There’s an armchair that I’ve always loved. As a kid, it used to sit in the sitting room, and I would hide behind it, playing with my dolls or horses. I sat in the same chair a few years later, when my nieces and nephews were born, telling them all various (a lot of the time, edited) fairy tales. Later still, when my grandmother was living with us I completely lost control of the remote control, I would curl up in it in my parents’ bedroom, watching their TV instead. Eventually it made its way into my room and it was my uncle who used to sit in it, stealing a few moments of peace and quiet before he went home. With no one to fill it after he passed away, I wanted it gone.
For some inexplicable reason, this October I had an unyielding urge to bring it back. I decided that I wanted to put it directly by my window, beneath the ceiling light. That way there would not only be adequate lighting no matter what time of day that I could read by, but it also would have a brilliant view of my iMac so I could log into Netflix, sit back and relax! But, to put it there, I would have to rearrange that side of my room.
Bring on the domino effect.
Cleaning out one part of my room forced me to clean out another part, which led to clearing out the other part, and that part over there that I had missed and then this part over here too. Chick flick after chick flick played on my screen (Hello, Matthew Goode and Amy Adams!) and every cupboard, drawer, box and leaver arch file was cleaned and organised. I have a mini clear out at least once a year, but all of a sudden I was throwing out things I had held onto for ‘sentimental reasons’ or ‘in case I need them in the future’. Things that I’d kept for three years, eight years, fifteen years.
That weekend, my Mum had also gifted me a wooden suitcase her father had made. I’ve never met my maternal grandfather – he died long before my sisters and I were born, before my parents even met – but having his suitcase made me feel loved. It’s a feeling I can’t entirely explain, but it led me to making another decision. The decision to turn his suitcase into a memories box. I suddenly started thinking about everything I was keeping in a different light: If I open this suitcase and see this particular item, will it bring me joy? Whatever I answered ‘no’ to, went in a charity pile or the bin. Whatever I said yes to – a sash from my 21stbirthday, the drawings my nieces and nephews have done for me over the years, postcards and letters from family and friends, theatre tickets, autographs – all went in, to be locked away until the time I needed them to pick me up again.
This sudden urge to bring order to chaos wasn’t limited to my physical space. I cleared my inbox, my hard drives, updated all my technology and even deleted things I no longer needed from my phone! There was a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the weekend, but there was also a lot more to it. With every item I threw out, I felt a slice of negativity vanishing. I also felt the stress and guilt lifting off me slightly. I could open the door to my wardrobe, or pull open a drawer, and everything would be in order. I was prepared for the next day and the one after that and the one after that. Organising my space and my technology made my brain, too, feel more organised.
Now, I don’t want you to think I’ve started living a minimalist life all of a sudden. Far from it! I still have piles of books all over my room (a lot of which are almost the size of my shortest friend), I still have candles on every surface and pieces of paper flying about with notes for my manuscript. But everything has its place.
Even my productivity has gone up! Every day since the clear out, I’ve finished work on time, had time to journal and spend with my family, and I can end every day curling up with a good book.
And all thanks to an old, slightly tattered, green armchair.