A Hundred Pieces of Me is about a woman sorting out her life – literally. At the beginning of Gina’s story, she’s freshly divorced, in a new flat, and facing a daunting prospect: unpacking rooms stacked full of brown boxes from the Victorian semi she shared with her ex. Her self-imposed task is to keep a hundred items that she loves, and to get rid of everything else.
Although the novel’s partly about the items Gina chooses to keep, she also finds that chucking things away is surprisingly liberating. After all, you can only appreciate the special items you own once you’ve winnowed out all the clutter and junk hiding them. Like Gina, I’m a bit of a hoarder. I recently packed my entire house into storage before building work, and it was only when I came to unpack it again that I realised I’d been giving houseroom to Boden catalogues from 2008 (why?) and over twenty variations of the same black knee-length skirt.
Now I’m on the other side of that painful declutter, I offer to you my own strategy for tackling Junk Creep. It’s radical, but surprisingly effective. Pack one entire room into boxes (or get a friend to do it, if you can’t face it). Admire the elegant airy space you’ve created. Clean surfaces, open windows. Read a newspaper and sip a cup of coffee on the one remaining chair, while feeling as if you’re in a Sunday supplement. Enjoy the calm atmosphere that complete tidiness creates. Relaxed? Good.
Now, bring the first box back into the room and decide what, of its contents, you’re willing to let back in. You will be amazed at how much more ruthless you can be about the chipped mug and the scented candle that smells slightly of cat wee but which was too expensive to chuck out. Let the bin bag/charity shop donation bag have the lot. Failing that, hand out ‘lucky dip’ bags to friends and family as they leave. (NB Those jute bags breeding behind the kitchen door are excellent for this.)
To get you inspired, here are just some of the ways I lifted my own spirits during what’s now known in my house as The Great Clear-Out:
Jeans that I can’t get into: Who needs clothes that nag you about your weight? I was a different person when I bought my size 28 jeans. A younger, more miserable, carb-free person. My friends regularly beg me never to let that Lucy back into my life, because she was dull. Thin, but dull. Keep the most realistically ‘too small’ pair for a target, and donate the rest to charity shops.
Magazines: I’ve not only been shunting a decade’s worth of Cosmos around my living quarters, but for most of last year I was paying for them to live in a storage container down the road. Keep a few for historical interest, and recycle the rest or give to waiting rooms. (But not before checking to see what those Nine Sex Kitten Secrets are. And the Five Ways to Tell He’s Into You.)
Anything broken, damaged or awaiting repair from your dad: I will never find a lid for that antique teapot. And if your boyfriend was going to fix that clock radio he would have done so by now. You do not need to fill your newly tidy space with annoying symbolic imagery.
Any keep-fit DVD by a celebrity who has now piled it back on: Obviously it doesn’t work.
Umbrellas: I have so many umbrellas, all bought in a panic during a freak rainstorm. A house only needs three – one for you, one to lend to a visitor, one to lose. Any more than that and they breed, messily, in your porch. Hand them out to friends. Everyone loves an umbrella.
Any unread novel from a Serious Literary Prize shortlist: I don’t have enough time to read novels I enjoy, let alone ones that I don’t. Especially ones that make me feel stupid. Painful as it is to give books away, I visualised every paperback headed to Oxfam as a tenth of a goat, and treated myself to an afternoon lost in a good romance.
Manky towels: Straight to the dog rescue! Dogs don’t care whether towels match the bathroom or not, whereas guests don’t really appreciate greying towels with odd sunbursts of hair dye.
Old knickers: Your mum was right. You really might be knocked down by a bus. Or, worse, swept off your feet by someone you would not want to see your fraying grundies. It’s fine to keep some pants for best, but don’t keep any ‘for worst’. Self-fulfulling prophecies and all that…
I hope enjoy reading a hundred pieces of me, but only after you’ve finished your own clear-out!
Pick up a copy of A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillion in store now!