Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return of the stuff monster

This is what our beautifully cleared, cleaned, repainted and re-staired hallway looked like a few days ago, and a short time after I took the photos of it in a previous post. The man from le pressing, the dry cleaners, dropped off all the clothes, bedding, soft furnishings, carpets that he had taken away two days after the fire, cramming it all astonishingly into a small van, and then doing so again to bring it back again.

There were things I had quite forgotten about, clothes which were lying around the bedroom or else on the clothes airer on the landing, a car seat cover I must have washed, humongous amounts of spare bedding stored in the spare rooms that bore the brunt of the smoke damage. There were many things, such as our winter jackets that were hanging in the hall, and the light, sleeveless many-pocketed walking waistcoats, which we had rather missed, especially as the chillier weather drew on. 

Yet I haven't been able to rejoice in the return of this stuff as much as I expected. It wasn't just the work of sorting it out, that is more or less done now. It was the sense of the weight and clutter of stuff descending on us again; I'd got used to managing with less. The new parquet looks rather nice without rugs on it. Do we really need all that spare bedding for the luxury of changing our own coverings as we fancy with the seasons, and the maybe once yearly visits of friends and family? Should I decide once and for all I am never going to wear that shade of red again and get rid of that jacket or not? How many old fleecy blankets does Elfie really need? Even wrapping up for colder walks in our comparatively mild Brittany climate seems to be adequately served by fleeces and sweaters covered with waterproofs and topped with scarves, gloves and other knitwear accessories, rather than such a selection of padded and weatherproof overcoats.

The purging energy that enabled us to cull our belongings so ruthlessly through our itinerant summer seems to have rather deserted us, indecision is taking hold, perhaps too with the recognition that what with the inevitable costs the insurance didn't cover, exchange rate fluctuations (' and fluc you Europeans too!*') financial uncertainty on both micro and macro levels, we won't be able afford to ditch everything and start again, even if that were a good thing to do. The Bonfire of the Vanities is rather guttering out, I fear.

The main cause of inhibition, though, is the absolutely beautiful job they've made of it. According to their claims, without noxious solvents and in an ecologically friendly way, they have returned our textiles to us in such immaculate, crisp, pristine condition, it nigh breaks my heart to get any of it out of the wrappers and get it all dirty and crumpled and hairy again. Even an old waterproof, bought at Milletts in the UK at least twenty-five years ago, which we have both worn for every kind of rough work - exterior painting, cement mixing, compost shifting, tree surgery...  has come back sleek and folded and, gosh yes, it was blue wasn't it?! (It is also the only waterproof with a zip that never stuck, broke or split up from the bottom in that annoying way, so it deserves to be kept).

I feel somehow unworthy of all this newly emerged freshness, and that I should perhaps save it for another stage of life. So while it has been sorted and stored, and a certain amount successfully culled, much of it is staying in its plastic for now.

*  the Japanese lady and the bank teller, if you must know. I heard it in New Zealand as 'Europeans' rather than 'white people', and prefer it thus. Pace anyone who might be offended.


Zhoen said...

I'm still getting rid of stuff that I didn't prune away when we moved into the house. The urgency is gone, of course.

I'm deeply offended. Have you been over to Strong Language?

Lucy said...

That was quick, Z!

It wasn't so much the fluc I worried about; I wasn't sure if it might be construed as at all racist. I tended to think as the Asian person got the last word perhaps not too badly so. Thanks for the link, looks like a good blog.

Zhoen said...

Ah. I work with a Japanese nurse, love her dearly, but she really doesn't have any Rs. Not a judgement, an accurate observation, I think.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Oh I know how you feel, Lucy! The gradual re-appearance of clutter after periods of blessed emptiness seems to be inevitable. Like chaos always winning in the struggle with whatever the word is for non-chaos. Order? Not really.

I remember moving into a new flat from an old, normally cluttered one and feeling so energised and peaceful in the wondrously clear, empty space. Until the moving van arrived and unloaded all the old clutter packed into boxes, bags and suitcases. I left them unpacked for a long time.

Maybe you could recycle the newly-pristine but not needed items to neighbours and/or family?

the polish chick said...

i'm living alone in a large modern house with one bed, 3 chairs, 2 towels, a handful of spoons, 2 forks and 2 butter knives. this is the first time i've been able to count my possessions as far back as i can remember (well, the bed isn't really mine, the towels and most cutlery are borrowed too, and the chairs we'll decide on in the future). it feels temporary but it also feels very good. i know that mr. monkey's upcoming visit will deposit a large pile of my possessions here and as much as i'm thrilled to see him, i'm sort of happy with the lack of stuff, so i get your feelings about all this!

Roderick Robinson said...

Yes, I like that but fear it: stuff that would never have been cleaned, gets cleaned, returns in a new guise, with unexpected powers of accusation. And our lives intersect.

We live in what I shall always think of as a "new" house, for we were its first occupants. But we moved in nearly twenty years ago. It's not so much that the house has changed, rather that I have. Twenty years ago I did DIY round the house, I had to: toilet-roll holders needed installing in an embarrassment of toilets. Walls coloured magnolia needed repainting for purely aesthetic reasons. I set aside clothes I would always wear for doing dirty, messy work.

Years passed, I became enfeebled or possibly disinclined. I realised I was now meeting certain middle-class norms by giving work (progressively less and less demanding) to those artisans whose existence I am required to support. And on the floor in one of our more obscure cavities was a cardboard box containing the "messy work" clothes, untouched since... when? One doesn't put on messy clothes to write a sonnet. Though perhaps one should; paint-spattered trousers might make the lines more honest.

The box is gone and - given this post of yours - thank God. Suppose those trousers had been cleaned through unexpected imperatives. I too would have faced accusations or at least silent interrogations about materialism: that I might be decrepit but could still wield a paint-brush. On the most subconscious of subconscious levels I salute you