‘Having less clutter and fewer distractions would probably make me happier’
- Credit: PA
January can be a pretty miserable month.
It's usually filled with people telling that you shouldn't do anything that brought you pleasure in December. You shouldn't drink. You shouldn't eat.
The parties are over and the bills are in.
The Christmas lights have been taken down and the living room looks cold and bare and smells faintly of pine-scented toilet cleaner.
A wild night in consists of a bottle of slimline tonic water and a bag of rice snacks. The only things that are half-cut in my flat in January are the rolls of old wrapping paper beside the fridge.
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In fact, the fridge is the only place in the whole of my home where there's room to put anything else.
It wasn't like that over Christmas – 'tis the season to eat cheese, obviously – but I'm seriously considering renting it out to those, like me, who have run out of nooks and crannies to store the December detritus.
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It's a problem that I have every January. Where do you put the vast amounts of 'stuff' that you seem to accumulate over the festive period? Quite aside from tags, stray ribbon, wine bags that you tried to re-gift and wine bags that were successfully re-gifted to you, there's the rest of the Christmas flotsam. The cards that you keep for sentimental reasons, the presents you forgot to give, all need homes.
I still have a Christmas tree on the back seat of my car. This is an improvement – last year, it stayed in my kitchen until May – but I still have no idea where I'm going to put it.
The void beneath my bed is already occupied by two suitcases, a cardboard box filled with memories that I refuse to address, a pile of old clothes and several aging spiders.
There's simply no room for the scented candles, decorative tins and kitchen implements that resemble medieval torture weapons (all I wanted was a potato masher).
Where's it all meant to go? I was given three pairs of bed socks this year. I'm not ungrateful – I'm a single girl, after all, and the nights are long and cold in January – but they do take up a lot of space in my underwear drawer.
These items, however, represent more than just the square inches that they occupy in our homes. Much has been written about the conscious effort we should be making to stop buying superficial things that we don't really want or need.
I wholeheartedly agree. Every year, I cling on to items for the sake of it and buy new things because they seem like bargains, only to realise that having less clutter and fewer distractions would probably make me happier.
In amongst all the stern commands of 'shouldn't-do-this' January, the suggestion that we should stop buying throwaway items for ourselves and each other should also make us stop and think.
Compared to many, I don't have much. Compared to more, I have more.
I'm happy, too, with what I have – and it's time now to get rid of everything that I don't want without replacing it with anything else.
So this year, I'm taking January as the perfect excuse to throw out the old without bringing in the new.
I spent a long time tossing out old bank statements last Friday night - that's definitely a sign that party season is well and truly over – and with the important financial information went piles of old Christmas cards (see 'sentimental reasons', above), broken pens, stickers that don't stick, forks that don't fork and all the other stuff that we all keep because we're too lazy or too scared to sort through it.
But it needs to be done, so do it now. Do it whilst the weather is miserable, whilst the nights are long and the parties are over. There's nothing else to do, after all and it's good for the body, the soul and the mind.
I've never been a fan of being told what I should or shouldn't do. But I have realised that amongst all the things I shouldn't do in January – but probably still will - there are a couple of things that I should do.
I should realise what I have. I should realise what I want; and I should adopt a new ethos for the year ahead.
If it doesn't make you happy, don't keep it; if you don't want it for good, don't take it.
I'm going to try my best to live that way, starting from now. The bank statements might be a start, but they won't be the end.
I can't promise that I'll bring the cardboard box out from underneath the bed, but I might try to clear a space for the scented candles and biscuit tins beside it.
Oh, and if anyone's got any ideas as to where I can put that Christmas tree, they'll be gratefully received. It won't fit in my fridge. I've tried.