Monday, 2 May 2011

Letting go and making do

I have always been a sucker for stationery. My favorite time of year was always September - the start of the new school year, the time of fresh exercise books, brand new pencil sets and tins - in essence, a chance to turn over a new leaf. I have a truly deep attachment to writing papers and implements and objects that aspire to 'organize' stuff - files, labels, highlighter pens and journals. Long after I left university, the obsession with fresh notepads and office notions continued, to the extent that you could probably run Whitehall from my dining room, so well stocked is it for bureaucracy.

I estimate that we have got rid of around one third of our possessions since late last summer, which is when the decluttering began in earnest. We have made a fair number of journeys to car boot sales, the recycling centre, charity shops and friends houses with stuff that we no longer needed. Things that I never thought I would let go of - books, craft equipment, personal mementos - have gone without a pang of regret. Today was the day to purge the 'office' - the scattered corners of the dining room that host the computer, books and stationery. The purge that I thought I would struggle with more than any other.

The first item on the agenda:

I bought this old teacher's desk for a song a few years back and spent two days stripping it of horrible yellowed varnish. I sanded and oiled; and I thought that it would be my forever desk. It fitted perfectly in our flat. I had plans to eventually re-oil or paint it and line the drawers with brightly coloured paper. I had plans that the top of it would always be uncluttered, bar some beautiful items of stationery. I had plans that great things would be written from this desk- university assignments, journal entries, letters, perhaps one day a blog.

Fast forward a year or two and we had moved into a small terraced house. The forever desk has sat awkwardly in a corner of the dining room, at right angles to an alcove it is infuriatingly millimeters too big to fit in to, a tangle of cables trailing across the top and down the sides (and across the dining room for that matter), the drawers barely opening before they hit a wall. The only thing to be written from this desk, apart from this blog, was the occasional bill payment. All of this of course was a recipe for clutter, frustration and down right ugliness, not to mention backache as our dining chairs were too short for the height of the desk.

Enter this much despised oak dining table:

I have hated this table with unswerving passion since the day we inherited it from family, but it was only last year that we felt we could let it go - though luckily it never made it from the garage to the car boot sale. It didn't fit anywhere in any room and wherever it was, it was too tempting a spot for dumping clutter on. Today it came back from the garage to temporarily serve as a desk. Because it sits in another alcove, right next to the Internet connection and plug sockets, there are no wires across the desk or floor. The flap comes out for extra work room and folds back down. Our dining chairs are the right height to use at the desk without crippling us. I love having a desk next to the window instead of a dingy corner. I don't despise this table any more. This table rocks. This table is in fact my new forever desk.

The lack of storage underneath the new desk is not a problem. My new improved stationery store is one third the size it was this morning. I no longer feel the need to keep 3 boxes of paper clips, 2 pads of graph paper, a second hole punch, a tub of drawing pins (we don't even have a noticeboard), a wad of report files, 3 set squares or 3 different 50 packs of envelopes - amongst many other things. I know I don't need these things, because I haven't needed them since the day two years ago they were stuffed into the old desk's unopenable drawers never to be retrieved until today. My new stationery store is a small shelf in a sideboard, cut down to size with a little bit of everything that we might need to run a household, not a government. The worst part of the decluttering is done and it really wasn't so bad.


  1. I have my tower on a table that is nearly identical,only mine doesn't have the turned legs.I also have a desk that is too large for my room, which holds the rest of my computer,but I bought it for $45. Bought $20 worth of new knobs,Paid $75. to have it refinished, and learned it was made by an individual in our town.It was used in a business downtown. I never found out just who made it or used it though.I couldn't bear to part with it.

  2. Good work! I've got to say that your desk was rather lovely, did you sell it on to someone else who will appreciate it? I am also a lover of stationary, mostly lovely paper, card and envelopes but I somehow resist!

  3. sawn48 - how wonderful to know the history of an object and the craftsmanship that went into it, very rare these days. if you can just about accommodate the desk, don't part with it!

    Dixiebelle - Hopefully a friend is going to take it off our hands and give it the TLC I never managed too. As for stationery, my habit over the years has always been my dirty un-green secret. I don't know how many trees worth of notebooks I have got through. Shameful.


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