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LIFESTYLE / Apr ‘2016

Stuff and nonsense

LIFESTYLE / APR ‘2016

Stuff and nonsense

Ari decides to declutter her home.

Words ARI CHÁVEZ

Okay, so here’s the thing. We have way too much stuff. WAY. TOO. MUCH. STUFF. We also don’t have enough storage. I foresaw this when we were building our house – the Stuff/Storage debacle, I mean.

We were kid-less then but, in a startling display of insight, I realised we’d want somewhere to put plastic crap and the odd hockey stick if we ever had children. I went into battle with our Building Guy about including hidden cupboards in the hallway and a double sized walk in linen closet, plus extra storage in the kitchen and wherever else I could think of. Building Guy looked at me incredulously and asked me how much storage I needed, exactly. My husband, much to his current regret, sided with Building Guy and made an uncalled for comment about culling my wardrobe, which would undoubtedly solve All The Problems. The two of them chuckled, guy like, about all my clothes. So funny! Ha ha ha!

So, yeah. I didn’t get the extra storage. Building Guy said it would cost close to a gazillion dollars to put all my cupboards in, and we needed to be thinking about rollout lawn and reticulation and maybe a pizza oven. Guy stuff, in other words. When I remained unconvinced – who cares about a pizza oven when you can have a double walk in robe with a dressing area –  he told me I had champagne tastes and a beer budget and that was a big problem for me, and maybe not just when building houses. I didn’t love Building Guy. No, it wasn’t love.

Fast forward a few years, and we now have a kid who seems to breed plastic crap, stickers, Lego bits, books, soccer balls, marbles, glitter and goddamn play-dough.

Fast forward a few years, and we now have a kid who seems to breed plastic crap, stickers, Lego bits, books, soccer balls, marbles, glitter and goddamn play-dough. He walks around the house and a proliferation of stuff somehow snakes along behind him like a psychedelic toy store. This is incredibly annoying from a tripping over point of view, especially if you wake at midnight and tootle out to the kitchen for a glass of water and catapult over five plastic blocks and dismantle your knee.  It’s also disappointing from a mothering point of view, if you had planned to be a Wooden Toy Mother who only bought one wooden toy for birthdays and one wooden toy for Christmas, and otherwise sent the children out to play amongst the birdsong and fruit trees.

I was going to be a Wooden Toy Mother before I actually became a mother. Ha ha ha. That is all.

Anyway, over the summer, I decided something Had To Be Done about all our Stuff. So I bought a book by a Japanese clutter expert about how having a crap free house makes you happy. Basically, you have to chuck everything out that doesn’t make you extraordinarily joyous in the way, say, a double walk in robe with a dressing area would. That’s the gist of it, anyway. Chuck stuff out, especially clothes. And the clothes you have left, you have to fold in a weird way. And you need to think about the emotional health of your socks, or something. I skipped that bit because I have longstanding issues with finding sock pairs, so I am not yet at the level of worrying about my socks’ emotional health.

Look, it’s a good idea – the chucking stuff out bit – but I am pretty sure the author doesn’t have any kids at all, let alone a kid like mine who has a memory like an elephant and will, no joke, ask me where a scrap of book he had, and ate, when he was two years old is, and then hunt for it for a Very Long Time.

Nevertheless, culling had to be done. I started to fill up garbage bags from – yes, okay – my closet. I filled a lot, in fact, and took them to the Goodwill. Then I went through my son’s clothes and chucked half of them out and lots of his toys. I filled some more bags. And then I stopped and had a cup of tea because it was all feeling rather tedious.

And while I was recovering from the tedium, my son squirreled his way towards his pile of bulging bags and began extracting Toys of Interest and spiriting them back to his room.

And while I was recovering from the tedium, my son squirreled his way towards his pile of bulging bags and began extracting Toys of Interest and spiriting them back to his room. When, after a biscuit or few, I returned to the task at hand, I found three very deflated bags full of Clothes of Little Interest, and empty of plastic crap and books and matchbox cars et al.

I followed the characteristic trail up the hallway and into my son’s room, where he was sitting, face alight with joy, amongst a ruin of garish plastic toys, babyish stuffed animals and books he hadn’t looked at for years.

“Look, Mama,” he said delightedly. “Look at all my marvellous stuff!

I stared at his shining sun of a face, and leant my head against the doorframe and closed my eyes. Yes, this is what I am up against. Joy abloom in wastelands of neon plastic, and a heartfelt devotion to the playthings of yesterday.

These are the things that bring my son joy. Stuff and Nonsense.

ARI CHÁVEZ

Ari has had work published in Australia, England, Japan and Singapore. She has a delightful toddler, Gabriel, who was born with coffee in his veins. She is currently completing her first novel as part of a PhD project.