Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Clearing out

I have a store-room which is so artfully built into my front verandah that it’s easy to overlook. So I overlook it. Except on those occasions when I have things that I don’t know what to do with, then I put them in there.

‘Putting them in there’ was once a fairly normal activity that involved unlocking the door, finding a space on the floor or a shelf, and putting the thing there, then locking the door again. As time went by, however, and the store-room became more and more populated, ‘putting them in there’ became, first, sloppy – unlock door and kind of chuck it in, then relock the door while thinking, Hmm, I should really sort out the store-room some time – then tinged with madness – unlock the door and chuck it in hard and high, hoping it doesn’t either rebound or dislodge a pile of crap and bring it barrelling down on you, then slam shut the door and relock it (sometimes while pushing your shoulder against it, because the press of things inside was so strong) while thinking, Hmm, I should really sort out the store-room some time.

The ‘things’ I put in there were, apparently: broken chairs (an amazing number of them, I discovered today – how did I get so many chairs, and why are so many of them broken?); boxes and boxes and boxes of tiles left over from tiling projects (and definitely a disproportionate number of leftover tiles given the number of tiling projects I’ve actually done in this house – perhaps they multiply when left for long enough in a dark, spider-infested place?); so many tins of leftover paint in various sizes and shades that I really began wondering if someone else had maybe also been using my store-room as a kind of communal DIY dumpsite; financial records going back over a decade which I’m too scared to chuck out in case someone steals my identity and marries me to an illegal immigrant; spare mattresses; camping equipment; many bags and baskets; suitcases (literally, suitcases) of old curtains (from where??)…

So, very little of value.

And the store-room would have remained thus, an invisible blot on an unseen landscape, only ever entered into briefly, and with shame and half-shut eyes, like an affair with a 26-year-old photocopier salesman, if I hadn’t been required by the builders to open it so that they could get to a window whose frame required repainting.

The builders’ reaction reminded me of when my family moved, when I was a girl of about 9 years old or so, from a small Johannesburg miner’s house into a palatial mansion in a more salubrious suburb. I think the reason my mother agreed to buy the house was the built-in wardrobes in her and my dad’s bedroom – mirrored marvels, they stretched from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling, ran quietly as a whisper on runners, and had enough space to store a Cape Town Fashion Week’s worth of raiments.

So how was I to know, when a friend of my mother’s visited and was given the Grand Tour around the new house (and I trailed along behind), not to throw open the wardrobes to show them off? All I recall of the actual incident was how my mother’s eyes suddenly widened, and her desperate grab to try to stop the doors from sliding all the way open. But I clearly recall the aftermath: my mother firmly pointing out to me that Some Doors Are Best Left Closed. (I realise now that my mother was probably less than neat – one of the many genetic gifts she’s bequeathed me.)

Anyway, when I opened the store-room today, the builders were clearly gobsmacked. Not only did several broken chairs fall out onto our feet, but beyond the pile that had accumulated around the door was a fetid mountain of … things. As the builders cut their eyes at each other and exchanged thin-lipped smirks, I thought, Hmm, I really should sort out the store-room some time.

So I did.

The builders, bless them, took all the chairs – they are handy, they will fix them – and the curtains and some of the mattresses and most of the bags and baskets; and my friend Willie-of-the-Lorry took an entire flat-bed truck’s worth of things down to the dump (excluding my financial records, which I will burn in my new firepit once it’s built).

And let me say this about hoarding (although you probably already know it): there’s very little you keep in case you will need it some day, that you will ever actually need some day.

PS. I have kept all the tiles.

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Claudine said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ha! Yes, I well understand the madness of a store room of crap. I have one. With boxes of stuff I haven't looked at in 7 years. From our last move. I am too scared because whenever I open the door of the wendyhouse all this wonderful stuff is in, I can hear them multiplying.

Gretchen Bong Spoodle said...

You will need Everything.
At some point in time.

I promise.