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July 1999 Issue
Use and Beauty
by Krafty
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My friend, Jane, and I have a lot in common -- a lot of clutter and a need for some extra cash -- so when she suggested we do a flea-market stall together, it sounded like a good idea. I knew she had an agenda of her own (Jane doesn't have a car, and I have one with lots of space), but so did I (I needed motivation and the company of someone who has done this sort of thing before). But that's OK because we're friends.

The flea-market is next week, and I've started sorting.

I've moved house eighteen times in my life, and each time I moved I've sorted before packing the boxes, during the packing and again while unpacking.

Sorting before packing is the time when the real rubbish goes - the box the camera came in that I kept in case it went wrong and had to go back to the manufacturer, the old birthday cards that I couldn't bear to part with because it seemed churlish, and the bent paper clips that I'd hoarded because to discard them seemed such a waste. This first stage is not a problem.

During the packing, the things to go were the ones which tugged at the heart strings. There were books I had bought because I thought I should read them for my education, but which, even at the time of buying, I knew I never would. Discarding these left me with a sense of having let myself down, of breaking a promise to myself. Other things, such as a torn tablecloth received as a wedding present, had their nostalgic associations. And then there were the things I had never used, like clothes bought on a whim. It hurt to dispose of these because of the waste of money, but they were wasting space now so out they went.

On unpacking at the other end, of course the focus had shifted. Now they had to belong to the new house. Items of furniture went because they were too big, cushions because they were the wrong colour, and pictures because I was now out of the old life and into the new, and new was exciting. It is so much easier at this stage to ignore the nostalgia and get out the wallet.

William Morris, designer, artist and writer, suggested that there should be nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful. This is now my template for possessions, but rather than excluding clutter, I'm afraid, it encourages it.

As far as useful goes, when things get old they get chipped, or torn, or simply don't work any more, and then they are easy to discard and replace. But where beautiful is concerned, I find it so hard to throw away the small things, the pebbles, the postcards, the prettily shaped bottles.

Now, beauty in my house is in abundance. Space, however -- not to mention a bit of cash -- would be more useful. I have the opportunity to remedy that, and the obligation to make some sacrifices. Something has to go ... in fact, several things.

To ease my pain, I justify to myself that I have had the beauty and the use of it while it was mine, and now I am creating an opportunity for someone else to be delighted with it. I am spreading a little happiness, helping my environment and pleasing my purse.

So, today I jettisoned seven jumpers, two pairs of trousers, an unused bottle of perfume, two pairs of shoes, several bits of jewelry, a ladies electric razor, a small cloth camping bag, two hats, a painted bottle and a decorated basket. All this from my bedroom.

I still have six more rooms from which to cull books, ornaments, hardware, pictures, and things that dangle from the ceiling.

I know it will feel good when I've done it, that sort of self-righteous feeling when you do something for your comfort. It will give me the motivation to decorate (I looked behind one of the pictures yesterday and saw the clean patch on the wall again!). It will help my finances, even if only a little.

I can live without those things which don't fit, don't match, don't please me any more.

What I am afraid of is that I will see something useful and beautiful at the flea-market that I just can't live without. And I know that Jane feels the same.



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