The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Clear and clean up


Photo: Boxes of preserves and more beyond the camera's eye

Photo: Boxes of preserves and more beyond the camera's eye

I’m exhausted. Our messy cottage had turned into a series of piles with a warren of little passages that led to the bathroom, bedrooms and kitchen. So many things had been lost. The avalanches were a daily hazard. It was depressing and somewhat akin to a bijou cottage version of Miss Havisham’s house in Dicken’s Great Expectations.

Something had to be done. And when my friend Jean offered to help, I jumped at the chance and wondered whether the friendship would survive such a choppy and shark infested sea.

Jean’s mantra is
“Put things away. Discard anything that you do not need.”
Mine is normally
“Keep and leave everything out as you might need them tomorrow and at least you know vaguely where they are.”
But has changed to
“Put things away, Jean’s watching.”
And I keep on slipping even though I’m focussing on the heart of the matter. Our house is getting sorted and I’m clearing out the dross that’s holding us back. Jean has cleared the larder and the fridge so there is loads of empty space to fill. Broad smiles from me. Although I’ll fight to keep Babar – he’s the sort of silent friend that everyone needs when everything goes wrong. If that toy elephant could talk… his visit would have been fleeting.

Somehow if you are working with a friend on the sorting/grading/chucking (giving to charity shops) stakes some sensible sense of reason does eventually creep in – we’ve just completed day four. It’s embarrassing to admit that you do actually want to keep everything. Even the wildflowers that you pressed 50 years ago and now are just so thin and incidental that they barely exist. Jean is kind and tactful but she beams whenever I say chuck.

So I’m finally shredding or giving away lots and lots of stuff. Highlights include the 1968 Puffin diary, the last 40 years of bank statements, the cards from boarding school sent by people that I’ve long forgotten, the vast bag of socks with holes, the outfits that I imagined that I looked great in 20 years ago, strange things that I can’t exactly identify (vegetables or wildlife that have been salted away by the Min Pins?), books, free CDs, and so much more.

But I’m keeping Monopoly and Babar and lots of “essentials” just in case. If they can be ‘put away’ they are staying. From now on I will be a closet hoarder. Whey Hey!

  Leave a reply


  1. Hi Mark,
    Your welcome,that’s what it’s all about, you put it in to words beautifully,”So many of us are treading the same path but think we are undergoing a solo journey”, so true! Thankyou.
    How good that you know all the ‘clutter’ that you donated is going to be well used, welcome and appreciated.
    That’s it, you’ve gave me the prompt that I’ve needed, I’ve tackled the spare room, plenty more to do, I shall keep plodding away, fill the car up and take it to the charity shop.
    It’ll take a few journeys, so I’ll distribute it amongst charities close to my heart.
    It’s true, I do feel better for what I’ve managed to get ‘sorted’ today, imagine, I’ll be a ‘whole’ person again eventually instead of being congested by lots of things that never see the light of day.
    My Son will be proud of me!
    Many thanks for your thoughtfulness,
    Until next time, keep up the good work (that should be me,keeping up de-cluttering)!

  2. Many thanks for your comment Odelle – makes you realise that so many of us are treading the same path but think we are undergoing a solo journey. That’s what sharing is all about!
    I discovered that the lady that runs the local charity shop has a deal with a man who sends stuff to Africa – tools, clothes and the like. I can’t think of a better use of all the surplus things I have than to know that they are back in use – after all tools are meant to be used, not collect dust – I have a sideboard for that!

  3. Hi Mark,
    Welcome, I’m sure that you will become very fond of this site as I am myself. It’s good to be able to visit to find out what’s going on with Fiona,Danny the Min-Pins and everyone else that contributes.
    Sorry for your loss,it’s difficult,life changing, especially when you loose loved ones in a short space of time.I too lost three much loved close family in the space of 18months, so I do know what it’s like.
    I admire you Mark for making the decision to ‘get your life back’, well done!
    De-cluttering, ah, I do try, give lots to charity shops and still find more,my wardrobes are next, then the loft space, aarrrrgh!
    My Son always says that if everything’s uncluttered you can move on with your life and feel so much better for it, as you have shown with yours.
    I do commend you Mark for the positive actions that you have taken and enriched your life in the process, after all that’s what it’s all about.
    Look forward to your input, I’m sure that it will be rewarding.

  4. Hi all,

    I have just spent the last year decluttering my life – not done yet. The sudden deaths of my Dad and brother in law within 6 weeks of each other caused me to need a bit of head-clearing. The first thing to go was the job – teaching al day then working ’til 10 every evening was so unhealthy – I walked away from a 15 year career. New career in place and the cellar was next in my attention – it is so satisfying not walk around the house without the metaphorical dust clogging everything up. My advice on clearing out? Give the stuff away, even to the charity shop and bask in feeling that you have done some good for someone other than you. Of course the answer to all this clogging up is to not buy so much stuff in the first place!
    My first visit to this website – lots for me explore! Keep clearing!

  5. Ugh! I know this feeling. F and I have left everything well alone for some time and the piles of stuff have grown and grown. What makes it worse is that we live in a damp granite house. All that clutter holds the damp. We just got back from a break and being greeted by all that clutter and the strong smell of damp makes me wish Jean would come here on holiday…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,237,273 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder