Christmas was two days ago now which seems like it should be no time at all, but actually feels like it has been longer. I am now at the house where I was based for my latter teenage years and very early twenties. The house has got bigger since then, though the number of occupants has decreased and now only my mother and her two dogs live here. I am sitting on a sofa I have known all my life and I’ve lost count of the number of times it has been reupholstered; I am not even sure when this current pattern appeared though I like it better than the previous cream and gold one which seemed very impractical. I think the floor carpet is the same one from when the house was built when I was sixteen, the whole house was covered in this beige speckled pile (or was there some green somewhere?) the carpet equivalent of magnolia paint.
I notice that I have started scratching since I began writing, a sign of discomfort on some level. I can’t remember being happy in this house. It was a lonely place for me, I nearly wrote that my brother never lived here but in fact he did for a few years. I remember coming back from school and playing his music on his hifi and on one occasion he came home and came into his room while I was singing along to a high volume of a Depeche Mode track much to my embarrassment. On the whole though I can remember lying on the floor in this room letting time pass by, lying and not thinking, waiting for the afternoon films to come on the TV. The other activity was bike riding. Most days I would jump on my bike and cycle for hours, never planning where to go, never taking a map, just following my nose and exploring. Lonely times.
This house is a good representative of what my life could be like. It is full of indecision and comfort buying. The main bedroom and one guest room is kept fairly tidy, but the rest of the house has piles of things everywhere. Piles blocking passages, piles on chairs, piles on beds, piles on any raised surface; the garden is overgrown, green house blown in, a packed shed slowly rotten. I could go on. I find it a sad place to come back to because it seems the piles have multiplied since the last time I was here.
I understand what these piles represent and I know this could so easily be my future. I do not want to live in such chaos any more than my mother does but I know there are areas in my own home which echo this house. Piles of things that are still good and might come in useful but which I don’t use, piles that I will get around to sorting out one day but probably never would if it wasn’t for my wife. Piles that feel too complex to deal with but in reality, are not that hard. Yes there is always a residue to keep for now, but a lot of those piles could be recycled.
These piles are external representations of the challenges in my mind somehow. Do they show a clinging to the past, an inability to cope with the present, or a comfort in times of need? As usual I don’t really know and I am sure all those factors come into play. To an outsider I think it seems like lethargy and a careless attitude showing a lack of self-respect perhaps, but I wrote that so is that what I think?
I recognise the lethargy, of feeling it takes too much to tidy, too much energy that is needed elsewhere. I think that is partly true thought it smells a bit of avoidance to me (my critical self perhaps). Are these piles left to grow through an attitude of not caring? I think there is caring here, perhaps too much caring in fact; have those items been well used? Things desired but not used yet. There are definitely items awaiting their time, boxes of chocolates for instance, but there are things also whose time has passed; things like newspapers, letters and brochures. Time moves on but the piles don’t.
As for self-respect, could these piles be used for punishment? I think there is an element of punishing oneself for not attending to these piles since they are in the open, but for all the ones visible there are more behind closed doors in rooms and cupboards. I can feel bad about the piles in my house but I also accept that other priorities take place in life and try to accept my shortcomings when it comes to being tidy. Having the piles in the open also means I can be more aware of them to do something about them, but in reality I am very good at not seeing stuff that I consider unimportant so I can’t say whether that is okay or not, I guess it depends how long the pile exists.
At the end of the day, having piles of stuff around the house is a level of complexity I don’t need, and if I am looking for peace in my life then simplicity is a better path to go down. I am sure there will always be piles somewhere but perhaps it is time to address some of those historical ones that are all mine.