My life is a clutter-fest. Parts of my kitchen counter are drowning in a sea of “stuff to be filed” and “stuff to be put into drawers”. My utility room – a downstairs toilet that houses the junk I don’t want on the kitchen counter – has shelves that are straining under the weight of everything from drain unblocker to 3D glasses from the cinema. When it comes to the space under the couches or beds, I’m pleading the fifth as I’m deeply ashamed, but suffice to say, I have found fruit that has freeze-dried itself.
There are boxes of loose photos everywhere, despite the empty albums and baby books that I promise I’ll organise one day. I have so many books! Vincent De Paul has benefited from many a black bag full, but how could I get rid of my copy of From Bismarck to DeGaulle; who knows when I may need to brush up on my leaving cert history? And cookbooks! I have every kind: desserts, starters, Turkish food, recipes for a slow cooker. I have bought these for the woman I wish to be and not for actual me, whose idea of dinner is popping an Aldi chicken Kiev in the airfryer (it can be done and you’re welcome).
I’ve always been a hoarder, so I’ve boxes of stuff in the attic, under the bed, stuffed in my dresser. Little mementos of my youth; diaries, a gigantic signed Newman and Baddiel poster, old fake IDs, shot glasses, my school shirt with the long faded signatures of old friends. It’s nice to take that stuff out sometimes and reconnect with my young and idealised self.
But the biggest physical enemy to space in my house are my kids, or more specifically their toys. They are everywhere! No matter how many times I sort them out – superheroes in one box, lego in another – they manage to expand and spread out all over the house. Unless Toy Story is based on true events, and Spiderman and Thor come alive at night, battling for territory, my army of three are to blame. Navigating my house is like an episode of Wipeout… make it down the stairs in one piece without stepping on a toy car; walk around Mr. Potato Head; watch the lego bits. she’s down!
And it’s not just my physical space that the kids encroach on – it’s mental space that has truly become my Emerald City. Parenthood can make you feel so claustrophobic. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I have gone to the toilet with someone on my lap. If I turn on the shower, they tear into the bathroom, ripping off their clothes and jumping in with me. If someone rings me, a fight will instantly break out, or they will simply scream until I’m forced to hang up and whoever was on the other end of the phone will think I live in an asylum.
If someone rings the doorbell the three of them will race to the door and scream over who gets to open it, opening and slamming the door a number of times in the Jehovah’s Witnesses face. When things get chaotic like this, I feel like stepping into my wardrobe for a few minutes, ironically, to get some space. When I get a chance to go for a meal with my girlfriends, we act like we’re on speed, relishing the freedom, talking non-stop and gulping wine, vaguely guilty but supremely blissed-out.
Pandemonium and disarray are almost a given in a house with young kids. It’s human nature to want what we don’t have and in my case that’s serenity and space but when I’m gifted it by a babysitter or family member, I miss the chaos and wonder if they’re ok. Then I’ll get a Viber picture of them somewhere having a great time and I’ll relax and ease into the sound of silence. As for my cluttered house, it’s a home, and I’ve been told by friends that they feel welcome and comfortable. Probably platitudes, but I’ll take it! After all, there’s no place like home.