I was surprised yesterday to see the Christmas tree still up at the 5 year old's school. I have a guilty secret altogether; I don't really like Christmas decorations once Christmas is over. In fact, I usually spend Boxing Day itching to start taking them down. It was even worse this year. When we got home from the in-laws on the 27th, I had a bad case of mess-induced stress.
In case you think I'm too much of a Scrooge, it wasn't just the decorations. If we couldn't use the front door because of the tree, did it really matter? It was the toy mountain, too. I try to operate a fairly unsuccessful policy of 'one in, one out' when it comes to new Things. My husband flouts this rule with great delight - I have no idea how many pairs of boots he owns, headtorches and other paraphernalia he calls 'gear'.
But the problem is, when you can't walk from the sofa to the television, nor to the window to undraw the curtains because of the piles of shiny new toys, you have to find a place for them. We'd tried to have a cull before Christmas, but then the 4 year old had his fourth birthday and undid the little good I'd done. I keep sneaking things out to the dustbin while they all sleep, but they tend to be tatty, broken things that aren't really taking up any room, anyway.
I didn't even know where to start; apparently setting fire to the lot would be seen as criminal activity. My husband couldn't really see the problem. In the end, we've begun a three box system, and we're going to rotate them. I am sceptical about this theory, as we have done it once before. It worked like a dream, as long as we organised enough to keep going up the loft every month or so; and that's where it all goes wrong. The clutter was really getting me down, though. You know, tidy desk, tidy mind; it's so true for me. I couldn't think straight while Buzz was lying, legs akimbo, astride a remote controlled Noddy car and the Christmas tree died quietly by the door. All those hours I might've been writing, and I couldn't. And as the inimitable Flylady says, You can't organise clutter, you can only throw it away.
The lovely dustbin men took the tree this morning; every toy has a home, though they turn up in other places quite regularly; the decorations are back in the loft with the toy boxes, and I can breathe again.
I'd feel quite self-satisfied if it weren't for one thing. Last night, Bean came up to me, forehead wrinkled in thought, clutching soft Baby Annabel.
'Mummy,' she said, 'You know you were looking for things to pass on. I've got those other two dolls now, so I was thinking someone else could have this one.'
I hid my surprise. 'Are you sure?'
She wrinkled her nose, and nodded.
It was so quiet you might have heard the truth drop. I had a mental image of a sweet baby girl, patting that doll on its back, and rocking it.
'But you had that when you were a tiny little dot,' I said at last.
She looked at me, then at her doll. She shrugged, and skipped off to put the doll back in the playroom.
Maybe I haven't yet got to the heart of the clutter problem.