An important aspect of home is space, which Jane Brocklehurst addresses thoughtfully. After all, where is home when the clutter threatens to take over?
I loved my parents-in-law and always felt welcome in their home from the first visit 40 years ago. However, accepting an invitation to sit down always felt risky. That first time my comfy seat was crammed between the piano’ and a precarious stack of newspapers. There was invariably something to move out of the way before anyone dared to stretch their legs out and relax.
When both my in-laws died everyone in the family took away a few precious mementoes from their property. Then it fell to me, with my domestic decluttering know-how, to organise the clearance of the house. My husband and his three brothers did not have the heart or the emotional detachment to do it.
After about two weeks’ work I arrived at the house one morning and it was breathing! Not literally, of course, but, with the sun streaming in to all the space I had cleared, I seemed to have set the house free from a crushing weight that had been choking it. What a poignant moment – I longed to share the sense of joy and freedom with my mother- and father-in-law who had not experienced their lovely spacious home like this for many years. There were still enough furnishings in place for the taste and character of the previous occupants to be evident. I felt like an archaeologist rediscovering a long-lost place of wonder when the people I most wanted to share it with were not there.
I wanted to ask my father- and mother-in-law why they had done that to their home. Why had they allowed so many things to accumulate in their house that relaxation, and the hospitality with which they were so generous, were in danger of being crowded out?
When I work with a client to declutter their home I encourage them to see space as a valuable commodity, not an emptiness to be filled. One definition of salvation is being taken out of captivity, or a place of restraint, and set in a wide open space. (If you read the Bible you will recognise this idea from the book of Exodus.) I gave my decluttering business the name Home Freed with that in mind.
Over the last nine years Home Freed has become more of a ministry than a business. It is always sad when self-expression – through decoration or activities – has become impossible in somebody’s living space because it is buried under material possessions. We need some things in our homes to make life comfortable but, thanks to clever advertisers, most of us believe that we need far more than we really do. The challenging question is: How much is enough?
A century ago Christian writer G K Chesterton said, “There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
Too much stuff is stifling. Cherish your space.
Jane Brocklehurst’s main career has been teaching religious studies. Married to John, a vicar, for 38 years, with three children now spread around the world, she and her husband are searching for a house near an international airport for their retirement. When her youngest daughter left home she gave up school teaching to set up a domestic decluttering and organising business – Home Freed – helping to set people free from their stuff! Volunteering at Scargill House in the Yorkshire Dales is a significant part of her life these days; she looks after the library. Books have always been important to her and now she is trying to write one bringing all the parts of her past together: Home Freed – the theology of decluttering.