Catharsis… or clearing the decks

Catharsis is defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the process of releasing pent-up emotions’, but recently I have been thinking of the medical definition of ‘purging’. So, domestic catharsis is taking place…

As I’ve mentioned before, here chez Snail we are hoarders. It sometimes seems that nothing gets thrown out because anything might turn out to be useful. There is always the worry that, should we dispose of any item, as soon as it is gone we will need it. However, over the past few weeks I have been trying to have a clear-out.

I don't think it even fits me anymore!

I don’t think it even fits me anymore!

Rather than throwing things away, I have decided that selling is good. It’s not the time of year for car boot sales, but it does seem to be the ideal time to sell things that other people might consider would make good seasonal presents (whether for the solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yalda… whatever). So, with this in mind, I have launched myself into e-bay selling. I have raided the loft and found never-opened jigsaw puzzles; I have delved into the coat cupboard and emerged with motorcycle gear (we haven’t had a motorbike for about 8 years now); I’ve unearthed hardly-worn shoes from the bottom of my wardrobe and hardly-worn clothes from the hangers. The satisfaction of selling such items is two-fold: we make a little money from them and they go to someone who actually wants them, rather than accumulating dust here or ending up in landfill.

Currently I’m only scratching the surface, but I have good intentions to be persistent, so that slowly I will make a dent in the ‘stuff’. Now I just have to hope that I don’t suddenly unearth a motorcycle and need that leather jacket and gloves again!

The pecking order

The Snail-of-happiness flock now comprises four hens: the oldies – Lorna and Esme; and the newbies – Perdy and Aliss. Our original idea was to separate them during the day, with newbies in the run and oldies free to roam the garden as usual. Then to put them all together at night when everyone was sleepy.

This worked fine on the first day in the sunshine. However, since then winter seems to have arrived and free access to the garden was inappropriate as there was so much standing water. Also, all of them needed to be indoors quite early because the rain was so heavy the water was soaking them to the skin (very unusual, they usually only get superficially wet). Unfortunately when they were placed together in the hen-house there was an unseemly scuffle! Newbies ended up sleeping in the shed.

To alleviate some of the stress we decided to construct a new house using assorted stuff from around the house. We now have a second hen-house made of a large dog crate and some heavy-duty plastic carpet protector, held together with cable ties and with a perch made from a piece of old skirting board. You see, I knew being a squirrel would come in useful eventually.

The new residence in situ

This, currently is Aliss and Perdy’s house, although the picture shows it with Lorna and Esme just after we put it in position. Eventually it will be home to all of them as it’s bigger than the original hen-house, unlikely to support the dreaded red mites and will not rot. Also, because it’s a dog crate, it will be completely fox-proof. It’s currently sitting on a pallet, but we will raise it higher to provide additional shelter underneath.

So, for the time being, the pairs are being kept separate, although able to interact through the mesh. When we do put them together Esme is determined to show the new ones that she is boss. Everyone we know who keeps chickens seems to have different advice on what to do:

  • just put them together and let them sort it out
  • keep them apart during the day, but visible to each other and make them sleep together
  • keep them apart but visible to each other for several days, then put them together
  • isolate Esme for 24 hours but put the others together and when she is returned to the flock she will behave better towards all of them…

I guess that eventually we’ll just have to let them sort it out amongst themselves, but for the time being they are separated by mesh and sleeping separately. I have been advised that if we had a cockerel, he’d probably help to keep the peace, which might be true with respect to the hens but not, I suspect, with our human neighbours. However, the interactions are fascinating and despite all the disturbance the new arrivals have caused the oldies are still laying… so we had boiled eggs for lunch and I’ve made cup cakes. Oh yes, eggs, that’s why we have them, not entertainment!

STUFF and nonesense

As the summer comes, it’s so much more tempting to be outdoors than inside, but we are currently working on a project that requires spending quite a lot of time in the house… changing the use of some of our living space. I started working in the living room when I was here on my own because it didn’t cause any disturbance and it saved me heating more than one room. Now Mr Snail-of-happiness is at home all the time, it seems silly for me to work there, for us to have a shared office (that I don’t work in because I want solitude) and for him to have a separate workshop/studio. So, the decision is that I will have a small room to work in, the living room will no longer host any work and he will have the big room to do what he likes in, but where the main computer will remain.

All this means that lots of ‘STUFF’ needs to be moved around… and once you start moving STUFF’ you realise how much of it you’ve got. My assessment is that I definitely have too much STUFF. OK, I’ve had lots of years to accumulate it, but I do seem incredibly reluctant to throw it away. I can understand this if something has the potential to be useful, but why oh why had I kept my annual job evaluation sheets from when I was a civil servant over 10 years ago? What was I thinking? Did I envisage a time when I would be applying for another job and someone would say ‘Well, yes we like your cv and your gazillion qualifications plus the glowing references, but could you provide documentary evidence of the courses that your boss suggested you might like to go on in 2001?’ Somehow I have a feeling it’s never going to happen. And so, the old job evaluation sheets are destined for the compost heap.

But it’s not just paperwork I collect… I have also had to dispose of a huge number of padded envelopes. I don’t mean a couple of dozen, I mean several hundred of the things. They were on the top shelf of a large cupboard. Even as I was throwing them away I kept wondering whether I might , some day, regret this rash decision. But I am being strict with myself… drawers are being emptied and the contents evaluated. Supposedly I’m only keeping things that I need. Even with this approach I’ve still got loads of STUFF.

Perhaps my biggest downfall is books… I love them and find them very difficult to part with. Slowly I am weaning myself off buying paperbacks – a Kindle has helped and downloading audiobooks (great way to access books when you’ve spent your whole day editing and the last thing you want to do in the evening is read) – but non fiction books still find their way into the house in abundance. This means that I am in the process of transferring hundreds of books from the shelves in one room to the shelves in a different room. Look on the bright side, though… it’s great exercise.

I’m not sure whether it is good or bad, but Mr S-o-h is also a squirrel (favourite items to collect: electronic equipment). I guess we couldn’t live with each other if one of us was a hoarder and one a minimalist, but our collective collecting has resulted in a house full of STUFF.

So, the time has come to provide myself with a less cluttered space in which to work and I’m hoping that this will encourage my creativity. It will still be like working in a library and I will still have loads of teaching materials to find a home for, but perhaps if I can start with a tidier room I will have a tidier mind and be less likely to commence the collection of extraneous STUFF again… maybe…

… now where did I put that bin bag full of bubble wrap…?

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