Archive | October 2021

Clutter-blind

When you don’t see the clutter around you, and we’re not talking about not being annoyed by it, just not “seeing” it, you’re clutter blind.

I put my hand up to temporary clutter blindness. If I have people coming around, I see it. Or maybe it’s partial clutter blindness I have? I have hot spots that collect stuff but normally they’re in my peripheral vision where they don’t register.

Mr S is one step on from clutter blindness.

He has clutter dementia. This includes clutter blindness but also has an inability to accept stuff is his or remember where he put it.

I’ve given up on clearing the garage which was a challenge I set myself last year, but have started under the house. My house is on stumps. Our land slopes away so at the front, it’s only about 30cm from the ground while at the back, you can stand up.

Mr S put things there. Things he wants to keep. Things I lose my shit over as they’re cluttering up the house. Things he doesn’t want to deal with. Things he thinks may come in handy in the future. Things he doesn’t know what to do with.

Part of the Under the House stuff

Mr S calls me unsentimental, cold-hearted even, as I don’t believe in keeping shit stuff. Which isn’t entirely true but the stuff he hangs onto, well it’s too much, and includes rubbish as well as valuable stuff. All piled together. My view is if it is valuable, then treat it well, put it somewhere safe or on display. Not in a box with rubbish under the house to go mouldy and dirty. (I will put a separate post about so-called sentimental stuff.)

We’ve lived in this house for about 15 years. Mr S has resisted all attempts to declutter. Soft requests. Tantrums. Rational appeals. All were ignored.

Until now.

For the month of October, we have been clearing out under the house.

What prompted this call to action? What lifted the veil of clutter blindness?

We’ve been talking about getting renovations done in a couple of years. I pointed out that builders wouldn’t work around piles of stuff. Nor would they move his rubbish.

Mr S declared there was no rubbish under the house. It was all his stuff and he knows what was there.

“The bottles in the crates?”

“What bottles?”

See! Clutter dementia.

Mr S used to brew beer. In our old house. So over 15 years ago!!! He had a dozen or so crates all full of large beer bottles. He’s unlikely to ever brew again. While he made great beer, our life has moved on. So why keep the bottles?

Well, he forgot all about them. He asked me how I knew they were there? As if I forget things, just because I can’t see them.

He brought the crates out and I’ve slowly been putting the bottles into the glass recycling bin.

Last of the bottles

As luck would have it, at the same time we were having this round of our latest battle about rubbish under the house, we had some workmen over to clear the overgrown shrubbery around the pool. The chief poolman said, with a nod and a wink to me, “We’ll get rid of the rubbish under the deck too.”

At this, Mr S’s head shot up, “What rubbish?”

All the old pool toys, floating devices, perished pool hoses, dead cleaning equipment.

Mr S has been using under the house as an alternate landfill, but now saw it with different eyes. Not my perspective. A stranger’s.

Again, luck was in my side. The coming weekend was council cleanup. Mr S dragged a tonne of stuff up to be taken away. Neighbours commented. We normally put out so little.

A further prompt came when I asked Mr S about a large box under the house. Mr S said it belonged to one of our sons and so he claimed he didn’t know what was in it. Turns out it was Mr S’s box and full of stuff Mr S brought home from his latest workplace – but at least one year ago. Next to it were boxes from his old workplace – one he left nearly 8 years ago. Pens. More pens. Printed material. Desk accessories. Little toys and fidget things. Stickers. Photos. Stuff. Stuff. And more stuff.

Of course, sometimes among the stuff is something of value. Something that can be used. Something that is of emotional value. Something that someone else may want. So the stuff has to be sorted through.

We’ve been spending an hour every weekend sorting and tossing. An hour is enough for a hoarder. Sometimes Mr S wants to go longer but I see the signs. He gets irritable and says “just toss it in the bin”. But I know he will regret it, and accuse me of making him toss important things. And, crucially, he will regress – stop any further efforts and add to the clutter.

Clutter blindness can return. You cease to see things when you walk pass them every day. And when stuff is out of sight, clutter dementia returns.

The only treatment: slow and regular decluttering and celebration of creating space!

Walking in convict footsteps

Once allowed out of our Local Government Area, Mr S and I headed off to a walk I’ve wanted to do for a while – the Old Northern Road built by convict chain gangs. The recalcitrants, the wrong ‘uns of the wrong ‘uns, were sent to clear a path through trees and bush, up a vertical cliffs, so the colony could reach the plains of the Hunter Valley.

The walk has plenty of information points so the steep climb is relatively easy. Some info plinths have recreations of artefacts, like the leg irons Mr S is wearing below.

Flannel flowers abounded. A clever sign of spring. I’d say there were fields of them except they were growing out of vertical rock faces.

The road was quite wide – two cars could pass easily, though it’s closed to traffic, only walkers and bikes allowed. Most amazing was the culverts, drains, buttresses and curved stone walls supporting the road. Imagine! All this carved from solid rock, by hand, on a diet of flour, tea and, often rancid, meat. Colonisation was brutal on the colonisers too.

The view across the Hawkesbury River was beautiful. Spoiled by the noise of the masses of motorbikes on one of the favourite weekend motorbike routes.

The plan was to do the gentle walk, up and down the same road. But we decided to do the loop and return via the narrow road that was the first attempt by the surveyor to create a road, until the governor, rightly, declared it too steep and the second attempt was made – the track we took up.

Before we hit the down hill (read down cliff), we walked along the ridge. An interesting walk with views west to a swamp and through bush, where we saw a goanna and a lyrebird, and masses of Gymea lilies.

Then we hit the downhill track. Oh my god. It was steep and more like a water channel for stormwater run off. A goat track maybe. It was hard going. Lots of unsteady footfalls with loose rocks and pebbles.

From the bottom of the track we had 2km to return to the ferry. Mr S volunteered to walk the extra distance to our car, so I waited for his return. I’d done nearly 10km. But it was the downhill goat track that did me in.

After crossing back to the Wiseman’s Ferry side of the river, we had a little picnic.

Oh it was lovely to be out and beyond our LGA. And amazing to know that this wild beauty is only 45 minutes drive from home.

Ending lockdown

The removal of restrictions is happening quickly.

Our state government said there’d be fewer restrictions once we hit 70% and more at 80%. We’re nearing the 80% mark.

Given I am busy with work, I didn’t rush out to a pub or restaurants last week when we were allowed. My hair appointment isn’t for a few weeks as I only really have time on the weekend. (Well, this year. Have I told you lately I am having an Adult Gap Year next year?) I certainly didn’t line up at the shops to buy tat. (I sometimes despair at people – shopping for recreation.)

I did go back to my personal trainer in the gym. A few days after my PT session, I realised the benefit of continuous exercise. All the walking I did was no replacement for squats and abominable abdominals.

I had some joggers that I’d ordered online to collect. (All the walking I’ve done wore out my joggers!) They were meant to be ready weeks ago but went missing. The collection point was a local discount store that was only open for collection of online orders.

By the time my shoes were found, shops had reopened. I left it a few days, anticipating the shops would be packed. When I went, the car park was almost full. It was almost at Christmas level. Madness!

The biggest “freedom” was Friday evening spent with neighbours. We all brought nibbles and bubbles. Twelve of us. All sharing stories and checking in and shooting the breeze and celebrating birthdays.

Truth be told, the host originally wanted it for Monday – the first day of “freedom” and also one neighbour’s actual birthday. But he was busy. It was mooted that we sneakily meet on Sunday before “Freedom Day”. In our sleepy suburb, surely no one would see. And look at all the illegal gatherings in the beachside suburbs.

Well a visit by the police to my house on Sunday morning put paid to that. Someone had made an allegation that one of my sons held a party on the Saturday night. “No, officer, he most certain did not. I wouldn’t allow it.” Police apologised and left. (Son didn’t host a party but I could hardly say I don’t break the Public Health Orders, and then be found, less than 10 hours later, to be doing that same thing! And we don’t know made the allegation or why they did.)

So Friday night it was. Much better to allow some kicking back with no work the next day.

Next freedom: catching up with friends who live in other parts of Sydney.

Ranty Tuesday: people who sleep well – grrr

In particular, Mr S.

When Mr S puts his head on the pillow, he falls asleep instantly.

Not in 10 minutes.

Instantly.

If I wake him to tell him a story, which I do without remorse and do frequently – look, it’s not my fault, he goes to bed early so I have to wake him to tell him something that I’ve just remembered about someone or something that happened or a news item that’s just come on the tele. Anyway, I wake him, tell him the story and when he shuts his eyes, he goes instantly back to sleep. Instantly.

(Hence, my lack of remorse at waking him to tell him stories. It’s not going to disturb him. Even if I do if two times. Three is probably pushing my luck.)

When I wake him up because, say I’m flapping around because say there’s a moth or two dive bombing me, Mr S is all cross and snarly. “Stop flapping about!!!” But within minutes, nay seconds, of me stopping my flapping and fidgetting and flicking the sheets (to see if the moth is under the sheets), he’s back asleep. Hardly worth snarling at me, now is it?

When Mr S has an afternoon nap, he falls asleep – you know already – instantly.

When he wakes up, he has to tell me, “I must have needed that nap, I fell asleep instantly.” He tells me this EVERY time Like it’s something novel.

“No, you always fall asleep instantly. ALWAYS!!!”

If he gets up during the night, which he routinely does, he’s a man who drinks lots of glasses of water just before bed, ‘nuff said, or he remembers jobs like putting out the rubbish or writing himself a note so he doesn’t forget something for work. Anyway, he gets up, does whatever needs doing, slams himself back into bed (waking me up) and instantly falls back asleep.

You know what I’m not doing? Sleeping. Cause after I finally fell asleep, he woke me by slamming into the bed like a bear.

Are you an “eyes shut, fall asleep” kind of person? Or a “where are you sleep” kind of person? Me, if I miss the moment I feel like falling asleep, because I have to do something so mentally engaging like brush my teeth, then it’s too late. Missed the boat. Have to hang around waiting for it to dock again. Which could be hours away.

Lockdown Pivoting in schools

I generally don’t post about my work, except to talk about how I won’t be doing it soon. (Have I told you lately I will have next year off? Pop over to my other blog which is about my adult gap year.) Partly as an explanation for my ongoing absence from blogging, and partly as a record of this time, I am going to write about work.

During the Term 2 break it was announced we were going into lockdown, for the first four weeks of Term 3. Staff left work on the last day of Term 2, thinking they’d be back for the start of Term 3. Yes, we were told to anticipate a lockdown and be ready for remote learning. And there was that feeling it’d be coming, so we told staff to take their laptops. Still, to be able to teach without resources and collegial support is pretty amazing. Teachers at my school did amazing work. Parents were overwhelmingly appreciative.

Anyway, it was only going to be for four weeks. Right?

No, it was extended without an end date. All of Term 3 was off site. Teachers were struggling as much as families. They wanted to be with colleagues, onsite. Early career teachers were without the daily support of colleagues and their supervisors. To answer questions or plan something as simple as an assessment or to access IT support, it all took much longer to do.

By the end of Term 3, things in the community weren’t looking good. Infection rates, ICU admission rates, numbers on ventilation, deaths were all high. The Premier announced return to school dates “to give parents and schools certainty”. But the talk among parents and principals was that this was optimistic, given the numbers.

Still, we planned for the announced staggered return of students and mandatory vaccination of all staff in mid Term 4.

And then things looked better. Not the deaths, they were still up. But vaccinations were going great guns.

So the Premier brought the return forward. Announcements (including a Year 12 study bubble lauded publicly and with spin but without the details that schools had to provide making the whole thing not as it was presented) were made during the holidays cause, you know, teachers should be working through the break. Yet, the top bureaucrats told us not to work because we’d been working so hard and we’d be putting in mental and emotional efforts with long hours next term.

Oh, but still those same bureaucrats emailed us in the break to plan for changes. (Later saying they respected us by not holding any webinairs during the break. Mmm.)

Politics rolls on quickly and the premier was replaced. New premier makes new announcements, “sensible and measures ones”, bringing the return to school dates forward again.

So hours spent in planning, wasted. Dates for mandatory teacher vaccination no longer meeting the new dates. Parents not feeling certain. Staff not really able to say we’re prepared. But hey! There’s pages of checklists to check off and proformas with vacuous words that schools have to fill in the important detail.

Pivoting. Schools do it and make it look easy, even though leading and organising schools and teaching and nurturing young people is incredibly complex.

Managing emotions and anxiety of staff, students and parents. Soothing nerves. Calming fears. Helping families through tough times. Reorganising the school to meet the new COVID safety requirements. All while, continuing with all the normal business: teaching, assessing, reporting, child protection reporting, building upgrades, parent complaints, filling vacancies, departmental data and evidence collection, reviews, etc.

Green Thursday: recycling, regifting

Long term readers would know I’m on a constant mission to declutter. Trying to declutter without adding everything to landfill is hard.

Op shops are closed at the moment even so, I often worry how much of the really good clothes I put in a clothing bin actually make it on shelves of the op shop.

What I prefer to do is offer friends or colleagues first dibs.

Before lockdown, I offered a friend a quick look at things I was going to donate. She took a couple of items. In return she gave me a Sheridan bedspread, in excellent condition. It has been acquisitioned by my oldest boy who needed a warmer bed cover as we moved into winter. (His doona stays on his bed in our house.) Win, win all round.

The same friend gave me several items that were glamorous aunt’s. Look! An Armani jacket.

I’ve joined a local Buy Nothing Facebook site. It’s a freecycle group, the slight difference is that you need to be local.

I like the concepts of passing things on and keeping it local.

I also like the idea of giving things a new life, giving them to someone who will use them rather that having the items taking up space in my home, unused. Or worse, going to landfill.

Several people have suggested I sell, or try to sell, the items I want to declutter on Marketplace.

I’ve resisted that. Not only can I not be bothered with all the fuss of taking photos and posting and dealing with people who will haggle and maybe not even turn up, but I like the karma that comes with this site.

I have gifted away things big (like a squatters chair which the recipient fixed up$ and small (garden hose attachments)

I have been gifted a nearly new queen bed and a vintage plant stand. The former I was about to buy, at a cost of hundreds, for the “new” guest room; the latter I have been looking for for ages. So happy.

Ranty Tuesday: more racism

Remember the 1950s social studies text and its blatant racism?

Well, the author doesn’t confine racist descriptions to First Nation peoples. It must be reassuring to be so certain your way is the right way, the only way. But how unsteady must the ground feel, when the world changes, when orthodoxy is questioned, when values are shown to be hypocritical and views proven to be views, not facts.

The section sweetly titled “Peeps at Peoples of Other Lands” covers quite a diverse range of countries far from Australia. But the attention on the differences seems not to highlight our common humanity. Rather, it’s like a freak show of oddities and amusing tidbits.

  • The Lapps and their Reindeer
  • The Eskimos and their Igloos
  • The Dutch and their Windmills
  • The Arabs and their Date Groves
  • The Malays and their Kampongs
  • The Javanese and their Tea Plantations
  • The Chinese and their Sampans

Some of the descriptions are positive, but while understandable given the one page brevity, vastly generalised. So, it is nice to know the Javanese are fond of music and plays and they work for very long hours picking tea. The author’s advice “when you hear mother telling father that the price of tea has risen again, [it] may be due to some increase in the wages of the poorly-paid pickers and poorly-paid packers” may be to induce some sympathy for the hard working but poor Javanese. To me it reads like blame ‘cause the reality is the price rise is probably to give more profit to the company shareholders.

But the Gold Logie to Racism in this section, the following description of Chinese people:

These cheerful, yellow-skinned people with their straight black hair, slanting eyes and flat noses differ from us in many ways.

So they differ not just with their slanting eyes and yellow skin? But with even more ways?

Ah yes, the author tells us they put their family name first and their “Christian” names last. (Christian! Did you just spurt your mouthful of tea over the device on which you’re reading this? Yes, the author calls the given name, the Christian name.)

The author goes on to say, they “lift their food to their mouths” with chop-sticks. I don’t know, but that just strikes me as strange. They don’t eat? They lift food.

All in all, not as bad as the resoundingly negative picture given of the First Nation peoples. It’d be another decade until Aboriginal peoples were considered citizens in Australia, their own land. Still, there’s no question, all these “odd little peoples” from around the world are amusing and oh! aren’t we lucky we live. in Australia are linked to Britain! [Lets be clear. This isn’t my view but the clear message from the textbook.]

I haven’t kept this book – threw it in the recycling bin.

I wasn’t surprised by the racism of a much earlier text I just read – Captain Cook’s journals. But the violence inflicted was breathtaking.

I know we should judge the past by our own standards but when that past is not so long ago and when the actions contradict with those own espoused values, it’s quite easy to judge. And be shocked.

The whole bravery of travelling in a small boat into the relative unknown is amazing and brave, but the violence is quite distressing. And obviously the precursor to the 1950s text book.

Where have I been? What have I been up to?

Where have I been? Almost to Bathurst.

I left you at the start of August when I joined a friend’s family in the Tour de August. Our goal: to walk across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. I walked more than 170km in August.

Of course I didn’t really cross the mountains. Stay at home orders meant I was walking in my own area. Luckily I live in an area with lots of bush. Everyday we logged our walk and the organiser mapped us on the road across the mountains.

Nearby rock face.

Turns out I’m a tad competitive. I walked and walked. And then walked some more. I found walks that didn’t involve many hills, so my energy would be expended in miles rather than gaining elevation.

Come the awards night, I won the Most Competitive Award. Apt but slightly embarrassing.

When The Tour de August finished, I lost the drive to walk everyday. Probably I’m just over doing the same walks, bush or no bush. Still, I have been stepping out. Somewhat. I do rise to having little challenges.

As well as walking, during lockdown, I’ve continued my never ending decluttering. Mr S calls it my new religion, as I practice it everyday. I call my challenge in this area Creating Space. A new spare room created where the boys’ junk was stacked, higgledy-piggedly. A study from the room where I had loads of paper from decades and Mr S piled up other stuff, including clothes and multiple pedestal fans and nanna shopping trolleys and stuff.

The study has proved very useful. For ten weeks of the term, my eldest moved home; as he was working from home and as we have more space, he would be less claustrophobic. That’s Teacher 1. Mr S was also working from home three days a week. That’s Teacher 2. The Dreamer was also doing his practicum from home, five days a week for six or seven weeks of the term. That’s Teacher 3. (The youngest moved home from his harbourside flat at the start of the term as he knew he’d not be able to earn money while doing his prac.)

I was working from home two days a week, with daily zoom meetings and phone calls. Mr S and oldest son are very loud (and as I’m known for being a loud speaker, that is saying something.) Working onsite was a relief.

Lockdown, originally meant to go for four weeks, went for the whole term. It was lovely having both boys here, but also a relief when the oldest moved back to his flat for the holidays. Not sure if he’ll return when term resumes but this week. Younger boy is not as messy or smelly as older boy.

In Creating Space, I have also been creating space in cupboards. You know that just because there’s space on a shelf, you don’t have to fill it?

By no means am I minimalist. And I still have clutter and hot spots. Still getting at least one thing out a day has kept me on track.

I’ve been following Diane in Denmark on Instagram and YouTube – she’s a FlyLady coach and Hygge & routine coach. And the Netflix show, The Home Edit, has given me ideas.

Seems I have converted Mr S to my religion. Amazed? Shocked? I am too. This week is our council cleanup and Mr S has released a huge quantity of stuff he’s stored under the house, “just in case” and for “maybe I’ll use it” and for “you never know” and “I like this” and “it’s my stuff” and “it’s still good”. Mostly it is “Im not ready to let it go yet”. But he’s letting it go!!!

I’ve also been gardening and reading. (And that thing that gets in the way of my life – work. But let’s not think of that.) Reading is part of my decluttering. I read to declutter. Clever hey? Read a book and then pass it on.