Clutter

In the 1990s I used to enjoy watching a British TV show called ‘Through the Keyhole‘, where transatlantic TV presenter Loyd Grossman used to snoop about in the house of a mystery celebrity. A panel in the studio watched the video and then would try to guess who lived in the house, before a studio audience to whom the owner’s identity had been revealed. I’ve not watched this show for years, but apparently it’s still on. Though since celebrities these days all seem to consist of football players, reality TV stars and soap stars, and none of these things I watch, I wouldn’t know who they were anyway.

Right now, though I find myself watching a lot of TV. I’m three weeks into a four-week recuperation stint following surgery, with strict instructions to take it easy and allow my body to heal, and there’s not much I’ve been able to do except shuffle between bed and sofa, reading and watching TV. And the shows* that I’m getting strangely addicted to are ‘Homes Under the Hammer‘ (where the presenters view properties under auction and then follow up with who bought them to discover what work they have done to them), ‘Wanted Down Under‘ where British families with a desire to live in Australia are taken there for a week to show exactly what sort of lifestyle they could afford, including viewing several properties, and- curiously for someone who doesn’t cook – ‘Come Dine With Me‘ where several strangers with nothing in common except the town they live in host dinner parties and then rate each other on their food and hosting skills, with the winner getting a cash reward.

I have worked out what all these shows have in common is that the viewer gets to nose about in other people’s houses. Maybe this is the writer in me, but I do like seeing how other people live. And what gets me every time about this is the remarkable lack of clutter.

Now, admittedly, people who know they will have TV crews in their homes probably make a special effort to tidy up. And most of the properties bought on ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ are bought by people with an idea to rent them out, so the decoration is neutral and spartan, but sometimes when the TV crew go back to revisith the property there is already a tenant living there, or the person who bought it has turned it into their own home and moved in. But even so, I am getting the impression that other people live with far less clutter in their lives than I do. I am a hoarder. I always have been. Much to the disgruntlement of my mother, who tried her best to make me tidy up after myself. But when I was young there was always something far more interesting to do than tidy my room, and it was usually reading a book or writing a story.

My husband is just as bad. When we bought our first place together, in 1991, it was a small one-bedroom apartment because that’s all we could afford at the time. We were both young, and neither of had much in way of possessions at that point, except we both had a lot of books and we filled one wall of the living room with shelves so we’ d have somewhere to put them. We also made a point of getting a place with an attic, and since then the stuff stored there has gone from attic to attic, somehow accumulating along the way.

Twenty-seven years later we are in a four-bedroom house and the amount of stuff we’ve managed to accumulate in that time is startling. In spite of us both using Kindles on a daily basis we still have more books than we know what to do with, and we have a huge collection of DVDs, CDs and vinyl (which, strangely, is becoming popular again). We have piles of games for both the PS3 and the PS4. We have a lot of PC games, some of which are so old they won’t run on modern PCs. We also have games for the PS2 and the Wii, and we haven’t used either machine in ages. My husband builds model kits and collects guitars. I have, over the years, collected dolls and stuff toys, and a vast array of Star Wars and Buffy merchandising. And notebooks. I love notebooks. Some of them are used, but I acquire them faster than I use them.

And before anyone says there are places that you can sell your old CDs, DVDs and books to, I freely admit that I don’t like getting rid of stuff. Apparently this also includes junk mail. There are piles of papers in the house containing a mix of junk and stuff we need to hold on to, but we rarely get around to going through it.

Watching TV, it’s easy to think that I am messier than most ‘normal’ people. But when I visit friends’ houses, I think this is probably not the case. Most of my friends are also into books and films, and they have similarly vast collections. But mostly they are a bit better than tidying up than me.

This is the way we live and I am happy with it. Occasionally I wonder, though, what’s going to happen when Hubby and I eventually shuffle off this mortal coil. We don’t have kids, and the only nieces and nephews we’ve got live in Canada, so I don’t know who’s going to get the considerable task of having to clear out our house when we’ve gone. But since I’ll be dead, I don’t suppose I’ll care.

So this is a question I’d like to put out there. Are you a tidy sort of person, or surrounded by clutter? Do you prefer your surroundings to be minimalist, or are you happy to be in a home full of stuff? I’d love to know if I’m in the minority or the majority in living in clutter.

*There may well be US versions of these shows, but I have included links with more information about the programmes for non-UK viewers just in case the titles mean nothing to you.

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