Returning to the scene of the grime

The title is a little misleading as there has been very little grime involved (though under the bed had enough dust to fashion voodoo dolls of both of us). A better title might be ‘Returning to the scene of the tightly packed boxes in the attic suite’ but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

We were back in London at our ‘forever home’ recently, but ironically the reason was to make it less ‘ours’. When we originally prepared for our relocation, as you may remember, we went for a ‘discard / ship / store’ approach. This allowed us to leave a small amount of things we love but wouldn’t be needed for a while, eg winter coats, tights, joy sparking books. It worked well as our incoming tenant was known to us and was happy to pay less rent in exchange for not having access to the top floor.

After I left for a last meet up with my family, my Lovely Wife did a great job of preparing for these tenants, basically by removing any trace of us and storing it in the attic.

Those tenants moved on due to a change in circumstances so we found ourselves needing to totally clear our beloved home.

Long story short? We had a big job to do in 3 days. New tenants through an agency would want the whole house and the attic is one of the selling points of the house. So we spent a tough, and actually pretty claustrophobic couple of days sorting and discarding and trimming down further.

I’ve learned a few things from this experience:

  1. Baby items seem to multiply if you aren’t there to supervise them. We had so many no longer needed crib sheets, bouncers, toys etc that I’d forgotten about. It’s like they mated during our absence. Luckily we have a friend whose baby is due soon so she swung by and relieved us of a lot of it.
  2. There is no shame in hiring help. Amir, courtesy of Taskrabbit, was trustworthy, polite, friendly and his capacity for moving boxes from the attic to the shed at the bottom of the garden was second only to Mihail’s (the guy who hauled the boxes from the other rooms to the attic back in March). Amir reduced our stress levels infinitely and at least halved the time taken. With a young baby taking a stealthy interest in stairs, newly un-hung paintings etc, close supervision was a must. It takes a village to raise a baby. If the village of your family and friends aren’t nearby or available, renting the village is perfectly ok.
  3. The Kondo experience isn’t going to be a clear-cut start to finish straight-line journey for everyone. Ours has been a bit ‘two steps forward, one step back’ as we confront our stored possessions under very limited time constraints. If your KonMari decluttering journey isn’t exactly as described by KonMari herself, it doesn’t equate to failure or even a lesser success. Doing the process across two homes has really brought home to me how much ‘stuff’ I classed as joy sparking, yet I’ve managed without most of that (and without even thinking about 95% of it) for 6 months. If anything, the backward and forward nature of our decluttering has allowed me to have a ‘second go’ in a very different set of circumstances.
  4. Sometimes storage will be necessary, and that’s ok. I could have taken the approach of ‘if it isn’t being used in Malta, it can be discarded’ but actually some of those items truly do spark joy. The lovely dining table that is a pleasure to sit at. Our comfortable bed that is still within warranty (alas, all talk of shipping this to our new home has been vetoed).
  5. Plan before you start. We decided to inhabit only two rooms in the house while we sorted and tidied, and this helped massively with
    1. Not accidentally storing things we needed to return to Malta with
    2. Reducing the amount and intensity of cleaning needed before our tenants move in.

We also spent time walking from room to room, identifying items from each category and planning the best way to tackle them. What would Amir do and what could we do? What furniture were we happy to leave for tenants and what could we not bear to think of being used by others? What needed doing first? Did we need boxes / dust sheets? It felt a bit extravagant using half a day like this but it definitely saved time in the long run. Hare and tortoise etc…

By the time 4am Sunday morning rolled around (thanks Ryanair…) the house stood bare, ready for photographers, agents, viewers, and eventually, tenants. Had we done this back when we relocated I would have been in tears at the thought of giving our home over to strangers, but time and the knowledge that we have created the foundations of a lovely home in Malta to return to definitely altered my perspective.

 

TL;DR?

Emptying a house is hard – emptying a home is harder. Don’t be ashamed to hire help if you can’t ask favours from your ‘village’. Marie Kondo herself is understanding that each KonMari journey will be different, and if this is the case it doesn’t make your tidying journey any less valid.

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