Decluttering with Astrid (46)

All By Itself

Sometimes decluttering happens all by itself. Earlier this week, there was a loud crash from downstairs and, when I went to investigate, there stood before me a slightly panicked-looking boy. “It was an accident,” was all he said as we both looked at my lamp that had somehow managed to move from its place on the mantelpiece to a new location on the floor. I reacted in a very mature way by saying that it was “only a lamp, and there are plenty of lamps in the house, so we aren’t going to spend the whole day brooding about a broken light, dude, are you kidding.” And yet, secretly I wept inside for the broken pieces I cradled in my hand… I had lugged that lamp all the way from Cornwall, and it had spent two weeks in the boot of the car (inconveniently so, I might add) before I could give it pride of place in the house. Yup, it was that lamp. But my inner tears weren’t just for the lamp: a few days before that, I had knocked a souvenir cup from the English town of Bath off the table; a couple of weeks earlier, we had left a jacket (the favorite one of course as that’s the way life works) hanging in the hallway of the hostel in Iceland; and during that same holiday, I was clever enough to drop my new camera in the water. All in all, making the whole ‘getting rid of your stuff’ process a complete breeze.

After a year of decluttering, I’ve noticed that I am actuallly a little less attached to material things. Where I would previously walk around all day moping, now I simply mutter: “It’s just stuff, it’s just stuff.” And I’ve even succeeded in being a happy-go-lucky mother who cheerfully says: “Broken glass brings good luck!” But, with all that in mind, there is still one itsy-bitsy thing that I find rather annoying: Why is it that, out of all the stuff you still have, it’s the nicest things that get broken or lost?

I don’t think the true declutterer agrees with me on this one. I reckon the true declutterer simply summons their inner Buddha in these situations. For Buddha said: “Our suffering comes from our attachment to people and things, our repeated attempts to find something lasting where there is nothing lasting to be found.” This way of life – of letting go of attachment to our possessions – is partly reflected in Japanese Zen Buddhism, and is also the principle on which Japanese decluttering guru, Marie Kondo, has based her books on tidying.

Anyway, the letting go of material possessions failed miserably this week. I don’t seem to be so fired up about it right now. The day after the ‘lamp incident’, I raced to the store and bought another one for the empty spot on the mantelpiece. The camera is with the manufacturer being repaired, and the lost jacket has been replaced. The broken cup from Bath, on the other hand, has not been substituted – which is actually fine seeing as we already have far too many cups and mugs at home (enough to give tea to the entire football team of “it-was-an-accident” son, in fact).

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 46 – All By Itself”