Monday, 30 January 2012

What lies beneath...

…the TV is an interesting story of two individuals slowing merging their lives.
This weekend I continued the De-clutter campaign with the TV consul.  I am sad to report I didn’t remove much of the contents.  In fact, I just rearranged it a bit.  Missing the point a bit.  But it is easier to bear looking at, so I am counting it a success. 
I discovered we have a store of five random USB cords, some without mates.  I also found two Ethernet cords, some scart leads and random plug adapters.  These were all neatly coiled and stashed away, just-in-case.

Then there were the VHS, DVDs and CDs.  The VHS are off to the donating/recycling bin.  The CDs and DVDs were not so easy to dislodge.  The DVDs aren’t going anywhere.  I have a weakness for movies, good and bad.  The CDs we don’t use, but we are not sold on having a completely digital collection.  Pete works with computers all day and he, along with most computer-saavy persons, do not trust the things as far as they can be thrown.  I feel this way about our photos.  I love going through my family’s collection of photos and would love to have the same ability when I am older.  There is something about the tangibility of photographs that just can’t be translated when viewing images on a screen.  Despite this I yet to print out our favourites due to space.  It’s a vicious circle isn’t it?
So, the CDs and DVDs are staying.  I had hoped to stack them a bit more efficiently, but our IKEA furniture failed us.  For the first time.  Usually IKEA is on the ball with these types of things, ensuring their pieces can multi-task, but here they have failed.  The DVDs only fit lying down.  Bugger.
More interestingly, while I placed each CD and DVD back into the consul, I noticed something.  Our individual ownership over particular items is obvious.  Also obvious are the particular items that are most definitely jointly-owned.  These items seem to be increasing in number and use while the historic items get softer and softer in their literal dust jackets. 
Not so long ago this particular observation would have sparked a bit of a downward spiral.  I would have been scared I was losing myself in my relationship.  Worried I was quickly becoming one of those Smug Marrieds.  Everything becoming ‘we’ instead of ‘me.’ 
I have.  I am.  I have no shame. 
Despite my frequent lamentations here, my life is fabulous.  That’s not bragging.  I love my life, our life. 
I love it because I am part of a ‘we.’ 
Don’t get me wrong, I love my CDs.  They stir something in me.  Memories I treasure of earlier versions of me. 
I love our CDs more.  Let’s face it, they are just better.  But they are also a sign of growth. 
Thank goodness I am not the same person I was 10 years ago.  Thank goodness I can change and grow. 
I previously felt fear and despair over change and growth.  I still do, occasionally. 
However, more frequently, I am curious and perhaps a little bit excited about the person I am continually becoming. 

What lies beneath…
That’s all a little bit too heavy for an hour of de-cluttering, but every item in the house has a mental aspect.  In order to materially de-clutter I have to mentally de-clutter as well.

Friday, 27 January 2012


I’ve been writing the Chronicles for about a year now and while I am much less reluctant lately, I haven’t given up the idea of a life outside of the house. 
The initial angst related to the ‘Reluctant’ tag had to do with choice.  I wasn’t choosing the ‘Housewife’ title.  I became a housewife because I couldn’t do anything else. 
Granted, my situation wasn’t in the same league as the housewives fighting to go to college and have a career all those decades ago.  I was over-educated and over-qualified and ‘student’ became ‘housewife.’  But it wasn’t my choice and it seemed inevitable and inescapable. 
Because that’s the point of feminism, right?  The ability and right to choose your path. 
Up until the point of my induction into ‘housewife-dom’ I had taken full advantage of the feminist movement.  I eschewed almost all ‘traditionally feminine’ skills and roles and had got myself educated to the fullest extent in my chosen field. 
Then I went and got married, very traditionally and totally by choice.  But despite my declarations that I would change my name, I didn’t.
I had all intentions of following through with my name change declaration but when I ended up as a housewife it was too much to ask.  It felt too much like the universe was forcing me down a traditional road I had previously detoured. 

So why now?  What happened in the last 18 months to change my mind?

A lot. 

And not so much. 

A lot has changed in the way I think and approach my life as a Mrs.  What hasn’t changed is the bond and relationship and partnership Pete and I built over the last six years.  That isn’t entirely accurate.  Our ‘thing’ has changed, but only in so much that we are stronger than we have ever been.  It is a subtle and slow deepening of roots.  It is this ‘non-change’ that facilitated my eventual change in thought patterns and approach to life.
I’ll expand on those new thought patterns in the future. 

The ‘news’ for today is my choice to look for part-time work.  Part-time.  Because I want to continue my housewife ways but still have a personal need to contribute to society and our joint bank account.
This morning I applied for a part-time job with a very prestigious institution.  It’s a long shot but I’m more than qualified.  Here’s hoping my qualifications coupled with a lack of career ambition make me the perfect candidate.   

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

And in this corner...

The first corner of the clear-out is done.  Only fifty to go. 
It wasn’t nearly as cathartic as I hoped, but it is a start.  In fact, I had to stop myself from continuing on to the other two hording corners of the living room.  It wasn’t enough of a purge.  I let my clearing frenzy pour over into the adjacent mantle and hearth, but I stopped just short of the TV console. 
I kept telling myself, ‘no need to go whole-hog.’  Baby steps. 
 The result is a slightly cleaner visual and a box of 20 books to donate to the charity shop (2 were pulled out at the last minute).  No surprises this time around.  No floods of emotion or memory.  No delays caused by nostalgic flipping-through.  With one exception.  And I only went through 10 sneezing fits despite covering my nose and mouth with a bandana, bank-robber/cowboy style.   
I threw out two used up candles that have been ‘used-up’ for years but have stayed around because they were gifts.  No more.  They fulfilled their purpose in life and I enjoyed them but they will no longer collect dust on my hearth! 
I also finally hung some Christmas gifts (with sticky tac because we rent) which freed up a bit more visual space and makes the walls a little less depressing rental-beige. 


Next up is the TV consul (after off-loading the first box of books, of course).  I predict this will be a harder clear out.  What to do with all those CDs?  Yes, they’re downloaded onto iTunes, but what if we suddenly lose our iTunes catalogue or have to wipe it (again).  Isn’t it nice to have the back-ups? 
However, our CD collections haven’t really progressed passed our respective college years.  Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to lose the old reggae and angry girl rock of our early 20s. 

Friday, 20 January 2012


I have a skill, cultivated in the small home in which I was raised and perfected in the campervan in which I lived, to find a space for almost anything.  A few inches here and there and some artful stacking and shifting and suddenly we have room for those two stools we bought on a whim. 
It will all fit in but only in one way. 
This drives my husband a bit batty when it comes to putting away the dishes, or cooking, or doing anything really in the kitchen.  I have a ‘thing’ for kitchen utensils and gadgets.  It replaces my ‘thing’ for office supplies (change your ‘job,’ change your obsession for useless items that will make that job easier/more organized).  We have limited storage/counter space in our kitchen, yet I keep finding room for more STUFF.  However, in order to access almost anything in our kitchen you must remove at least two or three items before you can get to the item you want.  If you try a short cut, you will inevitably find yourself the victim of an avalanche of items you didn’t need.  This also results in a lot of crashing noises and not a little bit of swearing (when Pete is really annoyed he starts in with the Croatian).
Maybe this skill comes from a heightened spatial awareness. I am a professional Geographer after all.  However, I am hopeless at Tetris and that tile game where you shift the pieces around to make a picture.  I think it’s just that I like STUFF.  Wherever it originates, this skill means we have a lot of STUFF.
Doesn't look too bad, right?
Except every corner of our flat looks the same.

Our flat is crammed with STUFF.  Most of which is going nowhere.  We have come to accept and love that our home will always be a bit cramped, but cozy.  We love that almost all our possessions have a story attached.  However, we also have a lot that we just haven’t gotten around to throwing out or give away or whatever. 
If we were in the US I would be gearing up for a weekend yard sale.  Sadly, these things are not done here and we really can’t be bothered to rent a car and a pitch at a car-boot sale. 
So we clear-out and put things in bags to give away. 
And then the bags sit in the house. 

This defeats the purpose a bit. 

The bags sit because we are at times reluctant to give away perfectly good items. 
In terms of clothing I have engaged in swapping with the girls, but that usually causes me to bring home as much as I went away with, which defeats the purpose really. 
However, clothes are the least of our clutter, really.  We have a tendency to keep every box that enters our home.  This used to be in case we moved or had to send something off, but now it is just getting ridiculous.  Our entire outside storage area is a mountain of empty boxes.  We have at least three suitcases we no longer need or use, but haven’t gotten around to selling or giving away.  We have a broken iron, ancient TV and VCR, old holiday cards, rats’ nests of receipts, stacks of CD cases, tangles of unused cords of various description, dead candles, random newspaper clippings sent by relatives to entice us home… 

In my search for ease this year, I am about to embark on a mission to simplify our home a bit. 
In the past, I have cleared the clutter for parties and it makes such a difference in the energy of the room.  We still have stuff and stories.  We are still surrounded by cramped curios, but the extra bits fluttering in the corner of the eye are cleared away and the materials of our adventures together are that much clearer. 
Once the extra bits are cleared away, our home almost looks like a purposefully art directed room of cultural clutter.  You know the ones of which I speak.  Those rooms in catalogues that are impossible white and bright with towering windows and white rugs and artfully placed curios and artefacts giving just a hint of the owner’s quirky personality. 

I did say ‘almost.’ 

In fact, I don’t believe those rooms actually exist anywhere outside the few minutes in which it took to take the photo.  What you don’t see is the pile of ‘extra bits’ thrown in the bathtub or behind forcefully closed closet doors just out of frame.   As much as I ohh and ahh over those interiors (even more so now that I joined stupid Pinterest) the housewife in me always kicks in and starts tsking about how those windows will be a bitch to clean and the dusting around those artfully placed curios would be maddening and that sidetable made entirely of stacked books is great until I need the book at the bottom.  Because you know, even though you never need that book, at some point you will be desperate for it in order to prove your friend wrong about some inane reference they keep insisting on throwing into conversation, incorrectly.
Around this point someone, usually Pete, will remind me that the people to which these spaces belong probably have people to do these things for them and aren’t bothered by the dust or the ease of cleaning windows.  (Which is good timing as I was about to start in on a rant about bathrooms styled with tons of stacked magazines, towels, etc.  Do not these people have to worry about condensation and musty smells?  Probably not, as they don’t live in damp rental flats.)
Back to my personal interior mission.

It seems a mountainous task.  But I have decided to solider on.  In small steps. 
Each weekend I intend to tackle one corner of the flat.  We will go through the crap, decide what needs keeping, what needs donating and what we may try to sell on ebay or gumtree.  This will perpetuate the issue of the bits and pieces hanging around the house but, as I said, I am on a mission. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

A light goes out

Friday evening, after writing about finding ease and taking my time, I received very sad news.
A woman I have known for most of my life passed away. 
I haven’t spoken to her in years, decades.  However, I am sure she affected my personality, affected me, before I even knew people could do such a thing. 

Dec 1983

She was giving, kind and an entrepreneur.  She owned and operated a childcare centre at which I spent quite a few afternoons and summer days. 

Rock 'n Roll Day
(I know you're jealous of my boom-box)

She used to tell me I had a smile that lit up the world.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it always made me feel special.  Still does. 
I think she, herself, lit up many people’s worlds. 
The world may be a bit dimmer without her, but I think it would be dimmer still if she had never been around.  Her single light illuminated the world exponentially through the people she touched.

She always made a beautiful photo/scrap book for every child when they finally left the center for school.  These photos (which I 'borrowed' in November) from my day at the Children's Center are the best I can do from here.  I wish I had borrowed one in which I am smiling.

Much love and condolences to her family. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

In search of EASE

I have never been one for drastic change, in practice. 
That is not entirely true.  When I decide I want something done or changed, I want it done/changed NOW.  Patience is not a common quality in only children.  Or so I have been told. 
So let me restate: I am currently trying to not be one for drastic change.  
When I think on it a bit longer, I realize the opening statement may stand.  While I desire immediate drastic change, I rarely accomplish it on my own.  I am a champion procrastinator.  So much so that my name is written under ‘Procrastinate’ in the family dictionary and my slow-burn tendencies were the centrepiece of my parents’ speech at my wedding. 
This year I decided to take it to heart.  You have to work what you have. 
I have not jumped directly into my goals for this year.  In fact, I only finalized them yesterday.  I stewed over them for the last two weeks and really thought about what I wanted, what was feasibly possible and created a three-part list. 
I’m easing into this year. 
I know it sounds very boring and grown up, but let’s face it.  I am boring and grown up.  Those wild, crazy days of youth when I could move to new cities on a whim, eat take-out for dinner every night, date and kiss boys indiscriminately and stay out late with the girls are over. 
Actually, in my case they never really existed.
However, as my doctoral dissertation very clearly states and backs up with empirical and theoretical evidence, history and memory are for ‘revising.’ 
So I am easing into this new year.  In fact, EASE, has been circling my brain for a while now. 

appearance of effortless-ness, comfortable in place, simplicity, to lessen the burden, to begin slowly and mindfully, at peace, a quiet strength, a deep breath

I think this lack of EASE in my life/mind as of late created a lot of my angst about my current occupation of housewife.  To my monkey mind I went from student to Doctor to wife to housewife in a matter of weeks.  In fact, it only took about eight consecutive weeks to collect the complete set. 
But I was never just a student, or a Doctor, or a wife or a housewife.  I am all these things.  With the exception of student.  I am SO over being a student. 
Right now, I am trying to view this past year and a half as a time of healing and growth.  I needed to EASE into being a grown-up Doctor and wife.  I am feeling much more comfortable in my place. 
However, I do still have an itch for change.  Usually I would scratch this with a rearrangement of furniture.  Our tiny flat does not have the square footage for this beyond positioning the kitchen table parallel to the wall instead of perpendicular and changing out the table cloth. 
It will do for now. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

On giving and getting

Christmas came and went.  It was a low-key event in our house.  Blissfully low-key. 
Our gifts to each other were small this year, but very meaningful.  Very grown-up.  Like kitchen appliances and underwear grown-up.  And we loved it. 
The new year came in a bit sedate as well.  We bought two bottles of Champers and were ‘gifted’ another.  They are still chilling in the frigidaire.  I had grand plans to saber off the cork on our back deck in my sparkly dress or hiking up to the Observatory and watching the Southbank fireworks from the Meridian.  Instead, it pissed down rain and I succumbed to a cold.  I was in bed by 10.  DY-NO-MITE!!!
However, before the year went out with a whimper, we did get to review and we decided it was one hellava good time.  We re-did our honeymoon and wedding/anniversary photos, we fell in love with Greenwich a bit more, Pete did well at work, we got a lot healthier, we finally went to Morocco and I started volunteering at a place I love.  There were low points, but there were really high ones as well.  We are choosing to focus on the peaks.  It is from the peaks that we can see the future, our future. 
We made some goals/resolutions for the next year.  (FYI, we totally rocked last year’s resolutions!) We made big scary, exciting goals and mundane practical ones and silly fun ones. 
Most of which I am going to keep between Pete and I.  In fact, I am going to keep a lot more between just Pete and I. 
Have no fear.  I am still full of stories.  They will still be told.  However, they will be told a little less frequently but hopefully with a higher quality. 
The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife will continue.  One of my ambitions is to write a column so I am working with what I got, and with all the kitchen gadgets I received from Santa, there are definitely mishaps on the horizons.  I also changed my name this Christmas.  It took me a year and a half to come to the decision.  I’m guessing there are a few ladies out there (maybe men too) that will be interested in the process.  Of course, it isn’t ‘official’ yet, but that will also be part of the story. 
I will also be reviving Tuesday Fit Day on an occasional basis.  Maintaining my physical and mental health is one of my mundane practical resolutions (or non-goal) for the coming year.  It was a hard slog to get to this good place and it is a daily mindful practice to maintain.  The Bloggess is a champion for bringing light into those low point, those valleys, that make it impossible to see a future.  I would like to assist that endeavour and try to produce a little light. 
So it begins…