Round 3: Knock-Out!

Or to relieve your feelings, kick-out (the Marquess of Queensberry need not apply. Nasty fellow).

Today we are going to be executing a purge in that room of waking hours, the living room. I have never understood why FlyLady puts the living room in the fifth week of the month with her zones, thus ensuring that it almost never gets a full week’s worth of attention.

SadHousewifeI don’t generally need a whole week each month to declutter and clean my bathroom, for example. The bathroom in the house we’re moving to is about 2×3 metres (if so much) and contains one bath, one basin (hanging on the wall) and one toilet. Storage is limited to a small cupboard built into the wall, and the windowsill. Of course, since that’s the only bathroom in the house, I could call it the “master bath” (Zone 4) and give the living room some more time and why didn’t I think of that before?

The living room in our new house will serve us for workspace (we both work at home), relaxation area, entertaining area and book storage. It is the largest room in the house. It needs to be. Half a week is not enough.

Today, however, we are going to have a stab at the stashes of stuff that build up in that most-used of rooms. What you have in your living room depends on what you use it for. Besides furniture you may have books, “media”, games, hobby stuff, paperwork, collections, magazines/newspapers, and items left on display such as photos, china and little decorative doodads. And that’s before we venture into any storage areas the room might have.

Fibber McGee and Molly closet photo 1948So feel free to adapt my suggestions to suit your own circumstances.

First up, the media. CDs, DVDs, LPs, videos, cassette tapes… Yep, I have all of these, although I must admit that the older a technology is the more likely it is that I have recently pruned it. That said, I’m sure there are a few items I could do without packing, moving and unpacking again. Let’s see what fifteen minutes can do.

I scored: one DVD, one video, 4 cassette cases (no idea what happened to their contents), 4 CDs and 10 LPs. Total of 20, and a relatively painless extraction at that. Phew – and onwards!

Next up: the books. Of which we have a great many. I haven’t counted them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran into the four digits. A large percentage of them were bought second-hand, which should make them easier to move on – but on the other hand also makes them easier to acquire, because they cost less. Still, there’s no use keeping a book you aren’t going to read again, unless it’s the sort you don’t really read as such, like a dictionary. I have read encyclopædia volumes in my time; I don’t think I’ve ever been quite desperate enough for reading material to embark on a cover-to-cover dictionary-a-thon.

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds 2Fifteen minutes on the clock….. and five books pulled out of the shelves, including philosophy, Elizabethan plays and the poetry of Robert Browning. Running total 25. Even if you don’t prune much, going through your library book by book will at least serve to remind you of all the good books you’d forgotten you still had and would now like to read again.

For the third course, following the light media appetizer and the rather stodgier main course of books, I thought we would end with a delicate bibelot or two – what my grandmother called “dustcatchers.” Depending on the level of decoration you prefer, this may take less than fifteen minutes, even if you wander into every other room in the house, but it’s worth doing. We get so used to seeing things sitting there on the shelf or the mantelpiece or the little end table that we stop consciously seeing them, which is a complete waste. You can also look at things hanging on the walls – pictures, paintings, posters etc. I would, but I’ve already taken ours down and packed them.

Fifteen minutes of knick-knackery, doo-daddery and decorative items – go!

Henry Treffry Dunn Rossetti and Dunton at 16 Cheyne Walk

I collected one clock (deceased), one origami crane (pink), one origami elephant (ditto), a vase full of peacock feathers, a small plastic dome with tiny flowers in it, a harmonica, a somewhat decorative box and a silver candlestick (badly tarnished). Total of 8; grand total 32 – more than the previous two weeks put together!

Putting them all together, though, I get 13 + 16 + 32 = 61! Sixty-one fewer items than I possessed a few short weeks ago, and all done in nine sets of fifteen minutes. For the statistically minded among you, that’s 135 minutes, or just over 2.2 minutes per item removed. So if you have five minutes to spare to consider your possessions, you can expect to find a couple to get rid of. Ten minutes, four items. Fifteen minutes, six items. Half an hour, twelve. A whole hour? Eighteen and a cup of tea.

All this is completely theoretical, of course – one person’s brief experience is hardly enough to base a rule on, even a rule of thumb (everyone’s thumb is different – ask Bertillon). But it’s worth remembering that even a short snatch of time can make a permanent difference. There are sixty-one things that I didn’t like or didn’t want or didn’t use (or all of the above) which took up space in my house and never paid rent or contributed anything – they just were. And now they aren’t, and I feel good about that.

so happy smiling cat

The Things You Could Do…

Hau. Interiors of the Winter Palace. The Boudoir of Empress Maria Alexandrovna. 1861
I was shown into a room. A red room. Red wallpaper, red curtains, red carpet. They said it was a sitting-room, but I don’t know why they’d decided to confine its purpose just to sitting. Obviously, sitting was one of the things you could do in a room this size; but you could also stage operas, hold cycling races, and have an absolutely cracking game of frisbee, all at the same time, without having to move any of the furniture.
It could rain in a room this big.
from The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

A Room by Any Other Name

The Langford Family in their Drawing Room) by James Holland, RWS
would smell as sweet (if kept properly aired). Or would it? Does it make a difference to your feelings about the main room in your house if you call it the sitting-room instead of the lounge? The drawing-room (or even withdrawing-room) instead of living-room? Would you perhaps converse more if it was called a parlour?

What do you call that room – and have you ever wanted to call it something else?