Bitch on the Blog

June 10, 2012

Genius running on empty

Filed under: Happiness — bitchontheblog @ 11:19
Tags: , , , ,

Last time we discussed the merits of an orderly desk.

Phil and David (respectively) put forward notions that chaos denotes genius and an empty desk reflects an empty mind. Not so. Neither. I can’t recommend order enough. As Conrad said it’s cyclical. And it is. Ebb and tide. I will not go all Feng Shui on you but there is no doubt that the less stuff there is flying around you the better you’ll think. You’ll breathe lightly. You’ll be less distracted (more is the pity).

And Renee is right: The moment you throw something out the next you’ll need it. It’s called Sod’s Law. Which is why it pays not to be married. That way you can’t point a finger of blame. Only berate yourself.

May I put forward a theory well worth giving a moment to:

Leaving personal momentos (like photos, letters and emails) aside nothing is irreplaceable. I firmly believe, indeed could fashion this into a mission statement of mine, that hoarders do NOT trust life. I do trust life. Any moment now I’ll break out into song “You lose some, you win some” but it’s true: I know people whose garages are so overflowing with screws and broken widgets they may need “some day” they let their cars rust outside. If you are one of them don’t buy a Citroen.

Yes, so throw out all that gunk, tidy your whereabouts, don’t keep things for that rainy day which, in all likelihood, will never come AND first and foremost: Trust life. You’ll find another screw if you really need it. And you won’t [need it] A book shelf doesn’t collapse on being one, or two,  or three [screws] short. It’ll just be a bit wonky.




  1. Now that is an interesting perspective…. I have always wondered why I am a hoarder. collector, acquirer of all sorts of things. Not trusting life is not something I have ever thought of as a reason. I actually put it down to having been brought up in the double circumstance s of post war austerity and in farming communities (think baler twine hung in barns).
    Comparative (material) poverty amongst working people in the past may well explain the acqusitiveness of modern society. That need to own “stuff”, whether it a dishwasher, a huge television or just one of the latest gadgets, must be deep rooted.
    In the many kitchens of my child hood there was a cabinet made of galvanised steel surmounted by an enamelled removable top (today it would be called a”worktop”). On this top was a paraffin stove on which most of the cooking was done, from fried breakfast to stews. Down the right hand side were three drawers. The top drawer was the cutlery drawer, the bottom was “the bread drawer” and the middle was the “paper drawer”. Into the paper drawer were carefully stuffed evry unstained paper bag that came into the house, every piece of string longer than 12 inches (30cm), greraseproof wrappers and the waxed paper bags from boxes of cornflakes (today I still find myself taking the inner bags from empty cereal packets, shaking out the crums (often in the garden for the birds) and folding them carefully to put aside for future use. Do we really need all those containers from the local take away food emporium? Sandwiches can easily be wrapped in old cereal bags.
    The spirit of hoarding was imbibed with my mother’s milk. Why throw anything out unless it has become useless or worn out?
    And yes, in the workshop there is a drawer, weighing several kilogrammes (2.2 pounds to a kilogramme), full of screws of a multitude of differing sizes. There is another full of nuts and bolts.
    As I look out of the adjacent window I can see an old coal scuttle. It is galvanised and is at least 45 years old. It belonged to my mother, bought before my father died in 1970. It is in amazingly good condition in spite of having been outside in all weathers for at least 30 years. The last time I used it was to carry some concrete in the garden over 20 years ago. Why would I throw it away? Why should I? If I ever move house I might well find myself with a coal fire once more. I’d need it then.

    I remember a colleague and her husband coming to dinner, back in the days when we did that sort of thing. She commented on how lovely it was to come into a home with so many things and that she wished she had some things around her. A year later we went to a party (staff Christmas event) at her house. It was sterile. There was nothing around. There was not even a coffee table book. There was a coffee table I recall. There was not even a vase of flowers nor even sign of christmas decoration. Oh yes, the Television was the most up to date contionental model that you could buy from Harrods and the audio equipment also. (Oh that “HiFi”… it was execrable only playing the treble and bass of the music with no trace of the essential mid frequencies… it too was purchased at Harrods. I’m pleased to say that these days things HiFi that emmanate from the continenet are much better. BTW it was not Bang and Olufsen )

    Ursula, you are welcome to come and sort out the nest if you like…

    PS…. my reference to an untidy desk is only to be taken as an excuse……

    Comment by David — June 10, 2012 @ 14:01 | Reply

    • What an emotive glimpse into your life, David.

      I agree with you. I too look lovingly at an empty cereal bag. And many of them I have put to good use. Luckily the Angel appears to have outgrown Kellog’s. So that’s one less thing to wonder about.

      As to your mother’s coal scuttle: That has meaning. As do many momentos round my house. For instance, there is a tiny Venetian vase, simple, in a prominent place. Given to me by a childhood friend some forty years ago. Every time I look at it I see …. a lot of wonderful memories. I could cite many more examples. However, and this came home to me when I helped a truly sweet lady, some six or eight years ago, to clear out her home. Her children had flown the nest, she and her husband ‘downsizing’ to a much smaller property. She wanted to shift the lot; evidence of a life lived in the same house since her birth. We spent hours. She wasn’t sentimental in a mushy kind of way. But she talked me through everything. A process by which she let go of things. And we sold it all on. One of her things I kept msyelf a little Art Nouveau flower basket. Every time I see it I am reminded of a remarkable woman. And so on and so on.

      However, space is at a premium. Which is, even with my books, I am very disciplined. What needs to go needs to go. As, no doubt, the Buddha, will say: Let go and make space for something new (I made that up since I am not familiar with Buddha but imagine it’s the sort of wisdom he and many a declutter consultant will come up with).

      My father is in a league of his own. Probably part his personality, part his upbringing, part his navy training. I remember him once coming into my and my sister’s room (I must have been about ten or eleven, my sister six years younger). He literally turned over our toy cupboard till its contents were one mountain (of a mole hill) in the middle of the room. Leaving instruction to clear up “the mess”. At the time I didn’t have the vocabulary, neither did I know Italian sign language to lift a finger but by god, in today’s terms: Yes, fuck you too.

      Our treasure trove. We cried. Well, my sister did. I did inwardly. Then we set to work. Few times in my life did I have more hatred in my heart. And I love my father. To this day. But he can be trying. Yes, anyway. That cupboard was nothing. Many years later his paternal grandmother, my great grand mother, died. Her husband had been a painter, her daughter was a painter – their house, to me, a child, enchanting. It was stuffed to the brim. Everything you touched had a story, was wonderful, full of cobwebs. Naturally, on her death, my father came in and, apart from some paintings, everything went into a skip. Unfortunately, at the time I was abroad and learnt about it too late. All my life, on and off, I have had WORDS with my father, but by golly, this time I was furious. I literally felt he had cheated me out of my inheritance in his haste to ‘clear the decks’. Not in terms of money. In terms of what over ninety years of a most interesting life had accumulated. I can’t remember how long my father and I didn’t speak after that but it was some time. His idea – not mine. I speak even to those I am – strictly speaking – not on speaking terms with.

      To summon up: You mention austerity in the aftermath of war. But – and that’s the fall out of war, those who had to leave EVERYTHING behind, fleeing from the front that their young souls (my father was seven at the end of the war, my mother eleven) learnt early on that possessions do not matter. That you can’t afford to mourn that which is no longer yours. There is a steel running through that generation which – in part – I have inherited.

      So, I do not only live in genteel poverty but try – in best naval tradition – to keep ‘ship shape’. Whilst shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic.

      And no, there is nothing ‘sterile’ here, neither will you find a ‘coffee table book’ in my living room though, admittedly, am currently using Robert Winston’s book on the “Human” as a door stopper for the lounge door.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 10, 2012 @ 15:30 | Reply

      • I didn’t mean to be emotive… i Used the word austerity deliberately because I am only too aware of the poverty that ensued on the continent of Europe. It is a fashionable word at the mometn and I only realised yeaterday that in the world of economics it has a specific meaning that has little to do with what the ordinary citizen might understand.
        The coal skuttle has no emotive attachment… it is just sheer practicality and the fact that my sister does not want it. I will not dispose of it. I’m putting my foot down with a firm hand on that one.

        All this reminds me that I am charged with disposing of all the timber pieces that are in the back garden. Our “across the road” neighbours are no longer in residence ( the ladies have gone to Hong Kong to teach) and so I no longer use my meat cleaver (Bought for the princley sum of 1 GBP in response to a sign in the local ironmongers “Buy one for the Mother in law”) to chop kindling for them.

        Comment by David — June 10, 2012 @ 21:41 | Reply

  2. David, I’m a hoarder too. And I don’t want a “wonky” bookshelf for needing another screw, which I just threw away.

    I did gave away pretty much, all my books which I mostly didn’t read, but I still have 2 copies of “Letting Go” which I’ll let go if I ever getting around to reading that. Books aren’t my thing as you can tell by my comments with no references.

    Comment by bikehikebabe — June 10, 2012 @ 16:54 | Reply

  3. I’m not a hoarder – typical Virgo all neat and tidy. However, I do have some things that others might consider trash. For instance, an empty cider bottle from Normandy. Of course, I see it full to overflowing. It brings back memories of six girl friends romping through the countryside in France – a day spent at Mont St. Michel – my first experience with Calvados. I could go on and on. It reminds me of awe and wonder and lack of stress. I will never throw away that bottle. Do I need it? No. But I like it and it will stay. But then again, I have always said that what I collect is memories. So, the empty bottle just holds a few for me and there are other examples that I won’t regurgitate for you, but you get the drift. Now, that being said, I have no interest in other empty bottles. They all go in the recycle bin or trash disposal.

    Comment by writingfeemail — June 10, 2012 @ 17:24 | Reply

    • Yes! memories…… it is amazing just how many can be contained within something as simple as “une bouteille de cidre”. One does not even have to polish it to release the genies.
      Oh dear, I’m now thinking of all those things that trigger memories…….

      Comment by David — June 10, 2012 @ 21:53 | Reply

    • Renee, I quite agree (with both you and David). However, and I’ll paraphrase: You may not see the tree for the woods. My son once brought this home to me when he ventured into Dorset’s countryside, on his own, during a break, close to the college he attended. The most stunning photo he took that of a single tree. In the middle of nowhere.

      And that’s how I see momentos. They need to have a place – all to their own – lest they get just lost in a sea of ‘stuff’ and you don’t actually ‘see’ them any longer.

      As to your cider bottle. Oh, yes. I can relate to that. There is many a, metaphorically speaking, cider bottle in my life.

      Other than my books (and even those I’ll weed) I will admit to one weakness: Anything my son has ever produced – be it painting, writing, a note to me left on my desk, the tiniest scrap. Oh dear. Yes. Long pause. I ‘weed’ very very very slowly – over the years, taking my time. But weed I will. Not least because I think it unfair to, eventually, leave him with boxes and boxes of stuff meaning nothing or little to him.

      Some of his earliest art framed and hung on the wall. But, as anyone who has ever made hay knows, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. You yourself being a mother of a son will know what I mean. And then there were the baby clothes. How to part with them? OH MY GOD. Slowly that too has come down to a manageable amount – evoking the odd little pang. And, more cruelly, you may show the guy who is now over six foot that tiny outfit he once fitted into. He particularly likes me doing that when his friends are around.

      If there is one piece of advice I’d give everyone: Do get rid off the unnecessary (whatever that constitutes) in your own time. Even if it takes forever. But do it.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 12, 2012 @ 10:38 | Reply

  4. There’s an awful lot of screwing
    going on in this posting Ursula…

    Androgoth XXx

    Comment by Androgoth — June 12, 2012 @ 23:40 | Reply

    • Yes, you are right. Never thought it about like that before. And then there are nuts and bolts.

      Whatever you do, don’t buy flatpacks at IKEA. There will always be a screw missing, a few screws won’t fit, and the holes won’t align with that which needs to be screwed together. Which means, depending on temperament, you’ll feel either screwed, live with a loose screw, or take it all back to the shop for a refund. A friend of mine will run to the nearest Freud. The therapist very happy. Not least because he will have screwed you out of £90 for 45 minutes of sweet nothings which, in turn, allows him to go to IKEA and buy a flat pack and set his screwdriver to work. Depending on temperament he will then ….see above.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — June 18, 2012 @ 02:04 | Reply

    • Yes I have had many of those missing screws etc, I think that they enjoy leaving them out,
      I mean let’s face it they totally enjoy the thrill of cocking up a reasonably priced piece of furniture
      and those instructions are baffling beyond belief, even rocket scientists struggle to complete them
      without losing their hair. There used to be a place called MFI that had similar riff-raff adding to
      the mayhem of flat pack furniture packaging but at least it gives us a chance to drop kick their
      ghoulies into the nearest trash can, which to be honest is where the furniture usually ends up…

      Have a fun evening Ursula.

      Comment by Androgoth — June 18, 2012 @ 22:46 | Reply

  5. Just calling in to say Hi Ursula
    Sooooooooooooooooo… Hi Ursula…

    Androgoth XXx

    Comment by Androgoth — June 18, 2012 @ 01:04 | Reply

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