Roisin Ingle


on . . . decluttering

The annual decluttering of the roofspace is taking place. Roofspace is Northern Irish for attic. We all call it that now and even the children are aware that every January Daddy’s head disappears up there for hours and the hallway below becomes a health and safety officer’s worst nightmare.

It’s the most random purge. Broken toys. His teenage snooker tournament awards. My back copies of O magazine. A hoover nozzle. A mysterious gladiator sandal. The thing is, I’ve never worn a gladiator sandal. He throws it down to me and I look hard at it for a few minutes as if through prolonged staring its back story will become apparent. Nope. Nothing. A complete footwear enigma.

Then there are all those curiously labelled black sacks. “To keep for later,” one says. The contents of this package are revealed as four battered Bags for Life and a pastel pillow case. You know. “For later.”

“You’ve been using the roofspace as a skip again haven’t you?” I glower, sifting through the contents of our elevated white elephant stall. His head is up in the roofspace so he can’t see the glower and I can’t quite hear his reply. He is too ashamed to reply, I imagine. He’s just handed me down a plastic bag of half empty shampoo and conditioner bottles.

“It’s not a skip it’s a roofspace,” I continue. “It’s not even a roofspace it’s an attic in my language but whatever it is it’s not a bin or a skip or a dump in the sky.”

The children are asleep in bed and hopefully can’t hear the clump, clump sound of me throwing things down the stairs. This is me sorting everything out. He keeps his head in the roofspace and I do the sorting. I shout “bin!” or “charity shop!” or “family!” Every so often I come across something that I can’t bear to part with and I have a little moment on the stairs to myself. Like the tiny Beatles babygros they were given when they were just born. Or the one-eyed doll they don’t care about any more since “Alexander” and “Cordelia” and “Joseph” and “Joseph’s brother” and “Cordelia’s sister” became their special dollies.

Cordelia is named after our friend’s cat. The lovely animal died the other day so I broke the news to the girls. “But OUR Cordelia isn’t dead,” one of them said, throwing the doll in the air in what I think was meant as a life-affirming gesture.

It’s oddly urgent in me, this need to get rid of stuff. I am the opposite of a hoarder. We filled about 10 bags for the charity shop and nearly as many of gear to pass on to siblings with children smaller than ours. And I feel lighter now. Especially since I went at my wardrobe which is bursting at the seams with clothes I don’t wear or that don’t fit me but from which I can’t bear to be parted. I’ve a pair of carefully folded, years old, utterly unworn 501s. It is a life goal of mine to fit into them. As an ambition it’s up there with winning a Pulitzer and being an extra on Fair City. One day I will wear them. Possibly while collecting my award or pretending to drink a pint in McCoy’s.

I get rid of the family for a day and night so I can tackle the clothes Everest alone. Of course I enlist my mother as a helper to stave away the boredom of solitary sorting. (It’s a co-dependent thing.) We sit in the kitchen amid a sea of clothes and we sort for hours. The 501s are sealed away for future use in a vacuum bag with a label that says “some day”.

Occasionally, she sees an item of clothing she fancies and snaffles it away in her bag. She says it’s the least I can do after exposing her accidental nightie wearing on Christmas day in a previous column. She gets a fine haul.

When she leaves I go upstairs and marvel at my empty drawers and increased hanging space. A night without children stretches in front of me and I think I will put on red lipstick and drink cocktails in that new place and get into all kinds of trouble. But instead I climb into a pair of pyjamas and declutter the sideboard which has been taunting me for months.

I’m nearly done. Just a few more cupboards to go. One day my entire house will be clutter free and I will wear those jeans and maybe set up a consultancy service showing others the life-changing virtues of chucking stuff out.

Until then, if anyone who knows me is missing a gladiator sandal do please get in touch.

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