Being Neat

Being Neat

I have been having a good clear out – although I have to confess that one corner of my bedroom is still a mess of old clothes waiting to be bundled up and taken to the charity shop.

Oh, well, at least they are no longer malingering at the back of an already crowded wardrobe. While I was foraging, (literally, so dense was the undergrowth) I discovered items of clothing that I forgotten I had even bought – which perhaps reveals what an extravagant slattern I am.

My grandmother was meticulous in packing up her summer clothes (in boxes lined with acid tissue and moth balls to protect them) and hanging her winter wardrobe in place. She was very far from rich, so it was not exactly Dior couture, but she treasured her possessions in a way our generation never has. She would have been horrified that her granddaughter is so careless she has clothes she has forgotten she even possesses. My grandmother was a talented seamstress – she even made her own hats – so perhaps that long process of creation creates an intimacy that can never be achieved by handing over a few quid at Primark.

She also had a vanity case neatly stacked with powders and rouge. As a child I was allowed to play with it, and thought a vanity case was unbelievably glamorously. I still do but that doesn’t stop me chucking my makeup in a drawer crammed with dried up old mascaras and violet eye shadow (what was I thinking??) and orange blushers which I obviously bought in a fit of madness.
I think of my grandmother with great fondness; an affection sometimes hampered by guilt as I realise how ungrateful I am to treat my possessions with such lack of care. It is partly that which drives me to sort out my stuff. That, and a fear of feeling so overwhelmed that I don’t know where to start, so I don’t start at all. If my surroundings are a mess then so is my mind. I must have calm if I am to function at all, so, periodically I have a good tidy-up. When I clear up my house, I clear my head.

It doesn’t take expensive therapy to make the connection that chaotic surroundings create a chaotic mind, or even worse, make us feel that our lives are out of control. Where there is space, there is light, and it is extraordinary how much lighter – and freer – we feel once we have put our surroundings in order. Once I get started, I admit that I am pretty ruthless. My mantra is, “Do I love it?” And I mean love, not some vague affection. If we are not passionate about each other then we must go our separate ways, one of which is straight to the charity shop.

I am by no means a neat freak although I am quite tidy – perhaps the result of a rigorous training from my childhood, much of which was spent at boarding school. Our beds must be made every morning and we had to stand by them until they were inspected and found pleasing. If they weren’t, there wasn’t a chance of escaping the dormitory and racing down to breakfast. So we learnt pretty fast, even as small children, that you were either tidy or hungry.

I still find it impossible to leave my bedroom without making my bed. My daughter thinks it’s hilarious. “Who’s going to mind, mum?” Well, me, but as her mind is as clear as a bell, she is perfectly capable of living in chaos without apparently noticing. Her clothes are scattered so far and wide across her bedroom floor that I have absolutely no idea how she manages to get dressed in the morning, and emerge looking as fresh as a daisy. I’d be wearing everything back to front, looking like the proverbial hedge.

We have a rule, of course, that none of her mess is allowed to extend, even by an inch, beyond her bedroom door. It’s her room so she can do what she likes but the rest of the house stays tidy. She is very good about this, perhaps because she knows that chaos turns me into a madwoman and she wouldn’t enjoy the sight of her mother bouncing off walls. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

So here I am, me and my wardrobe, which I have to say is looking very spritely, an orderly line up of jackets, trousers, dresses and tops. It probably won’t last for long but, however temporarily, my grandmother would be proud of me. And I get to wear those forgotten items of clothing, which are really rather nice.


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