Time for a clear-out?

In the last week my sister-in-law and partner – parents to be (very very soon she hopes) – have had yet another clearout. It is an obvious thing to do when preparing for the arrival of your first baby and I am very impressed by their efforts. Gone are old bookcases, chairs, bags of old clothes, rarely used kitchen appliances, you name it, it has all been carted off to charity shops or the tip. You just have to be ruthless with these things.

And it’s just as well because in all likelihood, two kids later they may find themselves like that, having accumulated a house full of junk again.

Looking around our spare room at the weekend, the contrast couldn’t be greater. The wife and I are just no good at having clearouts. Indeed she’s already talking about taking the car up to London so she can nab some of the stuff her sister no longer requires: some plant pots, a garden bench and one of those 15ft circular adult sized swimming pools that take about a week to fill and require a generator the size of Switzerland to heat.


Admittedly I’m just as bad. My main trouble is the underlying terror I have that anything we chuck out might actually worth something, even if it just got 50p at a car boot.

So I thought it timely to go through a few of these ‘valuable’ items in the hope it might jar me into finally throwing them out or putting them up on eBay.

1. Two Harrods teddy bears, one slightly ripped. I hate these bears. They’re hideous and old fashioned for old fashioned sake. More likely to give a child nightmares. I would have stuffed them in a bin bag years ago but for the ‘Harrods’ logo and year they were made on their feet. But someone out there probably collects these things so I’ll try and get round and sell them or else save them for a starring role in a homemade horror movie I might wish to make one day.

2. Useless kitchen appliances. Last year at a playgroup jumble sale I ‘bagged’ a bread maker for a quid. But when I found a recipe for the right make online and tried it, the machine tripped the electrics. I’ve yet to try again and have since bought a spinny kneady thing for my original, much trusted bread maker. Similarly my wife ‘bagged’ a coffee maker from the primary school jumble sale (different cause, same rubbish) the other month. Never been used. Freecycle beckons but again, maybe we’ll use them one day…

3. Old bikes. I am positive every parent in the country has found themselves buying a popular TV character-based bike for their toddler. Has it fitted together properly? Has it heck. Fifty quid up the spout, thus fuelling your undying reluctance to chuck it out in case you find the missing screw that would apparently hold the whole thing together.

4. Old magazines. As a journalist I clearly have reasons of a professional nature to hold onto old issues of Radio Times or NME but really it is the anorak collector/archivist in me that has never gone away since I was, ooh, about ten. Nearly 25 years on from when my parents got me to sling out my treasured two year collection of Radio Times and TV Times, I still can’t let go of the fact that a lot of those issues are now fetching four or five quid on eBay, i.e 20 times their original worth. So now I hang onto any issue that has Doctor Who or Life on Mars or any popular Hollywood star on the front. It’s not a collection, it’s a pension.

5. Old clothes – not ours but all the baby and toddler ones that don’t fit the kids anymore (as much as I have tried to get away with squeezing them into the odd outsized garment). Some have been handed on, others you don’t want to throw out just in case… well, the last thing you want to be doing with the arrival of a third child is top have to go to Asda and spend a hundred quid on newborn babygros and clothes again. Also there are a few pieces of hideous John Lewis baby outfits, never worn, still with labels on, that might just fetch something.

6. And finally – an old box that usually holds a load of building bricks which my son scattered across his bedroom floor so he could use, somewhat ill-advisedly, said box as a seat. The wife tidied the bricks away elsewhere and put the box with the recycling. But it’s not right, though. Every two weeks when I’ve come to sort the recycling, I have saved this box. All it needs is a bit of parcel tape at the bottom and the bricks will be restored to their rightful place. I know, I know, this makes me sound like a terrible obsessive. I should just put this box out with the rest of the cereal packets and end this madness. But I can’t – for the same reason when sorting through the kids toys, I hang onto broken bits of potentially still wonderful toys and pieces that have come off once treaured lift-the-flap books in the hope that one day, just one day, I might be able to fix them. Thus, of course, saving money.

And therein with that last point lies the rub. There I am hanging onto things in the mistaken belief I may be able to make or save money but the reality is that it will take up precious time to ever do so. And when you have two young kids, time most definitely is more valuable than money. The time I take to stick an old copy of Dear Zoo back together or package that hideous old Harrods bear in a jiffy bag to post to some nutter who’s managed to bag it for a fiver is time better spent, well, making real money. Not to mention what having all this junk hanging round the house in the meantime does to your state of mind.

No, it’s definitely time for a real good clearout. Anyone want a Fifi and the Flowertots bike with stabilisers? Slightly wonky, one not particularly careful owner…

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