Wood collection

“Crash!” (pause) “Uh-oh.”

The Small Boy had caused some kind of collapse of furniture just along the hall.  It occurred to me mid-leap that the pause had at least been followed by speech rather than plaintive wailing, so with a bit of luck he had either dodged the falling masonry or the sound was worse than the reality.

The child brandished a triangular shard of MDF at me and grinned.  It was one of the larger bits of Him Indoors’ wood collection.  He’s a pretty handy DIY-er, but offcuts are never discarded, they are stored away with the other wood on the basis that they are useful.

Despite the extensive and allegedly ‘useful’ collection, a new project requires new wood, which is measured and ceremoniously purchased from B&Q.  “What about the wood collection?” I ask hopefully.  “We don’t have the right wood.”  When the job is finished, several hundred offcuts are carefully stacked away with the rest.  Due to the (still) impending loft conversion, this treasure trove was taking up temporary residence in our hallway and was a great new play-thing for The Small Boy.

I have consulted with a number of friends and colleagues on this and it seems the wood collection is a universal chattel of the modern male.  Often it doesn’t reside in the loft, but behind the dining room door (where it renders said door unopenable.)  Sometimes it takes up residence under a bed, the baby’s cot or a disused cupboard.

Then one day, out of the blue, the unimaginable happened.  The wood collection was loaded into the back of the car and taken to the tip!  Hallelujah!  I could be seen doing a small victory lap around the flat as the car disappeared over the horizon.

Sadly my joy was short-lived.  Not three days later I discovered a small selection of important off-cuts in the shed.  I returned to the house to remonstrate with Him Indoors, only to find him briskly stacking a pile of collapsed boxes and bits of cardboard down the side of a bookcase.  “What are those?” I asked, trying not to assume the worst.  “These,” he explained proudly, “are useful bits of cardboard.”


I was reading the other day that a classic time for decluttering is when a new baby comes along.  Firstly just to make space for all the stuff for the new arrival, clothes, toys, giraffe-shaped teethers etc… but it’s probably also a desperate attempt to gain some control.  The decluttering process gives parents some reassurance that they are not spiralling irretrievably into chaos.

Well, The Boy‘s arrival has prompted a large decluttering spree, and I’ve found it very liberating.  It all has to do with removing the stuff that doesn’t matter, to reveal the stuff that does.

As the brilliant Erin at Unclutterer, and the equally brilliant Leo at Zen Habits have revealed, the first thing to do is to decide what’s important.  You then work at reducing the amount of time you spend doing other stuff, to give you more time for this important stuff.

Decluttering can involve removing physical things you don’t need, commitments which take up too much time, even people who don’t add anything of value to your life (controversial.)  I’ve written about de-friending on Facebook before, well this is a step even further into the anti-social void.  De-friending in real life!

The point is, reduce the amount of time you spend doing pointless stuff, increase the amount of time you spend doing things which make you happy.  Gardening, playing with your kids, writing letters in green pen to the Daily Mail, whatever floats your boat.

I have found that decluttering can be felt, physically, as the burden of stuff floats away.  Prune your emails until only the things still to do are in your inbox, unsubscribe to all those stupid sales, spam and automatic emails you get, take a load of clothes you never wear to the charity shop.  The weight of things clamoring for attention is reduced, and the important things can be brought into focus.

In my flat, I’ve got rid of a raft of things I never used anyway.  It is amazing how much clutter can accumulate in a flat when you’ve lived in it for a few years.  Stuff I hardly even see, let alone use.  Well it’s all been mercilessly freecycled, recycled, or charity shopped.  I haven’t missed a stick of it.

Finally, I have done my best to curb my ludicrous obsession with signing up for things.  I used to be forever saying I would join in with this group, or that group, or help set up a thing for a thing, or write something for some newsletter, etc… etc… it just went on and on.  If I had any spare time, I’d look for ways to fill it!  Then I’d wonder why I never had any spare time.  This process of just remembering to say ‘no’ has probably been the most useful in terms of slowing down.

Leo at Zen Habits even suggests getting rid of all tasks and goals, and just floating about doing whatever you feel like doing at the time (when activities are not entirely dictated by the needs of The Boy).

Yesterday, I made an attempt to float.  Made some bread, put the finishing touches to the tiniest water butt in Europe, watered my lettuce seedlings.  It was a lovely day.  Obviously being on maternity leave helps a lot with this, not so easy to do when I get back to work, but we’ll see how we go.