Monday, 26 October 2009

Embracing chaos

I am looking for my bank card. It could be absolutely, quite literally, anywhere. Sometimes it falls out of the back pocket of my jeans and into the loo. Several times it has fallen out of my handbag and been handed back to me by shocked passers by. I paid for a flight with it this week, so it might well be somewhere near the computer. But I also remember emptying my bag in the kitchen this week for some reason long forgotten so it could be in there. If it's in the kitchen I'm totally fucked. I actually shudder thinking about it. The dog might have eaten it. It might be at work. I might have thrown it away in a rare fit of tidying on Sunday. Hell.

I try to search through piles of precariously balanced papers without dislodging them. It's like playing Jenga with bills. As I am searching, I am imagining an interview with myself some years hence, in which I describe this moment as the key turning point in my life.

"And I said to myself, Oprah, as I looked in the cutlery basket in the dishwasher, and in the dirty washing basket and the freezer, This Must Stop. And that was when I decided to declutter my life. Now I look back at the person I was then and I just don't recognise her. I mean, who can live like that? "

Oprah and I both shake our heads in disbelief.

My fantasy continues with me showing Oprah round my serene, gracious home, where there is place for everything and everything has its place. It is a warm, light white space with the kind of hidden storage favoured by the kind of couples featured in Architectural Digest. There are no moths, no precarious piles of vital paper, no salmon painted woodwork.

A child wanders across my field of vision, interrupting my reverie. It picks up a length of Portugese decorative ribbon and a plastic dragon from the middle of the kitchen table , then drops them in the middle of the floor when distracted by the tv. Nearby, the weepette sleeps in the debris from a bag of chocolate pumpkins it managed to locate by some act of doggy alchemy, in a cupboard while I was at work. It is also nursing a single shoe tenderly between its front paws. I think back to how I went into MaxMara earlier today to fondle coats. My dirty broken fingernails kept snagging in the cashmere yarn until I had to slink out in shame, the disapproving gaze of several salesharpies burning into my scalp.

Pushing a handful of Pokemon cards and a squashed jelly baby out of the way to sit down, I realise I don't think this is a turning point at all. And I don't even care much. I reason that losing the card at least prevents internet profligacy. I wonder if Oprah would be interested in a self-help regime based around that.


Margarita @ said...

Totally know where you're coming from. I found a fork in my daughters desk drawer today. And my tv remote is constantly found on top of the washing machine. Why?

I also dream of minimalist serenity. But you have to be stinking rich to afford chic hidden storage.

mothership said...

I dream of a jewel-like apartment with soft white carpet and nothing on the shelves except a few, dust-free books and no little wheels off things or animal hair or half-drunk mugs of something scary that is now thinking for itself. And rows of perfect shoes whose heels are not scuffed and clothes, beautifully ironed and hung up on matching hangers spaced 5cm apart.
Then I remember that I have children, and even when I didn't my life was never, ever like that.
Maybe this is what heaven is like? But I'm not going there either. WAHHHHHH!
btw. WV. twinni

fountain pen sue said...

I can't tell you how horrific the state of my dining room table is. I would take a picture, but I am supposed to be meeting you in a few weeks and you would probably judge me. It is beyond horrific. Actually, you know what? Fuck it. I am an untidy mess, but like you, I went out today and worked for 9 hours, got home, threw a chicken in the oven and went to the gym for an hour, came home and fed people and there were vegetables too. Possibly because one of my children is going to his horrible bitch of a grandmother tomorrow (there was a note in the post last week about how she was 'sure his diet has improved by now') and I told him to make sure he mentions that he had a proper meal last night when mum came from work after taking him to gym. We are good people, whether we do work outside the home or not. Our kids might not think so, but we are fucking ace. Sorry about the cash card tho, hate that.

carolinefo said...

What IS it about dogs and shoes? Have been contemplaing this question as Freddie the totally non-resident street dog eats his way through my shoe collection during his increasingly long 'visits'

Your post reminded me that I still have 2 beautiful Max Mara coats, mementoes of the long ago & almost forgotten days when I worked in the City & spent stupid amounts of money on clothes, and they are the one thing I don't regret spending money on at all. Worth every penny, and still fabulous all these years later. They hang in the wardrobe looking beautiful, and I stroke them from time to time. When you and the Artichoke Queen come to visit, I'll let you stroke them as much as you like...

Anonymous said...

I dream of perfection but then one of the teenagers comes home and it all goes to pot. My cats think handbags are for sleeping in because there are so many lying around downstairs. The remote vanished for a week then I finally found it down the back of one of the sofas. But what I really want is to know is where is the second cordless phone? The teenagers abandon them in their bedrooms, they (the phones) run out of battery and then I can't find them (if I am quick I can use the intercom). Currently I have one, but the other has been missing for a week and both deny liability - one of them is clearly lying. I have threatened to disconnect the cordless phones and replace them with the nasty old one with a cord - in the living room so no private conversations. They think I am joking - but I still have the old phone in my room ready and waiting ..... and I am really pissed off this time.

Linda said...

I think I fall a little more in love with you with each post.

WrathofDawn said...

As well she should. It's time she featured stories real people can relate to. When we can find the remote. Or the TV...

Liberty London Girl said...

I have removed SIX individual shoes, my good headphones (as opposed to the ones he's already got at) and my cashmere socks from the jaws of Finchley today. LLGxx

redfox said...

My bank card was cancelled recently because someone got hold of the number and used it to try to buy a bunch of software and tickets on Air Arabia. I am now awaiting the arrival of a new one, and it is amazing how acutely I feel the brake on my internet profligacy. So there is that, yes. I have a friend whose beautiful house is in perfect order at all times. Sometimes I want to drown her in a pond.

Sinda said...

I caught site of Oprah today, on stage at the Texas State Fair with the Dallas Cheerleaders. I think she'd much rather have been in your house, real or imagined.

Your post inspired me - go to my site to get a glimpse of my fantastic life today.

Helen Brocklebank said...

No wonder you're moving house....think of all the lovely uncluttered surfaces.
PS: you've seen the mess mine's in ... Sending you a vat of Eau d'Empathy

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

It happens to me all the time. I haven't seen my bank card for couple of months but can't face telling the bank as I have to wait so long for another and I know the number. I know it's in the house somewhere, probably amongst hundreds of hoarded magazines which I can't put in the recycling til I've "at least flicked through them".

Absolutely love your blog. It cheers up my day.

Christina xx

Margaret said...

Christina, you should call for an extra card: Tell them it went through the washing machine and dryer and got all mangled and melted. More later on the sorry state of my household.

Juli said...

I wish I could just accept the chaos, and not always feel like people are judging me when they see the mess in my house. Yeah, I've got issues. I can't find my bank card either.

Artichoke Queen said...

Please tell me you have plans to just abandon all the piles of paper when you move, so the CFO can occupy his time sorting through them (and recording them in a spreadsheet, if he so chooses) when you retire to The Salmon Palace?

Layla, I will be stroking the Max Mara 24 x 7. Preferably while Ektorping. But forewarned is forearmed: if the dog attacks my shoes, I am totally cutting off his downy peanuts (Waffle, I will give them to you if you want, I know how you feel about them).

Anonymous said...

Well, my house was cluttered and full of shoes and ribbons and even an Issey Miyake vintage coat but then I moved to Africa and now, nothing. I miss my clutter, I miss clothes shops like Joseph where I can walk in and day dream and skulk out with my Furla bag in tow. Now I am dealing with the smell of rotton cow horns. (see blog post today) What am I missing?
I trust the salmon palace, and yes that seems a fitting name, will be filled with love, sunshine ( oh, sorry, forgot it is Belgium, whoops) and happy clutter.

Welsh Girl said...

I read an article about a style guru in America. She was flicking through a book on interiors and saw a beautifully organised Utility Room and thought 'I wish mine were like that', then she realised it WAS hers. Tidied and styled for a photoshoot she hadn't recognised it. Somehow I find comfort in that.

Waffle said...

Margarita - I have often considered tying one remote control to each child, like mittens.

Mothership - I think that every time I open the fridge, or try to open a drawer..

FPS - too right Sue. Well, not me. I only work 2 days a week and I'm congenitally lazy and feeble. I have NO excuse.

Layla - I would love to stroke your coats. I think Freddie is "en train de filer un mauvais coton". Even before Kathy threatened to cut his balls off.

CA - Oh, yes, stupid cordless phones, often down the back of a chair, or in the fridge.

Linda - that is lovely of you. Are you the patron saint of lost causes? I think you might be.

WoD - That will definitely happen one day. Oprah probably has someone just to guard her remotes.

LLG - oh lord. Bassett Hound destruction. That has got to hurt.

redfox - I don't think I could be friends with someone like that because I could never invite them round for Shame. It happened once with a neighbour.

Sinda - my god, you have another dog. I am awed.

Mrs T - pff, your house was beautiful. You haven't seen mine yet.

Christina - ah, you see I thought I knew mine, and got as far as filling in all my details on Website Of Evil (NàP) before realising I didn't know the new expiry date. Dammit, evil plan foiled. Also, thank you! I love the inflatable pterodactyl on yours to distraction.

Margaret - yes please, more MORE on the state of your house.

Juli - Washing machine? Freezer? Stack of paper? No?

AQ - did you just offer me Layla's dog's balls? Is this tipping over into total anarchy?

3limes - I'm now quite relieved there are no rotting cow horns in my house, so thank you so much.

Welsh Girl - that is actually very comforting. I haven't got a clue what the house would look like tidy any more. It must have been when we moved in, but it's entirely gone.

Anonymous said...

So I step away from this blog for five minutes, only to return and see... dog ball swapping.
And I'm not even surprised.

michele said...

finally broke down and bought some new eyeglasses a few months ago. nice expensive ones! had put it off for ages as i have a hard time finding anything that suits my large pumpkin head... my vanity kept me from wearing them at anything but the one movie i've seen in months. once in awhile i would take them out at work when i found myself squinting and holding paperwork about an inch from my face... think i wore them maybe four times total.

long story short. they're gone. i have no idea where. i've looked in the usual places, they could be absolutely anywhere! every flat surface in this house is full of clutter-who knows where i might find them, if ever! i hate to buy a new pair as they were so expensive and the old new pair will resurface as soon as i've bought the replacements.

also, expensive storage furniture makes no difference! bought a beautiful "montgomery entyway table" from pottery barn a few weeks ago. looks beautiful in our entryway with all the nice labelled nooks for library books and such... the rest of the house is still a cluttered mess and i just received a recording from the central library informing me that i have 8 books overdue!

annie said...

in july I threw away all the furniture I didn't like, and now I have 1. bookshelves which I have converted to open-air storage for things such as handbags and alternate handbags and moisturizer that I need reminding to buy more of and chargers for everything I own now or have ever owned and clean socks for exercise and cups of stuff to drink or to wash or to sort through and put away and rejected makeup all jumbled in with the books that cannot be got rid of because I will just have to get them again 2. seating which the dogs and children have converted to areas for sprawling, and perhaps most humiliatingly, in the tragically large back hall, a collection of spin baskets from washing machines (yes. from broken washing machines, my own and those of friends) originally intended for planting bamboo in and now overflowing with unopened mail, homemade jam, chutney and salsa, fizzy water, cartridges for making seltzer, and a very peculiar assortment of rubber and leather things that I am assured are belts and important for appliances that I value, such as the cooler and the furnace and the sewing machine that I cannot get to because! it is behind the hoard of mattress not springs, exactly - sort of wavery frame looking things that the springs attach to, if you see what I mean - that are for tying the roses up to. which is what they have been for for years. it started as only one and now there are many and they have things hanging from them - string bags and leashes and sweaters and oh god more unopened mail woven in and scarves and y'all, oh, y'all, there are LAYERS of these things. my niece's swimsuit from summer camp when she was 7 is between them, and she is very much older than 7 now. and you know, if you do tie roses up to them, it works really well, and looks much nicer than using them as a sort of compressive storage system.

Of course, I'm much more exposed to the back hall now, because after getting rid of the furniture I also got rid of the front door and horrible narrow sinking porch, which was an excellent decision from the perspective of someone who hadn't looked around the back hall for several years. someone like me. now that I have seen the back hall I don't seem able to go forward, because that way lies the guest room and hall closet, and there's no retreat.

all the space makes the things that are compacted into areas that aren't in the space really startling for any number of reasons (ex: armadillo sewing basket? prison art toilet paper papier mache figurine of cowboy scorpion? heavy grey cashmere shawl? aspirin bottle full of cicada cases? 18th century fans under glass?), not least that they evidently belong to me.

in my dream house the one dog does not store all of it's most beloved (and therefore spittiest) toys in my bed, stashed amongst the pillows to surprise me, and the other dog has decided which side of his own personal duvet is the up side and which side is the down side and no longer wakes me up all night to have his duvet flipped (oh, oh, how I do not jest.) because maybe if my sleep wasn't interrupted by encounters with dampish squeaking aliens and demands for dog duvet flipping I would open mail and do something about the bamboo planted outside washing machine spinner baskets and therefore encroaching on us from the ditch. but perhaps not.

btw - I lose my bank card pretty much at least quarterly because of: dogs, ironing, washing machine, dishwasher (oops!), melted by sunlight when left on dashboard, accidentally fed into copy machine at university library and shredded up, put in freezer at work (no, I don't know why I did that) and when it fell out it shattered into eensy fragments, the children, and most recently "having no idea whatsoever where it is and not being willing to look for it so just please don't make that face and order me another one"

carolinefo said...

Oh, Annie that post was MAGNIFICENT.

They should put you on the plinth so you can perform it.

Inspired by this post & the comments, I have decided to start decluttering tomorrow.

BelgianWaffle is now morphing into a self-improvement blog.

Yes, really.

WV: foretine. That's sexual foreplay performed with a fork.

bevchen said...

This comment has absolutley nothing to do with your post. I just wanted you to know I saw Brigitte Keks in a real shop today. Putting it down and walking away caused me actual physical pain. Brigitte Keks, you will be mine! You just don't know it yet...

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