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A Slattern’s Diary #3

It’s moving day for self confessed slattern Margaret Cabourn-Smith and she’s swinging between bouts of shame and sentimentality as she transfers the mess into her new home.

Slattern by Joanna Neary

So we’ve moved. For the type of slattern I am – a self-loathing one – this offers the ultimate in shame and stress. All those dusty secrets being exposed to the removal people.

I reckon all house moves should come with at least six months notice in which to declutter, rationalise and put a ban on all incoming purchases, including food.

In the end, we had one week – which was spent in a haze of admin and tears, punctuated by the occasional fit of blindly chucking bags of unidentified cables and half bottles of congealed toiletries out of a window.

Sentimentality is a huge barrier to good decluttering, and I speak as someone who can cry tears of nostalgia during a tax return.

How can such a soft someone be expected to reject the accumulated detritus of 13 years in my flat? During my residency there, I met my boyfriend, he moved in, we had a child and got married. Frankly, the new owners are just lucky I didn’t try to suck the air out of it and take it with me.

William Morris famously said: “You should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”, but sentimentality and nostalgia clouds all that.

What if you used to consider something beautiful? What if you worry something might become useful. And what about those admittedly insane objects you can’t stand but fall into both categories according to the lunatics you live with?

I daydream of living in the hotel we stayed in during our honeymoon – stuffed with beautiful, idiosyncratic ornaments and nothing of use except an enormous Victorian bathtub and a ludicrously decadent four poster bed. A proper holiday from my normal life.

Sentimentality is a huge barrier to good decluttering, and I speak as someone who can cry tears of nostalgia during a tax return.

On the day of the move itself my embarrassment reached new heights. The question “where does this go?” became agonising as increasingly baffling boxes of stuff were unloaded and unpacked.
The shelves started to look like a nightmarish Generation Game conveyor belt of memories and mistakes.
A particular low point came when we realised they’d literally brought a bin-bag full of rubbish – that’s proper in-the-bin rubbish – I hadn’t managed to discard at the other end.
I ended up hiding and whispering to my husband to make the packers leave.
But before they did, their foreman thanked me “for my attitude”.
It seems as messy and chaotic as we were, what he will remember is that we were also friendly and accommodating, and I can imagine a lot of their customers aren’t.

It made me smile and let myself off the hook. A bit.

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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.