Moonhouse – An Exercise For Advanced Practitioners

The Moonman and I have been together for over five years. People are often surprised and confused by the fact that we don’t live together. “But why not? Surely you would save a whole lot of money?” they ask.

The reality is: together we have too many children and pets and too much stuff. There is no way we could fit all of these people, animals and things onto one property. We’d need a farm. And, apart from the expense, moving to a farm in order to accommodate all our earthly clutter is going against all minimalist-in-the-making principles.

When Moonman’s birthday approached this year, I kept these principles firmly in mind. What can I give him, a man who has everything and more? A man whose house is brimming with…uhhmmm… treasures, as our friend Nic affectionately called them. Forget about socks or a handkerchief like in the old days, or soap-on-a-rope, or a bottle of red wine: Moonman has at least 20 pairs of socks, he has at least 20 bars of soap in the cupboard, just in case a soap shortage should ever hit the Western Cape. Bottles of wine are crammed in on top of the kitchen cupboards to the point of threatening to fall off. (Note to potential wine thieves: don’t even think about it.)

What about gadgets? Nope. He has everything a Moonman needs.

As the weeks crept by, I couldn’t think of a single thing that he needs, or even wants, for his birthday (OK, there is one thing, but let’s not go there). So I decided to give him something in line with my new life philosophy: 12 hours of decluttering at his house. I made a nice gift voucher from recycled paper and put it in a previously used gift bag.

Moonman is chuffed. I had already started, gently, by sorting out a few problem drawers and he liked my work ethic. Apparently I showed the right amount of respect for “his stuff” and, together with the promise that I would not throw ANYTHING away without permission, I was given the green light.

I feel I must mention, before I continue, that the Moonman is a man who loves cleanliness and tidiness. My house (before I became a minimalist-in-the-making) used to drive him (and me) insane. So I am no stranger to his need for order in his environment. He is also a passionate environmentalist, who strives with great dedication, to save the planet from human beings. Single-handedly, at times. However, even a Moonman can become overwhelmed by the curse of creeping clutter. And because he is a legendary lover of rocks and all things geological, you can imagine that his house contains souvenirs from all corners of the globe. I love rocks too – especially river pebbles, tiger-eyes and diamonds, so I understand his desire to collect them.

Keeping a respectful attitude, I started on the bathroom cupboard. It was filled to the brim, even a little bit beyond the brim, and I sat on the floor taking out every single item. Then I cleaned up the shelves and started sorting. I had brought some ice cream containers and two baskets no longer needed at my house, because one thing Moonhouse lacks is containers.

“Skootle!?” I heard Moonman shouting. “Where are you? You can’t just come and visit people and start cleaning up their houses! It’s rude!”

Surprisingly, there wasn’t much that needed throwing out. What I did discover, at the end of the exercise, was that he has enough soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bandages and plasters to last at least decade. The whole lot was sorted in a jiffy. Or a ziploc, to be more precise.

Then I moved into the kitchen. For five years, I have been eyeing the row of books growing steadily on the counter top. It’s into its second storey now. Over the past week, I had been dropping a few hints and suggestions as to where the books may be housed.

Charmingly co-operative, the Moonman brought in a piece of wood which was to be put up as an extra shelf. I carefully transferred the books, in order, as requested. As I got closer to the corner, I came across bits of material and peanut shells. It wasn’t long before I hit the mother lode: a mouse nest. What a life this little creature must have been having! Perfectly safe, warm and cosy and what’s more, a whole bag of peanuts provided! No need to even go out and forage for food.

Now I love mice as much as the next gal, but the nest had to go. We cleaned it out, gave the counter a good disinfecting and stood back to appreciate the effect. Wow. Now there is space for the fruit bowl (which, until last week, had been holding more balls and rocks than fruit) and even a zen rock collection (I need to realise that rocks there will be.)

The Kitchen Collection

Next, the fridge came under the spotlight. It is a three-quarter sized fridge, with the top at chest height – perfect for displaying rocks, you understand. However, over the years, more than just rocks have been accumulating here, including a radio and a weather station.

I started taking away one item at a time. I found a small radio, a big brass bucket, a gas lamp, several toys, a wooden mouse, a candle-holder, stickers, coins and some unidentified organic materials.

“Where did you find this nice bucket, Skootle?” Moonman asks, coming in from the garage, where the spirit of decluttering is also taking hold.

“It was on the fridge,” I say.

“Really?? Where?”

“Behind (or under) the rocks,” is becoming the standard answer.

So, logically, the rocks go into the bucket and the bucket goes to the living room, which doesn’t have a very extensive rock collection. Eventually, everything finds a home and the top of the fridge is free. I wipe away a furtive tear. No, not really. I take the “after” picture – my only regret is that I didn’t take a “before” picture. I took only a “half-way through” picture. Oh well.

Halfway in...

Done!

I cleaned out the medicine cupboard before supper. Let’s just hope no crazy teenager gets hold of the discarded, expired drugs. It would certainly be fatal.

My 12 hours are no-where near used up, but the weekend is, so back I go to my house to continue my own minimalist movement. It has progressed so well that, for the first time in years, I could actually invite people over for a visit. In fact, I think it may be time for that party I’ve been promising to have.

Erica Neser (c) 2011

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