I think is okay, otherwise I just couldn’t cope with it all. And things have to stay a little fun, don’t they?

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


“Week 32- Your-house-as-it-should-be”