Thursday, 18 February 2010

Of butter dishes and daleks

On days when I'm in a particularly dark mood, nothing lightens my spirits more than the thought of selling some of my husband's possessions. Were I suicidal, I am quite sure that K agreeing to divest himself of all his belongings would resurrect in me the will to live.

I feel I can write with honesty on this subject, given my strong suspicion that the feeling is reciprocal. Only last week I bought a Cath Kidston butter dish to replace one the Impster had broken. K looked offended at its appearance and muttered something about hoping she might break this one too.

It is common house-sharing etiquette not to clutter communal living spaces with your belongings. Dirty tea cups, empty yoghurt pots, discarded coats, stinking shoes, a dubious taste in poster art...all these would induce siege warfare among friends living together. When you are married though, it seems that totally different rules apply. Somehow there is a sense that because you are living with a loved one, it is basically the same as just living with yourself. Or possibly, that all your beloved possessions are simply an extension of yourself to be at least tolerated if not embraced and admired by your other half.

Now, I'm not overlooking the virtues of K's hoarding. For a start, being a cluttery kind of person suggests to me a certain rootedness which might increase the chances of fidelity. I figure this on the basis of there being too much stuff for him to move, too much attachment for him ever to leave it, and the impossibility of any other woman in the world being willing to take it on.

But next week we move house (with the seven week old littlie), so at the moment I'm frantically trying to declutter, or at least impose some order on the stuff we've managed to accumulate. We've long had a house rule that it doesn't matter what stuff K has, as long as I can't see it. Otherwise I get such a vicious attack of claustrophobia that I struggle to breathe and begin to hallucinate that the walls are marching inwards towards me.

That's why when we moved into our present house, I insisted upon him having a room of his own. This has served remarkably well as a great invisibility cloak, hiding vast quantities of consoles, games, Dr Who merchandise, DVD box sets, amps, subwoofers, and home cinema kit.

But now we have the children - and are no longer just two tall children ourselves - Virgina Woolf's entreaty to have 'a room of one's own,' of which I had been an ardent supporter, now seems too antisocial and exclusive. Suddenly I find myself fixated on the importance of NOT having a room of one's own, and preaching the virtues and necessity of integrating our possessions in a caring and sharing kind of way. Perhaps the time has finally come to admit that we do actually live together.

This could easily prove to be the kind of ghastly mistake which leads to a state of perpetual snipping and sniping. Every time the postman delivers another CD, DVD or magazine, and I threaten to instigate a 'one in one out' policy, I'm reminded of the infamous 'soup line' imposed by a friend's mother in her perpetual battle against her husband's incorrigible stockpiling of tinned soup.

I dare say that moving house could result in the tragic loss of a remote controlled dalek, the breakage of an overly twee butter dish, and the eventual (much longed-for) demise of the Impster's 'Noisy Noisy Fairies' book. If in this brave new world of sharing we are still all speaking to each other in a few weeks I shall report back with jubilant satisfaction.


  1. No doubt when the 'one in one out' policy begins for CDs, DVDs and magazines, it will commence with Books as well...?

  2. Tcha, books don't count because they have no plastic! They are far more environmentally friendly - when I die, someone can just recycle the lot. I measured them last night and worked out that I need 20 meters of new shelving (that's excluding the three shelves of cookery books which live in the kitchen). To be fair, I am resolved to use the library more often. And I'm being very charitable at present - lots of K's books have already gone to Cancer Relief. xx

  3. I *love* going to the library - been a member since before I started primary school - nothing gives me more pleasure than coming home with a stack of books that I haven't had to pay for ;-)

    Except maybe getting them back to the library without having to pay an exorbitant late fees fine.

    Good luck with the house move!