One of the things about living in a vicarage (or a rectory, as I keep being reminded we do now) is that your house is never completely your own. A very smart woman told me a very long time ago, when I was a new and naive clergy spouse, that it is beneficial to make sure that there is at least one room in the house that is tidy enough for visitors at any time, as you never know when someone will stop by.
The intervening years have demonstrated that she was absolutely right, and that the destitute and the Bishop are equally likely to drop by with no warning. These years have also demonstrated that, as a family, we are quite frankly useless at keeping any rooms in the house tidy. Instead, we have learned to practice Messy Hospitality. Anyone who stops by is welcomed in. We always have tea, and we sometimes have biscuits. We usually have gin and a listening ear. And we have piles of paperwork all over the surfaces, and toys all over the floor. This is our home, and it’s chaotic, and if you come in you need to accept that. To me, it’s an important way of saying that mess and chaos don’t need to be left at the door: we’re all pretty messy on the inside, and our houses (and our Facebook feeds) shouldn’t try to disguise that.
So messy hospitality is important to me. A perfectly tidy home does not feel like my home at all. Having said that, staying one step ahead of the mayhem does help me maintain calm in the midst of chaos. My downstairs usually reflects that (unless, of course, it’s a school holiday. Or Ofsted are in my college. Or one of the children is ill. Or, let’s face it, Netflix have just come out with another slightly addictive boxset.) My upstairs, however, is another matter. My bedroom, in particular, is the dumping ground for the rest of the house; all the other rooms become play dens or sleepover venues at some point, but that one is sacrosanct. It is therefore, inevitably, always the last to be tidied. It has piles of goodness knows what in every corner, some of which have been there since we moved in, and all of which are being added to daily, with clutter drifting on top of clutter. In fact, maybe that is where The Paleontologist gets her fascination with digging through layers of dross to find dinosaur treasures?
The problem, for me, with this level of clutter is that it stops my home feeling comfortable, and makes it an extension of the stresses and havoc of everyday life. When every surface has things that haven’t quite been put away, and you have to move 5 things before you can put down your morning cup of coffee, the time has come to take action. Which brings me on to the next part of my #Challenge2019: Challenge February. This month, I want to declutter 10 things every day from my bedroom. This is based on the idea that doing a little every day is more sustainable than big clear outs, and still sees solid results. It’s a principle I first came across on Facebook, created by Less Stuff. They are excellent at actually taking things out of the house and finding new purposes for old objects. In contrast, I’m afraid that when I talk about decluttering I mostly mean actually putting the recycling into the blue bin and putting away all my clothes. I’ve even doubled the amount to do each day in the hope that one month will be enough to see a real difference (yes, it is that bad). Still, the intention is there. Every day, I want to find homes for ten things that are out of place, so that by the end of the month, my bedroom is closer to an oasis of calm than the aftermath of a very localised tornado. You never know: if I get into the habit enough, I may be able to work the same magic on the study as well…