Little boxes

I am a bit of a squirrel and after reading Millie Johnson’s book ‘A Spring Affair’ I decided to have a bit of a clear out myself. I am the one who says to my daughter, ‘tidy house, tidy mind.’ You can imagine the response and her bedroom still looked like a major explosion had happened in it. Until, that is, a friend was coming over for a girly day in. For two days before she attacked things that I wouldn’t go near without checking my vaccinations were up to date, but they say penicillin grows on mould so maybe I was being a little melodramatic. According to Tabby I was anyway. Well, she emptied all her drawers and her cupboards into a huge heap on the middle of the floor. ‘I don’t know what I started,’ wails she. I went to look, it looked no different to me but she assured be it was such a mess! Over the course of the entire two days she medothically hung clothes up, sorted the washing, gathered her make up together into a little basket, bagged up rubbish for recycling, throwing away and the charity shop and sorted her CDs and DVDs. At the end of it all there were three bags of rubbish besides the recycling and I mean black sacks, not bad for one room. She polished, vacuumed and washed walls, changed the bedding and cushion covers and really worked hard on it. At the end of it all she came downstairs. ‘I hate to say this,’ she says, ‘but you were right.’  ‘Oh?’ said I innocently, ‘what do you mean love?’ ‘I feel really sort of clear in my mind, it looks really good and I feel so much better.’ I resisted the impulse to say I told you so instead congratulating her on what she had acheived. 

All this made me think about my own tidiness. I love everything to be neat and then I can relax and write or do whatever without that nagging guilt taunting me. I also like things to be neatly put away so … I collect boxes. I have always been a collector, as a child it was those little wooden matchboxes , scrap books, little charms from jamboree bags, ‘diamonds’, -well coloured glass beads – and I had a place for everything. Today I still collect, glass bottles, books, bits of paper with interesting writing on, all my papers from University, pens, pencils- forever searching for that perfect pen or pencil, little things that I won’t throw away in case it is useful, paints, art paper, brushes, wool, sewing things, oh, and of course boxes. I used to have a beautiful collection of tins, old tins that I kept buttons in, pressed flowers, ribbons, needles and pins, all the sort of things I use from time to time. Useful things yes! Then I moved house two or three times and each time I had to thin my stuff down until now it is , and I even say so myself, a manageable amount for the way my life has changed. So, why is it I am still drawn to keeping little boxes, tins, containers that could hold….. I find it so hard to throw these things away and I do use them from time to time. I am good at justifying. Harry recently said to me, ‘Do you really need all these jars in the shed.’ ‘They’re for when I make jam or pickles and things.’ Says I. I went to look, I was never going to fill four boxes of jam jars, sauce bottles, pickles jars etc. How easy it would have been to say ok I’ll keep one box but the memories of when I wanted to make pickled onions and jelly after someone had given me a lot of fruit to use up and I couldn’t find a jar anywhere… this was after I had thrown everything away on one of my moves… sprung into my head. Instead, I had to go through every one and keeping those that looked pretty, had a nice shape, was just perfect for sauces and on and on. Why can’t I just throw things away?

I got to thinking about my life while I was having a clear out today and it has been so complicated, sad, bad, unhappy, ecstatically happy, so many things I didn’t want to remember, so many things I did and it suddenly dawned on me. I even store little boxes in my head. Many things from my childhood I didn’t want to remember so I started to build a cupboard with lots of little boxes in it, a bit like my grandfathers shed. I filled each little box with those I didn’t need to look at often and labelled them ‘ for when I know the answers’ Then, to counteract the bad ones, I filled the box next to it with ‘happy memories’ then ‘my Grandparents’ or ‘sunny days in the garden’, ‘ sad times’, ‘painful times, ‘joyful…’ and so on and so on until my mind was an organised room of memory boxes. Once that was done I was content, the past was no longer an issue, I learned to forgive, and I could look forward to the rest of my life wthout the jumble of thoughts and feelings tripping me up or popping up just when I didn’t need them to. In this case it was tidy mind, tidy life… Well it has hardly been that but little boxes are important to me. I know where everything is when I need to look at it or use it, There is always room for more, They don’t get in the way when I don’t want them to… it keeps me happy anyway. Today I looked at a small cardboard box that I had been saving ‘just in case’ and decided it hadn’t been used for nearly four weeks so I threw it away, I was proud of myself for that but I did notice in the store the other day a nice little set of basket work drawers that would look so nice beside my settee…….

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