Monday, 31 March 2014

A Cocktail of Clutter

When the sun shines, which it doesn't seem to have done for a very long time, I notice the dust, and the dirty windows and the clutter. I am something of a hoarder, though nothing like as bad as the people you see now featured in television programmes. I can actually move around my house. I hate the clutter but have to own up that I am largely responsible for it. My parents grew up during the 1930s ( I was a late baby I'd like to point out) and times were hard. This was followed by war time rationing and austerity and I think they never really got over that. That waste not want not attitude was drummed into me. My mum and dad never had a lot, they were very frugal. The problem is that I'm a bit of a bargain hunter combined with having a bit more to spend than they did so mix in the idea that everything should be made useful, nothing should be thrown away and add to that my own green beliefs. It has led to a terrible cocktail of clutter. 

I cannot just throw stuff away, I have to try and recycle it which means piles of things waiting to go somewhere or have something done to them or be transformed in some way into something else that is useful. Now I have returned to my career (combined with still teaching a yoga class or two) means that I have less time to perform these sewing, knitting, rag rugging upcycling tricks so instead we're just left with piles of stuff sitting like disgruntled pensioners in a surgery. They sit alongside bags of things waiting to go to charity shops, to friends, to the dump. It would help if I was a decisive person, but I'm always trying to do what's best for others, and that includes the whole planet. 

What would be best for me would be to place a skip in the garden and put most of the house in it, or buy a new house and leave everything in the old one. All of this clutter gets in the way of my writing. Instead of writing up all these short story ideas, or preparing my first book for a new edition or getting on with a new project, I dither over whether or not I'll every wear this skirt again, or perhaps I could find someone to fix this lamp that hasn't worked for years. 

Getting rid of the rubbish would help me get on with my writing. I could do with that woman who used to do a tv programme where she put the contents of people's houses on their front lawn and made them deal with it. My friend's house is wonderfully clutter free, but that's because her marriage ended and she decided to leave not just the husband but everything, and start again. Bit drastic really, I think I'll just make a trip to the charity shop instead. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Gender Studies

So, here's the thing that I have been pondering, in terms of equality, are things any better for our daughters than they were for us?

Lilly Allen evidently said recently something on the lines of we don't need feminism any more because we're all equal. Clearly, to start with, this was a very Western view of what's going on in society, things are far from equal in the vast majority of the world. But let's stick to the UK and my own experience. 

When I was at university I was in several 'women's' groups, some aligned to the Left, some just about gender politics. There was a feeling then (in the early Eighties) that equality meant being like a man, there was a rejection of all things that up until then had been regarded as women's work. I remember one woman talking warmly about having inherited a sewing machine from her grandmother only for her to be rounded on by several group members who urged her to smash it up. I was a keen knitter and loved alternative fashion so I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully things have moved on and we have realised that by rejecting these skills we were denigrating our own mothers and grandmothers and falling into the trap of believing that the things that women had traditionally done were of no worth. We thought that to be equal with men we had to embrace the Protestant work ethic, wear suits, be authoritative and heartless - look at how successful Margaret Thatcher was. 

I hope we have reached a period of time where our daughters do have greater choices and greater opportunities. I hope we don't put them under pressure to get married and produce children. That certainly was a constant pressure even for my generation and it's important to resist that voice from the past that whilst praising a woman's career still sadly adds, but she still isn't married, as if this means she is still failing somehow. 

And whilst I am delighted we have all now rediscovered some of the amazing skills that our mothers may have had, sewing, cooking, recycling and being generally creative, I do despair that we still haven't shrugged off our gender stereotypes. I was prompted to write this blog because I bought a little sewing kit for my god daughter for her birthday (I normally buy books but saw this and liked it) but was appalled this morning when I saw it bore a little hint saying 'make this with mum'. So we've still got some way to go, even in the UK, until we reach a point when we either have no such message on things or a message that says 'make with this your parent.'  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

What Your Books Say About You

An article in last Saturday's Telegraph reported that property guru Sarah Beeny has issued a warning about bookshelves. It's not that they should be securely attached to the wall to prevent unsuspecting house viewers from being crushed to death under your Readers Digest collection. Instead, it seems that prospective buyers take a peek at your books and make sweeping judgements about you based on your stored reading material.

Evidently you should consider packing away the majority until the house is sold, not because they're regarded as clutter, but because some titles might put your maybe purchaser off. Self help titles, books on taxidermy and, of course, a large erotica section are the ones to put away it seems. Instead she suggests leaving out the classics like Dickens and Jane Austen or a selection of cookery or gardening books might do the trick. I would imagine it would be advisable to lock away the DIY manuals too.  

Of course I went to look at my bookshelves to see what they said about my family. I'm sorry to say my main conclusion was that they provide strong evidence towards how disorganised we are and how little I like housework. I discovered several light bulbs sitting on the edges of shelves (no idea if they work or not) and more than one abandoned duster!

In terms of books, there is a entire bookcase given over to my husbands wildlife, trees, birds and all forms of flora and fauna, collection, another filled with the RAF and aviation books I inherited from my father (alongside books from my own research into early aviation for West Over the Waves), one filled with (my) fiction favourites and books I read to the children that I'm saving for future generations.

In my bedroom is another bookcase full of yoga titles from my training as a yoga teacher 12 years ago and by my bed there is a teetering pile of books currently waiting to be read (far too many).

What's on your bookshelves? Do they accurately reflect your interests or like me, do you need to give them a good sort through?